A broad coalition of over 50 civil liberties groups delivered a letter
to the Justice Department’s civil rights division Tuesday calling for
an investigation into the expanding use of face recognition technology
by police. “Safeguards to ensure this technology is being used fairly
and responsibly appear to be virtually nonexistent,” the letter
stated. The routine unsupervised use of face recognition systems,
according to the dozens of signatories, threatens the privacy and
civil liberties of millions — especially those of immigrants and
people of color.
These civil rights groups were provided with advance copies of a
watershed 150-page report detailing — in many cases for the first time
— how local police departments across the country have been using
facial recognition technology. Titled “The Perpetual Lineup,” the
report, published Tuesday morning by the Georgetown Center on Privacy
& Technology, reveals that police deploy face recognition technology
in ways that are more widespread, advanced, and unregulated than
anyone has previously reported.
The Chicago Police Department has acquired and used several varieties
of advanced cellphone trackers since at least 2005 to target suspects
in robberies, murders, kidnappings, and drug investigations. In most
instances, officers only lightly described the devices’ advanced
technical surveillance capabilities to courts, which allowed the
police to use them, often without a warrant.
Now, after a lengthy legal battle waged by Freddy Martinez, a Chicago
software technician, court orders and case notes were released,
painting a more detailed picture of how the second-largest police
precinct in the U.S. uses surveillance technology to track cellphones.
Martinez, who leads the Lucy Parson Labs, a Chicago-based nonprofit
that advocates digital rights and transparency, originally sued for
records in September 2014. He provided the released documents to The
The Chicago Police Department did not respond to request for comment.
“The use of Stingrays as a part of the war on drugs, which were
purchased with civil asset forfeiture funds,” demonstrates how
“militarized equipment” is disproportionately used