- Associated Press - Thursday, October 20, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska wants two Nebraska law enforcement agencies to suspend the use of facial recognition technology in their investigations until lawmakers and the public can weigh in on the practice.

A recent report from Georgetown University about the technology’s use included the Lincoln Police Department and Nebraska State Patrol. The two agencies don’t use their own technology, but rather access the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles’ system for facial recognition.

The ACLU of Nebraska said more public vetting is needed to prevent misuse and abuse of the technology, because it has the potential to violate privacy rights. The union also said that the report noted existing deficiencies are most likely to have a very different impact on African-Americans.

“We still don’t like the use of this technology because drivers don’t know their picture is going to be used,” Legal Director Amy Miller said. “We don’t allow the government to search us or keep us under surveillance willy-nilly.”

Miller is also concerned about the low legal bar for Lincoln police, where investigators don’t need to have reasonable suspicion to detain or run a search on someone.

Lincoln public safety director Tom Casady said facial recognition technology is an efficient tool for identity theft investigations, and there are restrictions in place to allow its use by only a few investigators from each law enforcement agency.

Casady said that Lincoln police submitted 17 photos for analysis last year and had four actual identifications.

If there is a need for photo analysis and review, the Lincoln Police Department must first internally initiate a formal request to have the photo processed. According to Casady, the program is rarely used.

The state patrol says it’s reviewing the university’s report.

Casady noted that he is aware of privacy concerns related to the technology, however his priority concern is more the “non-governmental side of this than the governmental side” because it is more difficult for citizens to push for change in the “private world.”

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