By John Vibes

According to a new report by Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and Technology, half of Americans now have photos of themselves stored in facial recognition databases. The vast majority of these citizens are not suspects in crimes, nor do they have criminal records.

The report indicated that over 117 million adults are stored in facial recognition databases, and any of their photos can be used at any time in a “virtual lineup,” where they can be picked out by law enforcement as potential suspects.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), many police departments use photos from Facebook, photos from protests, and even videos of average people walking down the street taken from cameras posted up around urban centers. It was even indicated in the report that drivers license photos are used to populate these databases, meaning that almost anyone could be a potential suspect in one of these lineups.

The report’s findings, along with revelations from the ACLU on police monitoring in Baltimore, suggest that the technology may be violating the rights of millions of Americans and is disproportionately affecting communities of color, advocates said.

Alvaro Bedoya, executive director of Georgetown’s privacy and technology center says that this new technology presents a massive privacy risk.

“Face recognition, when it’s used most aggressively, can change the nature of public spaces. It can change the basic freedom we have to go about our lives without people identifying us from afar and in secret,” he said.

The investigation poured through a year’s worth of police reports to determine how widespread facial recognition software has become.

Neema Singh Guliani, ACLU’s legislative counsel, pointed out that government agencies have free rein to do whatever they want with this technology, and that they offer absolutely no transparency.

“In the case of face recognition, there appear to be very few controls or safeguards to ensure it’s not used in situations in which people are engaged in first amendment activity,” Guliani said.

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HALF of Americans’ Photos Are Now Stored In Facial Recognition Databases