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The debate over facial recognition technology heats up

The information age has provided law enforcement agencies in Florida and around the country with several new investigative tools, and none of them is more controversial than facial recognition technology. Advocacy groups see these systems as the harbinger of a dystopian surveillance state, and media investigations revealing that a facial recognition startup gathered billions of photographs from social media platforms without permission have cast suspicion over an entire technology sector.

Tech backlash

The nation’s technology giants have faced a great deal of legislative scrutiny in recent years, which has made them more sensitive to public criticism. This may be why a backlash against facial recognition systems prompted IBM, Amazon and Microsoft to announce that they will no longer be selling the technology to police departments. These decisions may also have been influenced by lawmakers. Several cities have outlawed facial recognition cameras for law enforcement, and Congress is mulling a nationwide ban.

Facial recognition in schools

Facial recognition systems are not only used by the police. Some of the nation’s largest school districts have also deployed the technology. The New York State Education Department was sued by an advocacy group in June 2020 after it was reported that facial recognition cameras had been installed in schools. The New York Civil Liberties Union claims in its lawsuit that the cameras violate the state’s education law and infringe on student privacy. The cameras have also been criticized for misidentifying African-American students and mistaking broomsticks for guns.

Challenging facial recognition evidence

Mistakes like this might be cited by experienced criminal defense attorneys to challenge the credibility of facial recognition evidence. When prosecutors base their cases on questionable technology and do not have any evidence that directly links a suspect to the crime they are accused of committing, attorneys may argue that the charge should be dismissed.

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