- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 23, 2001

A City Council member in Jacksonville, Fla., wants to bar the city sheriff's office and other government agencies from using the face-recognition surveillance technology that is now causing a flap 200 miles away in Tampa.

City Council member Gwen Chandler-Thompson introduced a resolution to that effect at a meeting of the council's Rules Committee on Aug. 14, Richard Wallace, an assistant council auditor, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

But he said Mrs. Chandler-Thompson announced yesterday she will withdraw the resolution and introduce it as an ordinance.

"She feels strongly this is a matter of protecting people's privacy," Terrence Webb, an aide to the council member, told The Washington Times.

Mr. Wallace said the measure faces votes by two council committees Rules and Public Health and Safety on Sept. 4 and 6, respectively. "And it's to be considered by the City Council on Sept. 11," he said.

Asked if Mrs. Chandler-Thompson is optimistic the bill will be passed by the full 19-member council, Mr. Webb said, "Jacksonville is a relatively conservative city. We believe the majority of the council will be in agreement with [her] that facial-recognition technology is a violation of the basic and fundamental principles of American society."

In Tampa, police are using a combination of 36 surveillance cameras and face-recognition software to try to identify criminals in an entertainment district known as Ybor City. So far, no one has been arrested through the use of the technology, which critics denounce as "spy cameras."

Mr. Webb said Mrs. Chandler-Thompson believes the bill is necessary, and was concerned to learn that "Tampa council members were caught by surprise" when the so-called FaceIt system was introduced there.

Critics say monitoring systems such as FaceIt raise constitutional questions dealing with issues of both privacy protection and search and seizure. Visionics Corp., the makers of FaceIt, denies that.

At a council committee session yesterday, Mrs. Chandler-Thompson cited a report about a man who was detained by Tampa authorities after he was photographed and his image was distributed to the national media.

"A woman in Tulsa saw his picture on television, and she thought she recognized him as being her ex-husband, who was wanted for felony child-support," said Mr. Webb. "It turned out the man was not her husband. But he was detained at work, and it was all very embarrassing for him."

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