L.A. Sheriff’s Dept. to equip deputies with mobile facial recognition technology

L.A. Sheriff’s Dept. to equip deputies with mobile facial recognition technology

The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department has decided to equip its deputies with mobile facial recognition technology to identify people whom they encounter in the field, some newly published procurement documents revealed.

According to the documents, the sheriff's department signed a $3.5 million contract with DataWorks Plus LLC to use Cognitec Systems' facial recognition software and hardware, which includes hundreds of smartphones and tablet PCs.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has agreed to a seven-year extension to the sheriff department's existing lease for Cognitec' facial recognition technology.

Biometric information obtained by the L.A. deputies will be shared with other agencies of the government and certain private entities. But privacy advocates have started questioning how such information will be shared and who will have access to it. They are also concerned that it inaccurate software could result in false identifications.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Jennifer Lynch said the advent of the technology presents the possibility for police officers to stop people just to obtain their biometric information for future reference.

Commenting on the issue, Lynch said, "It pushes the line of what's legal, whether it's permissible to go up to someone and say, 'I want to take your picture.' That's a different issue, a different standard of suspicion than a mug shot photo collected on booking, where there's presumably probable cause for the arrest."

The use of the technology by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department deputies represents a steady evolution occurring across the nation over how law enforcement officers interact with the public and it will expand the biggest biometric database outside of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

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