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Does Facial Recognition Software Have a Racial Bias?

Whenever new technology is introduced, there is always fanfare and concerns associated with its emergence. Technology has had a significant impact on our daily lives, aiding in activities, education, as well as, police work. One of the more controversial technologies to emerge has been facial recognition software. Facial recognition software is designed to take video and photographic images, analyze the faces that appear within the images, and run those faces against a database of those who have gotten into trouble with the law previously. Generally a digital image is scanned and fed into the system. The system analyzes roughly 128 facial markers and converts the image into an algorithm. The software is able to compare the algorithm of the photo against facial photos within the database to determine if there is a match. The software only uses the facial markers, and does not use race, gender, age, or hairstyles as identifiers. The database that is used in Florida incorporates over 7.5 million mug shots over the last 20 years.

Fourth Amendment Rights and Facial Recognition Software

Generally, our Fourth Amendment rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution permit us to be free from government intrusion, and more specifically government officials searching and seizing our bodies, our personal effects, and our homes. When it comes to privacy, however, it is viewed that when an individual steps out of his/her home, he or she is making a decision to expose his/her whereabouts to the rest of the world. In other words, there are no expectations of privacy when the individual has stepped out into public.

However, facial recognition software goes beyond just identifying the person out in public, but it also reveals information that is related directly to the identity of the person, which is not generally available to the public. You may walk down the street and see a woman, but that does not mean that you know the woman’s name, her marital status, her religious and political affiliations, and other information that appears as a result of an aggregate review of her and her life.

The Success of Facial Recognition Software

Even with the issues that arise with the Fourth Amendment and worries that facial recognition software is not always accurate or reliable, facial recognition software has become a major part of the police’s investigational strategies and practices. The facial recognition software has led to 463 arrests and just as many positive identifications of people who ultimately were not arrested.

Facial Recognition Software and Racial Bias

There are other issues that have arisen alongside Fourth Amendment violation concerns. Recently, it has been ascertained that though the facial recognition software identifies an individual based on facial markers and does not look to gender, age, or hairstyle to identify an individual, there are accuracy issues among the races and genders. It has been noticed that  the location where the software is created may determine which races are more likely to accurately be identified. For example software created in China, Japan and South Korea is more able to identify East Asian faces than Caucasian faces. Software developed in the United States, Germany, and France is better at determining Caucasian faces. A study analyzing the Florida-owned database found that there was significant racial bias in the software used by Florida law enforcement, which is less likely to correctly identify African American faces than Caucasians. In one test analyzing the software, it found that the software was wrong one in ten times for Caucasian faces, but was twice as likely to be wrong with African American faces.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

There are still a lot of issues surrounding the accuracy of facial recognition software. If you have been identified as a result of facial recognition software, it is important to speak with an experienced defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik who can advocate on your behalf. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.

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