Palo Alto City Council City of Palo Alto Palo Alto, CA 94301 Cc: James Keene Subject: Use of Facial

Recognition Software By Police Elected Council Members: The following article is directed to your attention, in large part, to remind the Council that neither the current, nor former, Police Chief has produced a technology plan for at least the next five years. Given the onslaught of new technologies that a police force has to consider, the current Chief seems more-or-less indifferent to the need to identify new technologies that might be candidates for adoption by the Palo Alto Police in the coming years. The article points out that facial recognition software is now being embraced by police departments around the country. This adoption has been slow, to be sure, as the technology has proven difficult to develop so that “false positives” are not produced. However, it would appear that successes are being seen, and criminals identified in more timely fashion than more traditional methods. Issues about “privacy” will doubtless be of concern to some people, as the article below points out. This problem of personal information retention, as well as “privacy” issues in public places, needs to be addressed, head-on. If Palo Alto had a Police Oversight Commission, then this would be a topic that would fit nicely in its charter. Unfortunately, the current Police Chief does not seem to appreciate open discussion of these sorts of matters, and any discussion that might be on-going is behind closed doors. One possible approach as to how to educate the public, would be to install a demonstration facial recognition unit in the downtown area, allowing people to see how it works. Videos of the demonstration could be uploaded to Youtube, as well as the City’s web-site. Additionally, clear policy statements about data retention would need to be created, documented. Moreover, enforcement of these policies would be needed via internal audit procedures (which would be embedded in the system software, at a minimum). Concerns about abuse by rogue police officers, and unethical civilian employees, needs to be addressed early on. Further, the City needs to understand the need for encrypting all information that is stored on its servers, so that any security breaches of these servers will not result in personal information be unintentionally released into the public domain. This use of this sort of technology will ultimately help to identify criminals that are so bold as to commit crimes in public places. With proper metrics in place, it will not be difficult to recognize that public safety is enhanced, over time.

The complexity, and costs, of this sort of technology would be better borne by a regionalized policing effort. This would mean, at the least, the sharing of all booking photos, and other intelligence about past, and on-going, criminal investigations. While the nature of what a regionalized police organization is open to discussion, it seems obvious that having a central database of known criminals would make the investigation of crimes where a decent image of a suspected perpetrator of a crime easier than any current methods. Over time, it is conceivable that both Northern and Southern California police agencies could pool their known felons databases, to increase the likelihood of identifying people suspected of crimes. Palo Alto needs to be looking at the future of policing before it spends tens upon tens of millions of dollars on a brick-n-mortar police station. When will the Council make that point known to the City Manager and his Police Chief? Wayne Martin Palo Alto, CA -------------

Increasing use of facial recognition software spurs privacy concerns
February 6, 2012 | G.W. Schulz

1st Lt. Darrick Noah/U.S. Army

A U.S. soldier photographs a local man in Afghanistan for facial recognition purposes.

When several armed robberies occurred recently in Lancaster, Calif., police had little of use on the two suspects. Then, a reliable image of one suspect turned up from a surveillance camera.

In years past, that still might not have been enough for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to close the case. But with the help of new facial recognition software, investigators plugged the image into a database of booking photos and quickly came up with a possible match. That led to a pair of arrests on Jan. 27. Facial recognition technology is growing rapidly, both in the consumer world and among police, but privacy advocates are troubled by the potential for intrusion and misuse. Police in Tampa, Fla., created an uproar several years ago when they installed facial recognition devices in an entertainment district, hoping to identify wanted criminals. The system eventually was unplugged, because it didn’t catch any perpetrators. A similar effort at the 2001 Super Bowl also netted few results. Things have changed since then. Agencies like the cutting-edge Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office in Florida are using millions of jail mug shots to double-check identities if they believe someone is lying about who they are. Deputies can simply snap a photo of the person and begin a search using their in-car laptop. That’s how the agency unmasked one man with an active warrant. In another 2009 incident, the North Miami Police Department asked Pinellas County deputies for help tracking down a bank robbery suspect [PDF], and they did so with a surveillance video image that led to an arrest. “All of this was accomplished by lunch time,” the sheriff’s office boasted then in a press release. Pinellas County also became the first in the nation [PDF] that year to include the use of driver’s license photos in its searching capabilities, rather than just individuals who have been arrested. In the meantime, outcry over the technology is heating up. The Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington last week called for a moratorium on the use of facial recognition in consumer products. Namely, they’ve targeted a Facebook feature that enables users to tag the photos of friends using special software. The advocacy group submitted remarks [PDF] to the Federal Trade Commission expressing concern about private companies stockpiling faceprints for their own use and the ability of consumers to control the disclosure of their own identity. The Electronic Privacy Information

Center has complained in the past about the U.S. military compiling biometric data on Iraqi citizens, because it could be linked to religious or ethnic affiliations and used to single people out. Among other things, the group is concerned that facial recognition could undermine the right to anonymity, lead to mistaken identities if it doesn’t work properly or result in identity theft if databases containing the images are hacked. Faceprints can’t be replaced as easily as credit cards, the group argues. “Facial recognition system errors would lead to innocent people being falsely matched to watch lists or databases, while suspects would pass through the system unrecognized,” the Electronic Privacy Information Center stated in a Jan. 31 notice to the FTC. A group of Democratic and Republican lawmakers chimed in last week and sent their own letter [PDF] to the trade commission, which didn’t name any corporate offenders specifically but did register worries they had about the brave new technology. “Currently, there are a number of companies that have implemented both facial recognition and facial detection technologies for the stated purpose of enhancing the user experience,” according to the letter. “We are deeply concerned about how the use of these technologies impact the level of protection for consumers' personal information.” No matter how it’s regulated, the reality is that biometric identification won’t be going away soon. India's government is working on an ambitious plan to biometrically identify each of its more than 1 billion people, and Mexico in 2010 signed a contract with Pennsylvania-based Unisys Corp. to build a large database of fingerprint, eye and faceprint information belonging to millions of people there. Officials in the United States already collect biometric data on international travelers wishing to enter the country through the Department of Homeland Security’s US-VISIT program. Accenture Federal Services won a $71 million contract in December to include faceprints. Researchers also are looking at the way we walk and even at human buttocks as possible unique identifiers for the future.