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Officals halting facial recognition system that identified Lafayette Square protester

Officals halting facial recognition system that identified Lafayette Square protester
© Getty Images

Officials announced on Monday that a facial recognition system that was used to identify demonstrators at Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., last year will be ending this summer.

The National Capital Region Facial Recognition Investigative Leads System will be ending on July 1, The Washington Post reports. The move was brought on by a review prompted by a Virginia law that places more restrictions on the use of facial recognition technology by local law enforcement in the state.

The facial recognition system is a pilot program by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG), the Post notes, and it has been used by dozen local law enforcement agencies in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area since it was approved in 2017.

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“This program won’t continue,” Steve Kania, spokesperson for MWCOG, told the Post. “It depended on regional participation and financial support.”

Though law enforcement officials have said that the program helps in providing clues in cases that would otherwise have gone unsolved, civil rights groups have criticized it for misidentifying women and minorities at a higher rate.

The program was also criticized for being implemented without public input or notice, with many public defenders and facial recognition experts being unaware of the system's use before it was reported on in November of last year.

Kania told the Post that the facial recognition was never announced because it was a pilot program.

“The program should have never seen the light of day,” Jeramie D. Scott, senior counsel for the D.C.-based nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center, told the Post. “Hopefully the council steers clear of implementing surveillance programs from now on, but I hope any future consideration of a new surveillance program involves the public in the decision-making process.”