The Los Angeles Police Department barred officers and detectives from using outside facial recognition platforms in their investigations after uncovering detectives who used a powerful commercial software platform known as Clearview AI without permission, reports the Los Angeles Times. Deputy Chief John McMahon said the only facial recognition system that officers are authorized to use is provided through the Los Angeles County Regional Identification System, which is maintained by the county and compares images input by officers against criminal booking photographs. Other platforms like Clearview, which compare images against millions of images posted on the Internet, are not authorized for investigative use.
Civil liberties advocates questioned the efficacy of facial recognition software platforms, particularly those like Clearview, that use images from outside the criminal justice system. Some critics and researchers have identified racial bias in facial recognition results. The department began investigating the use of systems like Clearview by officers after it was contacted by BuzzFeed News, which said it had a list of more than two dozen LAPD officers who had purportedly used the outside software. BuzzFeed reported that documents it had reviewed “showed more than 25 LAPD employees had performed nearly 475 searches using Clearview AI as of earlier this year.” A police official said the department had identified only two investigators who used Clearview AI on an investigation, though others appeared to have tinkered with the platform using noninvestigative images. No arrests are made solely on the strength of a facial recognition match, and all require additional evidence. The department is conducting a more exhaustive review to determine whether officers have been using unsanctioned facial recognition platforms without the department’s knowledge. The Times reported in September that the LAPD had used the county’s facial recognition software nearly 30,000 times since 2009, despite at times denying it ever used facial recognition.