Facial Recognition Tech IDs Fugitive Robber

Posted August 12, 2010 in Criminal Law by Arthur Buono

Never forget a face? Neither does law enforcement’s newest high-tech, crime-fighting tool. Facial recognition technology scored a big win for New York crime fighters recently. It ID’d a fugitive wanted for a 1993 bank robbery.

  • Facial recognition used to catch license fraud
  • Facial recognition part of the growing field of biometrics
  • Biometrics can identify persons from distinctive physical characteristics
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Facial Recognition, Biometrics, and Privacy Issues

The facial recognition system belongs to the state Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV uses it to catch persons applying for multiple licenses. When the fugitive applied for a license under his own name, the system recognized him as someone issued a license under another name. The alias belonged to a man who’d died many years ago. A check found an outstanding warrant for the fugitive.

States joined the Driver License Compact and National Driver Registry to combat license fraud. Under the Compact states agree to give effect to each other’s driver’s license laws. If one state revokes a driver’s license for drunken driving, the driver can’t get a license in another state. The Registry keeps records of drivers who have had their licenses revoked or suspended, or who have been convicted of serious traffic violations.

Facial recognition technology is one part of the growing field of biometrics. Biometrics is the automated identification of a person using a personal trait. This includes fingerprints, iris, facial, and other scans. Law enforcement has a big interest in biometrics. It can help them identify suspects. The federal government keeps a website detailing its biometric-related activities.

Biometrics raises privacy concerns. Its widespread use could prove legally worrisome. The Supreme Court has refused to recognize a reasonable expectation of privacy in public places. The Court has also said we have no expectation of privacy in physical characteristics exposed to the public, like our faces, voices, and handwriting. As one Court of Appeals ruled recently, however, continuous, intense surveillance, even in public places, may violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches.

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