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Security Industry Requests Federal Surveillance Law

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Citing public concern with the deployment of facial-recognition systems that identify criminals in public places, Visionics Corp. of Jersey City, N.J., and the Security Industry Association of Alexandria, Va., have requested that Congress regulate the use of the surveillance technology by law enforcement agencies. While both claimed that the systems enhance public safety, they urged lawmakers to make the existing responsible-use guidelines mandatory.

Visionics, which produces the FaceIt facial-recognition software that police installed in a Tampa, Fla., entertainment district, has presented specific recommendations:
  • Require agencies to inform the public with signs and media alerts before using facial-recognition systems.
  • Mandate that acquired images be immediately purged from the system if they do not match one in the database.
  • Require the use of encryption and authorization protocols.
  • Establish guidelines controlling the inclusion of an individual's image in a database and its dissemination to other agencies.
  • Create oversight and enforcement procedures, including penalties for violators.
In an address to the National Press Club in Washington, Visionics chairman and CEO Joseph J. Atick characterized the industry's responsible-use guidelines as successful but warned that the technology has the potential to be abused. In a statement, Security Industry Association executive director Richard Chace acknowledged the need for discussion on public policy. Chace, however, also accused the press of "irresponsible grandstanding and fear-mongering" regarding facial recognition's threat to privacy.

Photonics Spectra
Sep 2001
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