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LAPD Drops Clearview AI — But Not All Facial Recognition Technology

This week, the Los Angeles Police Department told BuzzFeed News that it would stop using Clearview AI, the company that scraped billions of images from the internet, including social media sites, to form a massive searchable database of faces and identities.

Reading that story, it’s important to keep in mind that despite the headline, L.A. law enforcement is far from giving up facial recognition technology. The police department will still use its existing facial recognition database with more than eight million booking photos run by facial recognition contractor DataWorks Plus.

DataWorks Plus sells photo management software that connects to third-party facial recognition algorithms, like those from NEC and Rank One. Last year, OneZero reported that DataWorks Plus was working on bridging these facial recognition databases across California in a service called the California Facial Recognition Interconnect.

The key takeaway is that there is a mountain of other ways that law enforcement can use facial recognition in Los Angeles. For instance, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department maintains the DataWorks Plus contract, so even if the LAPD decided not to use any facial recognition, the sheriff’s department would still have access to it anyway. And that doesn’t even account for the federal facial recognition systems that can include Angelenos.

Law enforcement departments sharing facial recognition capabilities with each other is well documented: Last year, OneZero reported on secret networks of police without facial recognition capabilities sending pictures to other departments with the software to scan against mugshot databases.

The LAPD is still drafting its official rules on the use of “commercial” facial recognition. One distinction the police department floated is that Clearview has its own database of images taken from people not suspected or convicted of any crimes.

But what’s clear is that the LAPD isn’t done with facial recognition — it’s just done with Clearview.

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