High Tech For Law Enforcement, But Complicated Yet


March 16th, 2021

Bio metric facial recognition technology scanning face to check identity of individual, Internet photo.

Facial recognition is the process of identifying or verifying the identity of a person using their face. It captures, analyzes, and compares patterns based on the person’s facial details.

Some smartphones allow people to unlock their devices by facial recognition. Scan your face and the phone does face detection, then face capture and finally face match. If you are used to using this technology, it might the fastest way to unlock your smartphone.

Until now, so far so good with this technology, but what about when facial recognition technology takes monitoring to new levels? When it allows automated and random live surveillance of people as they go about their daily actions, allowing authorities to track their every move?

Senator Tony Vargas speaks in the Nebraska Unicameral. (Photo Credit: Nebraska State Senate)

A lawmaker for Nebraska’s 7th district Tony Vargas is very concerned about that technology in this state. First of all, he’s worried about the privacy of Nebraska’s citizens and personal information that might be already shared without consent.

Now there’s data that’s being shared with a third party and they technically own something that is ours and I have issues with that as well so there’s real pressing concerns that we need to look at and I think it’s time for us to do something about it which is why I introduced this bill, Vargas, said.

Facial recognition identifies or verifies the identity of a person using their face. It captures, analyzes, and compares patterns based on the person’s facial details.

Vargas feels that Nebraska is not ready for this software and its ability to identify people with some criminal record by their facial details and alert the authorities.

That and we’re seeing it show up more in a law enforcement sector and it is a technology that still has to be worked on and has some biases and we’ve seen this in 2018 there was a facial recognition from the amazon recognition and what it was called and it inappropriately identified 28 members of congress of individuals that have previous records, Vargas, said.

Vargas is concerned that if the facial recognition is not working accurately yet, it might backfire with significant consequences. He thinks that potentially, this technology could affect some demographics more than others.

Consider that we’re putting this in the hands of law enforcement, law enforcement  is relying in data is being provided to them is not as accurate as possible and actually can have negative bias and trends towards people of color African American and Latino individuals, Vargas, said.

Facial recognition has set off a controversy in recent years, even as it has become an everyday tool for unlocking cellphones and tagging photos on social media.

Police officials have argued that facial recognition makes the community safer, but a few cities, including San Francisco, have banned law enforcement from using the tool, citing concerns about privacy and false matches. Civil rights advocates warn of the negative uses of the technology.

Let’s go ahead and hit pause until we have a chance to learn more and until we have a chance to kind of catch the law to the technology sort of speak, Conrad, said.

Executive Director for ACLU in Nebraska, Danielle Conrad, says that her organization supports Vargas’s idea.

Conrad says that once the community understands the purpose of this technology in law enforcement, people realize that there are many unanswered questions.

The approach that senator Vargas is taking is, what legislators are saying what communities are saying is there’s a lot of perhaps unintended consequences with how big government might be utilizing our personal private information, Conrad, said

Currently, there are no federal regulations on the use of this technology for commercial or government use.

That leaves many questions unanswered about whether facial recognition violates the First Amendment (which grants certain freedoms including speech, religion, assembly, petition and the press) as well as the Fourth Amendment, (which protects people from unlawful searches), and lastly the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection of the laws.

The bill that Vargas introduced to ban facial recognition is in committee this week. For him, the use of this technology requires all moving parts to line up precisely before being used in Nebraska.

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