A 90-page report published by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) details how federal agencies currently use, and plan to expand their use of, facial recognition systems. Ten of 24 agencies surveyed plan to broaden their use of the technology by 2023. Ten agencies are also investing in research and development for the technology.
The report, published August 24, is the outcome of a study requested by Congress on federal agencies’ use of facial recognition during fiscal year 2020. It characterizes the use of the technology as “increasingly common,” with most agencies surveyed using it for cybersecurity, domestic law enforcement, or physical security. The report also asked all agencies that participated in the study about their future plans for facial recognition.
The results come after a year of public backlash from privacy and civil liberties advocates against police and government use of the technology. Facial recognition has proved to be less accurate on people with darker skin, women, and younger and older people. A report from the GAO released earlier this summer also described a lack of oversight by federal law enforcement agencies that use the technology.
Eighteen of the 24 federal agencies surveyed currently use some form of facial recognition, with many agencies owning more than one system. Some federal agencies that use facial recognition fell outside the scope of this report, and no comprehensive survey on government use of the technology has been done. Most of the systems in use by those surveyed are federally owned, though six systems come from commercial vendors including Clearview AI, Vigilant Solutions, and Acuant FaceID.
The Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Interior, Justice, State, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs all plan to expand their use of facial recognition between 2020 and 2023. These 10 agencies are implementing 17 different facial recognition systems. Thirteen of those systems will be owned by the agencies, two will be owned by local law enforcement, and two agencies are using Clearview AI.