I just learned about a 2021 GAO report. It says that This means it is likely that more agencies are using FRT for more reasons. This report seems relevant because for the third time legislation is being put forward to do a Federal Facial Recognition Ban just this week.
The diagrams within the report do a good job of articulating clearly and simply different use-cases and how the systems work. I think they are great points of reference for us to use next week at the Thoughtful Biometrics Workshop on March 16th.
This set of diagrams articulates a whole range of uses by federal agencies.
This diagram really stood out for me because they are clear that there is a difference between Matching or what they call Verification or Identification. This different is really key and today there are proposals coming out from congress about banning FRT broadly.
This type of broad ban would limit the ability of agencies to use computer vision to match people to their documents – a technology that is widely used at boarder crossing in the US now and TSA has begun experimenting with at check points.
It would also limit the use of Biometrics as part of Biometric Exit I wrote about last week that compares passengers boarding flights leaving the US complied with access to galleries of photos of passengers drawn from DHS records (from entrance photos, document photos and passport records).
The GAO report includes a table breaking down the number of facial recognition systems owned by each agency:
- Commerce Department: one system, used for physical security.
- Defense Department: seven systems, used for physical security, domestic law enforcement, national security and defense, and other purposes.
- Energy Department: one system, used for physical security.
- Health and Human Services Department: three systems, used for physical security, domestic law enforcement and digital access/cybersecurity.
- Homeland Security Department: four systems, used for domestic law enforcement, border and transportation security, and national security and defense.
- Justice Department: seven systems, used for physical security, domestic law enforcement, national security and defense, and other purposes.
- State Department: one system, used for border and transportation security, and national security and defense.
- General Services Administration: one system, used for digital access/cybersecurity.
- NASA: one system, used for “other” purposes, including employee identification if they forgot their badges.
I recommend scanning through the report to see the range of use-cases. I think it can be useful in having a nuanced conversation about use-cases/applications that make sense and ones that could be harmful and really impact civil liberties.