Cobb police seek approval for controversial AI facial recognition software

Cobb Police are seeking to expand the use of a controversial AI facial recognition software, raising privacy concerns

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Cobb Police are seeking to expand the use of a controversial AI facial recognition software, raising privacy concerns

The Cobb County Police Department on Tuesday will seek approval from the Board of Commissioners to expand its use of a controversial facial recognition system that uses artificial intelligence to identify suspects.

The technology, owned by Clearview AI, is used by hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the U.S., but has been outlawed in Canada, Australia and parts of Europe over privacy concerns.

In the U.S., Clearview in May settled a lawsuit with the ACLU in which it agreed to only sell its services to government agencies, keeping its database of more than 20 billion photos out of the hands of most businesses and private citizens.

Clearview’s database was collected from publicly available sources across the web, such as social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. The lawsuit contended that the company repeatedly violated Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act, which sought to protect Illinois residents from having biometric identifiers, such as their fingerprints and faces, captured and used without their knowledge and permission. But like most states, Georgia has no such privacy law.

The settlement also required Clearview to set up a more formal approval process for its free trial program, to ensure that individual police officers who use the system have permission from their employers. According to a memo sent to the Board of Commissioners, Cobb Police have been using the program as part of a free trial, but are seeking approval for a three-year agreement to continue using the technology for $18,000 a year.

Atlanta’s Police Department also has a contract to use Clearview’s software.

Randy Crider, Cobb’s director of public safety, said in the memo that county officers have used the software to identify a suspect in a cold-case murder investigation, identify the ringleader of a violent home invasion and confirm the identities of suspected child pornography distributors.