Civil liberties activists trying to inspire alarm about the authoritarian potential of facial recognition technology often point to China, where some police departments use systems that can spot suspects who show their faces in public. A report from Georgetown researchers on Thursday suggests Americans should also focus their concern closer to home.
The report says agencies in Chicago and Detroit have bought real-time facial recognition systems. Chicago claims it has not used its system; Detroit says it is not using its system currently. But no federal or state law would prevent use of the technology.
According to contracts obtained by the Georgetown researchers, the two cities purchased software from a South Carolina company, DataWorks Plus, that equips police with the ability to identify faces from surveillance footage in real time. A description on the company’s website says the technology, called FaceWatch Plus, “provides continuous screening and monitoring of live video streams.” DataWorks confirmed the existence of the systems, but did not elaborate further.
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