WE'VE WRITTEN BEFORE about the myriad problems that facial recognition software has, and why enthusiastic adoption without checks might be a bit of an issue.
But who doesn't love an easy answer? And if it doesn't work as planned, who cares if you edit the pictures a bit until they do?
Not the New York Police Department (NYPD), according to a new report from Georgetown Law's Center on Privacy and Technology. Amongst other explosive details, it's alleged that officers would edit photos to force suspects to adopt more neutral, searchable facial expressions and that cops uploaded a photo of Woody Harrelson because the suspect looked a bit like him.
While it's not clear if we're talking Cheers-era Woody or Three Billboards-era Woody, the search was apparently successful, resulting in the arrest of a Harrelson lookalike on charges of petty larceny. Or at least we hope it was a lookalike.
"The stakes are too high in criminal investigations to rely on unreliable—or wrong—inputs," writes senior associate Clare Garvie in the report. "Unfortunately, police departments' reliance on questionable probe photos appears all too common."
Responding to The Verge, an NYPD spokesperson didn't argue with the claims of the report, but highlighted the effectiveness of facial-recognition software in fighting crime. "No one has ever been arrested on the basis of a facial recognition match alone," said Detective Denise Moroney.
"As with any lead, further investigation is always needed to develop probable cause to arrest. The NYPD has been deliberate and responsible in its use of facial recognition technology."
So that's okay then. As long as you edit people's faces in a responsible and deliberate way, everything is hunky dory. Hopefully, this means that Woody Harrelson isn't rotting in a prison cell somewhere, but if anyone could check for us, that'd be grand. µ
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