Facial Recognition Is Law Enforcement’s Newest Weapon Against Protesters

Police in Seattle, Austin, and Dallas, as well as the FBI have asked for images of violence and protests

Dave Gershgorn
OneZero
Published in
5 min readJun 3, 2020

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Hundreds of protesters in Dudley Square demand justice for George Floyd in Downtown Crossing in Boston on May 31, 2020.
Hundreds of protesters in Dudley Square demand justice for George Floyd in Downtown Crossing in Boston on May 31, 2020. Photo: Boston Globe/Getty Images

As protests engulf the country following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police, law enforcement agencies with extensive facial recognition capabilities are now asking the public for footage of activists.

Police in Seattle, Austin, and Dallas, as well as the FBI, have all asked for video or images that can be used to find violence and destruction during protests over the weekend.

“Hopefully, we can pick her image up. If we can, we can do facial recognition, hopefully, and you know then we’d [sic] able to shed some more light on that,” police commissioner Thomas Carter of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, said in a virtual press conference, referring to a woman who allegedly smashed a police car window and punched an officer.

Because there are no federal or state laws that require transparency for government use of facial recognition technology, there’s no way to know how the technology is being used

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Dave Gershgorn
OneZero

Senior Writer at OneZero covering surveillance, facial recognition, DIY tech, and artificial intelligence. Previously: Qz, PopSci, and NYTimes.