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Press Release

New Report: Future of Facial Recognition Technology Puts Constitutional Rights at Risk

Today, The Constitution Project at POGO, in conjunction with its Task Force on Surveillance, released a new report on the impact that law enforcement use of facial recognition technology could have on civil rights and civil liberties.
(Illustration: CJ Ostrosky/POGO)

(WASHINGTON)—Today, The Constitution Project at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), in conjunction with its Task Force on Facial Recognition Surveillance, released a new report on the impact that law enforcement use of facial recognition technology could have on civil rights and civil liberties.

The Task Force is comprised of ten individuals with special expertise on the potential effects of the government’s widespread use of facial recognition technology, including current and former law enforcement officials, as well as experts on privacy, civil liberties, and technology.

The report, Facing the Future of Surveillance, finds that law enforcement’s already-significant and ever-increasing use of facial recognition technology raises a number of constitutional concerns, and could ultimately signal the end of anonymity for Americans — unless policymakers take swift action to place limits on the use of the technology.

The report offers recommendations for policymakers on how to properly regulate facial recognition surveillance at every level, from local police departments to federal law enforcement.

Today, law-enforcement databases for facial recognition searches contain pre-identified photos of roughly half of all adults in the United States.

Among the top risks of facial recognition technology discussed in the report are violations of privacy rights, the prevalence of misidentification and inaccuracy, chilling of freedom of expression and association, and subversion of due process.

While even tech giants Microsoft and Amazon—who both produce and market facial recognition technology—have acknowledged that some limits on its use are necessary, the Task Force makes clear that the onus is on our elected leaders to protect Americans’ rights, and sets forth strong policy recommendations to achieve this.

“Facial recognition technology is becoming more advanced, more available, and more sought-after by law enforcement at every level. But like many new technologies, facial recognition surveillance is dramatically outpacing common-sense rules to limit their potentially disastrous effects,” said Jake Laperruque, Senior Counsel at The Constitution Project at POGO and a principal drafter of the report. “Our government must act now to protect Americans from this widespread, invasive, and often-inaccurate surveillance technology, and uphold our Constitutional rights to privacy, anonymity, free speech, and equal protection.”

Media Contacts:Jake Laperruque, Senior Counsel at The Constitution Project at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), [email protected] or (202) 347-1122; or CJ Ostrosky, Communications Associate at POGO, [email protected] or (202) 347-1122.

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