Police facial-recognition scanners raise privacy concerns

The Takeaway

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Starting this fall, about a dozen law-enforcement agencies across the country will be outfitted with new devices that will make iPhones capable of scanning a person’s face and matching it to a database of people with criminal records. The new facial-recognition technology, which is also able to collect fingerprints, has raised concerns with privacy advocates who say police who use the device may be conducting “searches” illegally without warrants.

Julia Angwin wrote an article about the new devices in today’s edition of The Wall Street Journal, which reports that picture of a person’s face can be taken from up to five feet away. The device can also “scan a person’s irises from up to six inches away, and do an immediate search to see if there is a match with a database of people with criminal records.”

Angwin says the concern is around the laws governing the use of the technology, which are unclear.


“The Takeaway”is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.

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