In context: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has never been a big fan of facial recognition technology, particularly when it’s being used by government authorities or police organizations. They’ve criticized such uses in the past, and even run their own tests to prove how dangerous and inaccurate the tech can be.
Now, the ACLU is once again going to bat for the privacy of American citizens. The civil liberties group is suing the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Department of Justice (DOJ), with the end goal of forcing the organizations to divulge their facial recognition practices. The ACLU has attempted to obtain such information in the past through Freedom of Information Act requests, but to no avail — clearly, the group feels a full-blown lawsuit is the only path forward now.
The suit in question was announced and filed today, so it will probably be some time before it comes to a close, one way or another. The focus of the legal action is transparency, according to the ACLU’s Kade Crockford. “There can be no accountability if there is no transparency,” Crockford said. “The public has a right to know when, where, and how law enforcement agencies are using face recognition technology, and what safeguards, if any, are in place to protect our rights.”
“The public has a right to know when, where, and how law enforcement agencies are using face recognition technology, and what safeguards, if any, are in place to protect our rights.”
Crockford goes on to note that this “dystopian” surveillance technology could pose a significant threat to our “free society” by treating citizens as suspects to be tracked and monitored by the government “24/7.” In this case, the ACLU’s goals are certainly noble, but it’s difficult to say whether or not they will be able to achieve them.
Government organizations are notoriously slippery when it comes to legal probes, so there’s always the chance that the FBI, DEA, and DOJ will be able to wriggle out of this predicament somehow. Still, we remain hopeful that a judge will at least permit the ACLU’s case to move forward.
We will keep you updated on the suit moving forward, and we’ll be sure to let you know if it gains (or loses) any traction.