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You’ve been warned: Widespread US face surveillance is ‘imminent reality’, says tech privacy report

You’ve been warned: Widespread US face surveillance is ‘imminent reality’, says tech privacy report
Georgetown researchers are warning Americans about a sophisticated real-time face surveillance system that’s about to become an “imminent reality” for millions of citizens across the country.

The ‘America Under Watch’ report is a warning that authorities in select US cities may soon be able to pick you out from a crowd, identify you, and trace your movements via a secret network of cameras constantly capturing images of your face.

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The report claims both Detroit and Chicago purchased software from a South Carolina company, DataWorks Plus, that gives police the ability to scan live video from cameras located at businesses, health clinics, schools, and apartment buildings. Both cities say they are not currently using the technology.

DataWorks says it provides software which “provides continuous screening and monitoring of live video streams.” The system is also designed to operate on “not less than 100 concurrent video feeds.”

According to the research team’s report, live footage is captured by cameras installed around Detroit as part of Project Green Light, a public-private initiative to deter crime which launched in 2016. The expanse of the police department’s facial recognition policy last summer, however, means the face recognition technology can now be connected to any live video, including security cameras, drone footage, and body-worn cams.

Illinois, meanwhile, is host to one of the most advanced biometric surveillance systems in the country, the report claims, adding that the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and the Chicago Transit Authority have had face surveillance capabilities since “at least 2016.

Similar face surveillance is also apparently on the horizon for NYC, Orlando, and DC.

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The report authors, Clare Garvie and Laura M. Moy, are now calling for a “complete moratorium on police use of face recognition” to give communities a chance to decide whether they want to be monitored in their streets and neighborhoods.  

Last week, San Francisco became the first US city to ban facial recognition software used by police and other municipal agencies.

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