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Today, the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law released a report showing U.S. law enforcement's widespread deployment and unaccountable use of facial-recognition technology.

The report shows how more than 117 million adults are included in various law enforcement facial-recognition databases, with their information pulled primarily from state drivers’ license photos.

Threats to people of color and activists

The technology’s flaws are legion. The recognition software is 5­­­–10 percent less accurate when used on African Americans, meaning innocent people may be labeled as suspect due to the software’s inaccuracies.

Further compounding these problems, Black people are overrepresented in facial-recognition databases due to biased policing practices.

When communities organize to change these practices, police then turn facial-recognition software on activists ­— for example, by identifying certain people to arrest during protests.

In light of this report and other mounting evidence, Free Press joined more than 50 groups in asking the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to:

1. Expand ongoing investigations of police practices, and include in future investigations an examination of whether the use of surveillance technologies, including facial-recognition technology, has had a disparate impact on communities of color.

2. Consult with and advise the FBI to examine whether the use of facial-recognition technology has had a disparate impact on communities of color.

Widespread deployment of this technology without any oversight threatens basic civil liberties and — for some people — turns any public outing into a police lineup. We need to protect everyone’s ability to organize in public.

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