Chicago PD will begin using Clearview, a controversial facial recognition software used by the FBI to identify suspects. The controversy surrounding the software is similar to the controversy surrounding law enforcement in general. In other words, it is racist. It also involves another well-established controversy: It is a violation of privacy.
You see, the FBI and law enforcement have access to a database of three billion photos lifted from sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media megaliths.
How Does it Work?
Ostensibly, if someone’s face shows up in a video of them committing a crime, law enforcement can use the video evidence to create a still and then upload it into the app. The app will then run a match through its database in an attempt to determine who the person is. The app will then provide the officer with a link to websites where the photos were taken.
Why is the Software Racist?
Facial recognition depends on high-contrast to assign “centroids” or points of reference that identify prominences in the face. For instance, your eyes, nose, lips, nostrils, and other prominent features would each be assigned a “centroid.” All the centroids are then connected to form a shape that law enforcement claims is as unique as a fingerprint.
Because it requires high-contrast to assign centroids, black people, whose faces have considerably less contrast when it comes to shadow, have facial fingerprints with fewer centroids and this leads us to a situation where one suspect can be confused with another because the shape is not unique enough.
Does the Software Violate Your Privacy?
The data used by the software was collected from social media sites without the users’ knowledge or consent. While there is some legal gray area in terms of what you sign away when you sign up for a site like Facebook, the act of harvesting all of your photos to identify you or someone else in a crime rubs a number of people, justifiably, the wrong way.
The creator of the software, Hoan Ton-That describes it as a research tool for law enforcement and assures us that the app only collects publicly available data—not private data. However, it is unclear whether or not putting your profile to private will be enough to deprive such apps of your data.
Officials for the CPD assure us that it is only used for an active investigation. In other words, they will not use the software to conduct surveillance, mainly because it would not be usable during a criminal trial.
Meanwhile, the debate rages on as to whether or not this is a Fourth Amendment violation and concerns over the fact that the public was not given a choice in the matter have several folks feeling uneasy. The Illinois ACLU has filed a lawsuit to prevent law enforcement from using Clearview, but CPD will continue to use the software until an injunction is placed on them to stop.
Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you have been charged with a serious crime, Chicago criminal defense attorney David Freidberg can help you raise a defense to the charges and will protect you from overzealous prosecution, illegal law enforcement tactics, and speculative arguments. Call us today at (312) 560-7100 to set up an appointment.