Secret Service to Pilot Facial Recognition at White House

first_imgStay on target The Department of Homeland Security last week published details of a Secret Service plan to test facial recognition at the White House.The program will test U.S. Secret Service (USSS) employees’ ability to verify the identities of ringers in public spaces around the complex.“Ultimately, the goal of the FRP [Facial Recognition Pilot] is to identify if facial recognition technologies can be of assistance to the USSS in identifying known subjects of interest prior to initial contact with law enforcement at the White House,” according to the DHS document.Currently, Secret Service members assigned to high-ranking government officials, their families, and visiting heads of state rely on photos to identify subjects of interest.“The USSS believes that deploying facial recognition technology will allow … law enforcement personnel to conduct a facial comparison prior to interaction or engagement,” Homeland Security said.The pilot program will be carried out in two separate areas of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.: an open setting, “where individuals are free to approach from any angle,” and an indoor space that “provides a controlled flow of individuals.”Each will use video streams from existing Crown Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) camera systems, and can capture facial images from as far as 20 yards.The pilot is scheduled to end on Aug. 30, 2019, at which point all collected facial image data will be deleted from the system.Still, thousands of people going about their daily business near the White House are having their faces scanned, and possibly falsely matched to target subjects (in this case, volunteer USSS officers).A spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service told Geek in an email that “For operational security purposes we do not comment on the means and methods of how we conduct our protective operations.”It also didn’t actively share details of the upcoming program.Rather, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) this week highlighted the document—which reveals that “members of the public may be unaware that their facial images are being captured and used by a facial recognition technology,” but that people “cannot opt-out” of the testing.Folks can expect public notice of the deployment, though there is no word on when the pilot will begin.“While this pilot program seems to be a relatively narrowly defined test that does not in itself pose a significant threat to privacy, it crosses an important line by opening the door to the mass, suspicionless scrutiny of Americans on public sidewalks,” Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst for the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, wrote in a blog post.“Face recognition is one of the most dangerous biometrics from a privacy standpoint because it can so easily be expanded and abused,” he continued, “including by being deployed on a mass scale without people’s knowledge or permission.”The DHS pilot document is deliberately obscure; puzzle pieces will remain missing as a safety precaution. But unanswered questions do more to stoke the fire than put out the flames.“The program is another blinking red light for policymakers in the face of powerful surveillance technologies that will present enormous temptations for abuse and overuse,” Stanley said, urging Congress to “demand answers” and intercede, if necessary.Editor’s note: This article was updated at 9:30 a.m. ET with comment from the U.S. Secret Service.More coverage on Geek.com:Can Facial Recognition Software Do More Good Than Harm?Face Recognition CEO Warns of Police AbuseFacial Recognition Helps Astronomers Understand Galaxies Amazon’s New Facial Recognition Smells Your FearLondon Police’s Facial Recognition System Has 81 Percent Error Rate last_img

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