Wolfcom, a company that makes technology for police, is pitching body cameras with live facial recognition to law enforcement groups across the United States, OneZero has learned. It’s a move that pushes against industry norms: Axon, the largest manufacturer of body cameras in the United States, declared last year that it would not put the invasive technology in its hardware, citing “serious ethical concerns.” NEC, which sells live facial recognition elsewhere in the world, has also not sold it to U.S. law enforcement.
Wolfcom claims to have sold body cameras to at least 1,500 police departments, universities, and federal organizations across the country. It has been developing live facial recognition for the Halo, Wolfcom’s newest body camera model, according to documents and a video obtained by OneZero through public records requests.
This new initiative makes Wolfcom the first major body camera provider in the United States to pursue live facial recognition, a controversial stance given a nationwide push from privacy advocates to ban the technology.
The company originally started as a spy equipment manufacturer and paintball retailer based in Hollywood.
“With Realtime Facial Recognition, WOLFCOM hopes to give our friends in Law Enforcement tools that will help them identify if the person they are talking to is a wanted suspect, a missing child or adult, or a person of interest,” Wolfcom founder Peter Austin Onruang wrote in a May 14, 2019, email to the Noble Police Department in Oklahoma.
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The email also contained a link to a video demonstration of facial recognition already running on a body camera. In the video, three people stand side by side. As they enter the body camera’s field of vision, a nearby computer monitor shows a…