The New Orleans City Council to allow the use of facial recognition software to aid law enforcement has come under scrutiny after reports revealed significant issues with the technology, including ineffectiveness and racial bias.
The facial recognition system was implemented in the summer of 2022, and Politico recently obtained records of its usage over a year.
The investigation revealed that the technology had significant limitations in identifying suspects and was disproportionately used on Black individuals.
From October 2022 to August 2023, nearly every facial recognition request submitted by the New Orleans Police Department was related to a Black suspect, amounting to 14 out of 15 recommendations.
However, only six of these requests resulted in matches and half of those matches needed to be corrected. The remaining nine requests failed to produce any games.
Facial recognition technology has long been controversial due to its potential for misidentification and bias.
New Orleans banned its use in 2020, but the city reversed its stance in 2022.
This policy change prompted criticism from the ACLU of Louisiana, which cited research showing that the technology exhibited racial and gender bias and raised privacy concerns.
A previous investigation by The Independent uncovered cases of false arrests due to facial recognition technology, with all of the wrongfully arrested individuals being Black.
Despite these issues, many federal law enforcement agencies and a quarter of state and local agencies continue to use the technology.
Councilmember At-Large JP Morrell, who voted against allowing facial recognition use, acknowledged the technology’s shortcomings, describing it as “wholly ineffective and pretty obviously racist.”
On the other hand, City Councillor Eugene Green, who introduced the measure to lift the ban, defended the technology, suggesting that even if it solved only one crime in ten years without abuse, it would be a victory.
Despite the flaws highlighted by Politico’s report, no known false arrests have been attributed to the technology in New Orleans.
However, there is a call for more significant accountability and transparency concerning the use of this controversial technology.
The New Orleans Police Department must provide details on the technology’s usage to the City Council.
However, the reporting frequency is currently a matter of debate between the department and the council.