#Privacy: Florida police want permanent access to controversial facial recognition network

The Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD) is asking to gain access to one of the largest facial recognition databases in America. 

The database, Face Analysis Comparison and Examination System (FACES) is operated by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO), and is the largest collaborative facial recognition network in the US. 

FACES uses an algorithm that can search over 33 million faces, including Florida driver’s license, ID photos, and mugshots. Users just need to upload an image and run a search of the network. 

Currently, over 240 agencies including the IRS and the FBI have access to FACES, and now MDPD wants to “enter into a permanent memorandum of agreement with Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri’s department,” in order to use FACES, according to the Miami New Times. 

Although MDPD have previously gained access to the FACES network over the years, the new memorandum will create a permanent legal partnership between Pinellas and Miami-Dada. 

In return, the MDPD will provide their existing database of mugshot images to the sheriff’s office. 

“The FACES software is beneficial to detectives within the MDPD as it can be used to compile facial recognition data on their subjects and help identify possible matches. Additionally, the use of the FACES technology by MDPD’s forensic artist is instrumental in creating composites and conducting facial recognition searches on assigned cases,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez in a memo to the Board of County Commissioners. 

FACES has drawn controversy over the years, especially around the lack of regulation of its use. A 2016 study from the Georgetown Law Center of Privacy and Technology discovered that 8,000 monthly searches are run on FACES without officers needing to have reasonable suspicion before running a search. 

In a blog post, attorneys with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy advocacy group said: “FACES is poorly regulated and shrouded in secrecy.”

A decision to approve the memorandum is due to go before the Board of County Commissioners on November 13.


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