ACLU demands Justice Dept. reveal facial recognition tech use

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and ACLU of Massachusetts are demanding the Justice Department reveal how the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies are using facial recognition technology.

The rights organization has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to compel the department about the use of the technology “and what safeguards, if any, are in place to protect basic rights and liberties,” Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty Program at the ACLU ofMassachusetts, wrote in Rolling Stone Monday.

As the U.S. celebrated the birthday of civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Crockford pointed out the FBI’s secret harassment of King and the danger of “inappropriate government surveillance,”contending that “It’s important we fight back against that secrecy and uncover information about what the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies are doing with these high-tech tools,” to prevent history from repeating itself.  

Rights groups have become increasingly concerned “that the FBI is piloting Amazon’s facial recognition technology, Rekognition, which the tech company is pushing to law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“This marriage of Amazon’s face-surveillance technology to the FBI’s troves of Big Data about tens of millions of people threatens to supercharge the government’s ability to track and monitor all of us,” Crockford wrote. “Imagine a world in which secretive government agencies can track millions of faces — both in real time and through historical video footage — enabling them to identify political protesters, whistleblowers and journalists’ confidential sources.”

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