- Thomas Peter/Reuters
- Police in San Diego have used facial recognition for seven years, collecting over 65,000 face scans in the past three years alone – but the program hasn’t been connected to a single arrest.
- The program has now been shuttered thanks to a new California law banning the use of facial recognition by mobile devices used by police.
- However, police departments across the country are still embracing facial recognition as a tool to track people and identify suspects.
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Police in San Diego have been using facial recognition for seven years, and over 65,000 face scans have been collected by law enforcement in San Diego county in the past three years alone. But San Diego Police Department’s use of facial-recognition technology has not been connected to a single arrest, a police spokesperson told Fast Company.
When reached for comment by Business Insider, a San Diego Police Department spokesperson said that SDPD officers were not able to identify any cases in which facial recognition led to an arrest, but added that it’s possible such an arrest was made in the past that the department wasn’t able to immediately identify.
San Diego is one of many major cities across the US to embrace facial recognition. While the tool has been heavily hyped for its potential to track people and identify possible suspects, Fast Company’s findings call the effectiveness of facial recognition into question.
Critics of the technology have also pointed to studies suggesting that it’s biased against women and people of color. A federal study published last month found that facial recognition algorithms were up to 100 times more likely to misidentify black people and Asian people than white men, and women were more likely to be misidentified across the board.
San Diego’s facial recognition program was shuttered on January 1 in accordance with a new California law that bans government agencies from using facial recognition on mobile devices used by police for the next three years. The SDPD spokesperson told Business Insider that face scans it captured have not been stored for future use.
The city was one of the first major municipalities in the US to embrace facial recognition in 2013. At the time, Reveal News, a nonprofit investigative outlet, reported that San Diego law enforcement heralded it as a boon to preventing crime.
That prediction doesn’t appear to have come to fruition. When California’s facial recognition ban went into effect this month, a police spokesperson told Fast Company that it was unlikely to have “much of an impact on our department.”