Minnesota Sheriff told to release emails on biometrics use
18 October 2016 16:17 GMT

Privacy advocate group the Electronic Frontier Foundation is seeking the release of emails regarding the Hennepin County Sheriff Office’s facial recognition programme in Minnesota.

The group has joined the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota in launching an Amici Curiae that seeks the release.

In June, the Sheriff’s Office use of the technology came to light following efforts in court by Tony Webster, a self-employed software engineer who lives in Minneapolis, to compel the Sheriff’s Office to release its e-mail communication about the technology.

“I was surprised to learn they had been using the technology for three years and there was no public disclosure about it,” Webster said to the Star Tribune at the time. “I don’t think Minnesotans would be against the technology, but it’s going to be a big issue to watch.”

At the time, the office defended their use of face recognition software to identify perpetrators in serious crimes.

Hennepin County Sheriff's Office wrote in a Facebook post that the solution is used to verify an identity against a database.

“We attempt to match unknown criminal suspects to a database of public Hennepin County booking photos. In the Sheriff’s Office, we do not gather or retain photos real-time from cameras in the community. We do not monitor the actions of residents at street corners or intersections to identify potential violations.

“We do not currently, nor do we have any plan or intent to ‘use real-time automatic facial recognition to create a database of everywhere you go’.”

The post followed a blog post by a commenter, Tony Webster, entitled “Hennepin County Sheriff circumvents state to expand facial recognition database”.