We surveyed 42 federal agencies that employ law enforcement officers about their use of facial recognition technology.
20 reported owning such systems or using systems owned by others
6 reported using the technology to help identify people suspected of violating the law during the civil unrest, riots, or protests following the death of George Floyd in May 2020
3 acknowledged using it on images of the U.S. Capitol attack on Jan. 6
15 reported using non-federal systems
We recommended that 13 agencies track employee use of non-federal systems and assess the risks these systems can pose regarding privacy, accuracy, and more.
Agencies reported using the technology to support several activities (e.g., criminal investigations) and in response to COVID-19 (e.g., verify an individual’s identity remotely). Six agencies reported using the technology on images of the unrest, riots, or protests following the death of George Floyd in May 2020. Three agencies reported using it on images of the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Agencies said the searches used images of suspected criminal activity.
All fourteen agencies that reported using the technology to support criminal investigations also reported using systems owned by non-federal entities. However, only one has awareness of what non-federal systems are used by employees. By having a mechanism to track what non-federal systems are used by employees and assessing related risks (e.g., privacy and accuracy-related risks), agencies can better mitigate risks to themselves and the public.