The Honolulu Police Department must have reasonable suspicion before running mugshots through facial recognition software, but the fact that the chief can make an exception to that rule could raise a red flag for civil liberty advocates, a new state-by-state report on the technology says.
Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy & Technology compiled the exhaustive report, which looks at the issue of “unregulated police face recognition” across the country.
The center found that major police departments are dabbling in using facial recognition with live surveillance feeds, are not taking adequate steps to protect free speech, aren’t doing enough to ensure facial recognition systems are accurate, and don’t audit systems for misuse.
In good news for Hawaii, HPD was one of only four departments nationally with a publicly-available policy that outlines how facial recognition systems can be used.
HPD’s facial recognition program was developed in 2014, in conjunction with the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center. The system was expanded to all Hawaii counties the following year, and can tap into a statewide database of mugshot photos.
Driver’s license photos aren’t included in the database, and the system doesn't use live video, the report said.
However, it’s not clear if police can run searches of bystanders and witnesses, and not just suspects. Only employees who have completed special training can use the facial recognition search.
If no match is found in HPD’s system, a requester can send the image to the FBI to be run in a database of mugshots.
Of concern to the report's authors, in addition to the "chief exception," is the apparent lack of any auditing of the program. HPD indicated it maintains no records on searches, and the justice data center also does not have audit records.
To see the Hawaii-specific information on facial recognition searches, click here.