More than a dozen federal agencies don't know what non-federal facial recognition systems their employees and contractors are using in criminal investigations, according to a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
The agencies included the FBI, Secret Service, Capitol Police, the IRS and others. The GAO, which functions like an in-house watchdog for the federal government, recommended the 13 agencies track which systems they're using and assess them for accuracy and risks to privacy.
The survey of federal government use of facial recognition systems, which have come under scrutiny particularly by law enforcement for the possibility that they could misidentify people or invade privacy, also showed that six agencies used facial recognition systems in the wake of George Floyd's death in 2020, while three used them after the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol.
In the former, the FBI "sought to identify or locate criminal suspects seen in images and video depicting criminal behavior," for instance, while the Capitol Police "used Clearview AI to help generate investigative leads" after the latter.
Non-federal systems were defined as those belonging to "state, local, tribal, territorial, and non-government entities." Overall, 20 agencies reported owning or using facial recognition systems. Of the agencies that didn't track their use, 12 concurred with both recommendations.