DHS tests facial recognition software around White House

The US Secret Service (USSS) is using cameras equipped with facial recognition software around the White House to spot volunteer Secret Services staff in public spaces, according to a document outlining details of the software. 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) installed the facial recognition software into two separate areas around the White House complex.

The first camera is located in an open area, where pedestrians can approach from any angle. The second camera is placed in a ‘controlled’ area, which is free from any obstructions. DHS state that the facial information captured by the cameras is used to pick out staff from a crowd, but the cameras can also scan pedestrian faces without their consent.

The DHS also said that pedestrians who are in and around the region won’t be able to “opt out of having their face run against the facial recognition algorithm”. The DHS suggests that people who do not want their face captured to “avoid the area”.

The images from the software will be used to identify “known subjects of interest”, which at this point are only Secret Service volunteers.

Facial recognition software poses privacy risks

According to the DHS release, facial images “identified as a match will be retained”. Images retrieved by the camera will be checked against the saved images to determine whether they are a match or not.

If an image doesn’t match an individual on the database then the file will be deleted, but if the images do pair, their picture will be stored on the database.

The DHS admitted that the software poses a risk to privacy and that data could be “used inappropriately”.

The project is set to end on August 2019, and all the remaining images will be deleted from the system. “Conducting the pilot in this manner will provide more detailed information as to how the USSS should proceed in regards to the use of facial recognition technology in the future,” the DHS says.


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