The United States Secret Service has many tasks on its plate, the most important being the protection of the President. The Secret Service runs the President’s detail as well as security at the White House. The Secret Service also provides protection to former Presidents and their families. Now, the agency is exploring new real-time facial recognition technology by testing it outside of the White House.
Security cameras around the White House will capture images of people walking by and attempt to match faces to “people of interest.” This is raising alarms from those who are concerned about the privacy of American citizens. The test is being run on Secret Service agents who have volunteered for the project. But the cameras are not bias, they capture every face in range and run it through the software. So that means, if you’re in range, you will be scanned. The agency says the data will only be stored on the White House security system and results from the tests will be deleted next year.
The test seems to be limited enough to avoid immediate privacy concerns, but it “crosses an important line by opening the door to the mass, suspicionless scrutiny of Americans on public sidewalks,” Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst for the American Civil Liberties Union, wrote in a blog post published Tuesday.
Most adult Americans are already in a facial recognition database of some kind, the result of governments formatting driver’s license and passport photos for such use, according to the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown University Law Center.
Real-time facial recognition used to be a Hollywood thing but now it is being tested and even used by the U.S. government. For example, the Department of Homeland Security utilizes it at airports and borders. Police departments are even testing out systems made by Amazon.
The Secret Service has not said what company it hired to provide the facial recognition system or where exactly the cameras are placed. The agency declined to comment on Tuesday.