May 13, 2024 - News

Dallas Police Department to try facial recognition software

Illustration of a pixelated mugshot.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The Dallas Police Department plans to use facial recognition technology for some of its investigations.

Why it matters: New technology is changing how police operate, and DPD is updating its investigative tools.

  • Dallas recently launched a program that allows people to register and connect their at-home security cameras or business surveillance feeds to the police department's crime center.

The big picture: Dallas is catching up to other law enforcement agencies already using facial recognition software, despite privacy concerns.

How it works: Investigators would request facial recognition analysis of images from video footage or photographs. The requests would need to be approved by a supervisor, and the results would be peer-reviewed to avoid misidentifying someone.

  • The software can scrape millions of publicly viewable images on the internet, police say.
  • They plan to use the software to generate leads for solving violent crimes or when public safety is at risk. It can also be used to help identify bodies and incapacitated people.

Caveats: Department officials say they will make sure to follow all data security and privacy laws.

  • They don't plan to use the software to identify people on livestreams or engaging in activities protected by the First Amendment.
  • They also plan to corroborate any leads with the other aspects of their investigation, similar to how they would use fingerprint analysis.

What they're saying: "This is not a license plate reader for humans. This is strictly based on a criminal offense having occurred," Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia told the City Council's Public Safety Committee yesterday, adding that the technology will be a "game changer."

Flashback: In July 2016, Dallas police initially identified the wrong man as the suspect in an ambush that killed five police officers and wounded several others at a downtown Dallas protest.

  • By the time police backtracked and identified the right person, the wrong suspect's photo had appeared all over social media. The man later sued the city.
  • Dallas police hope to prevent misidentification with the new software.

Threat level: Clearview AI is illegal in Australia, Canada and several European countries, per the New York Times.

  • The company has faced class action lawsuits alleging its software has violated privacy protections. Clearview has agreed to limit the sale of its database and primarily serves U.S. law enforcement agencies.

Meanwhile: Arlington and Dallas both launched camera-sharing programs this year. Residents can register their home surveillance systems for police to access if the cameras may have recorded an incident nearby.

  • Businesses can integrate their systems so police can stream their footage. So far, Arlington has 952 cameras registered and 249 integrated. Dallas has 439 registered cameras and 46 integrated.

What's next: The Public Safety Committee voted yesterday to allow Dallas police to move forward with the software. The department plans to share its progress with the council after adopting the technology.

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