ACLU probes face recognition in Michigan
01 October 2019 16:21 GMT

Privacy group the American Civil Liberties Union has filed two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, with the Michigan Department of State (DOS) and Michigan State Police (MSP).

The group says it is further investigating the statewide scope of facial recognition activities in Michigan. The ACLU opposes the technology’s use in any form, saying research shows it would disparately impact people of color, and "will further erode trust between law enforcement and policed communities".

“The public has a right to know exactly how the state is using facial recognition technology, which is proven to be racially biased and threatens everyone’s right to privacy,” said Phil Mayor, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan. “As we seek this information, we must continue to reject this divisive technology’s use statewide, especially on the heels of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners’ unacceptable vote last week to allow its use by Detroit Police.”

Currently, the MSP maintains a comprehensive database called the Statewide Network of Agency Photos (SNAP). SNAP contains more than 50 million photos, including every Michigan driver’s license or ID photo from the DOS, mugshots, and other images the MSP culled from social media networks. In 2018, the MSP expanded SNAP by 2.7 million photos. The MSP runs facial recognition searches against this database upon request by local law enforcement agencies — and in some circumstances, including with the Detroit Police Department, the MSP allows law enforcement agencies’ direct access to SNAP to run their own facial recognition searches.