Chicago Police Using Facial-Recognition Technology To Identify Suspects

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The Chicago Police Department has started pairing facial-recognition technology with the city’s 24,000 closed-circuit television cameras to help catch suspects. A recent Chicago Sun-Times piece identifies Pierre Martin, 34, as the first person to be arrested as a result of the new high-tech program. Martin is facing a charge of armed robbery with a firearm after a camera owned by the Chicago Transit Authority captured an image of his face and investigators were able to match it to one of the 4.5 million criminal booking shots in the city’s database.

The facial analysis program, NeoFace, is used by law enforcement agencies from all across the world to extract biometric data from an image and match it to another.

NeoFace exemplifies “facial recognition as an effective and nonintrusive tool for identification,” according to a press release from NeoFace’s parent company, NEC Corporation of America.

Civil liberty advocates in Chicago warn that programs like NeoFace will let police profile anyone of their choosing.

“Given Chicago’s history of unlawful political surveillance, it is critical that appropriate controls be put in place to rein in these powerful and pervasive surveillance cameras now available to law enforcement throughout the city,” said Harvey Grossman of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

“The ubiquity and technological reach of Chicago’s surveillance camera system present a fundamental threat to the privacy and First Amendment rights of all persons in Chicago,” said ACLU of Illinois senior staff counsel Adam Schwartz. “The current mayor and other city officials have said that their goal is to place a camera on every corner, blanketing the entire city in an integrated fashion. If that goal is achieved, the lives of residents of Chicago will be changed. We will be forced to make decisions about where to go and when with the knowledge that all of our actions can be watched and recorded.”

Chicago Police Cmdr. Jonathan Lewin refuted the idea that NeoFace would be used inappropriately, reported.

“There will absolutely no random surveillance — and facial recognition—of subjects in the public way,” Lewin said.

Sources:, Chicago Sun-Times