Facial Recognition - The Next Privacy Battle?

Written by: Bruce K. Packard

Original publication at

We have become familiar with the stories —phone records being provided to the government, police scrolling through a person’s cell phone to see if they had information related to a crime scene, drones remotely taking photographs of subjects miles away. Many of these examples involve private industry “voluntarily” sharing your information with the government without your knowledge though generic “Terms of Use” agreements.

But this onslaught of intrusion has reached a new frontier—governments, both state and federal, are building databases of photos which link automatically to what is occurring through a camera, whether as innocuous as a downtown street camera that you may never see, or as threatening as a policeman’s mounted traffic stop camera. And private businesses, such as your landlord, are “sharing” the information without your knowledge and without any type of consent.

The speed of computers, combined with the resolution of cameras, has made facial recognition the next privacy bastion that is under attack.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution keeps persons secure from unreasonable searches and seizures of persons or property. To search a person or his property, a warrant is required. But is a search warrant required for the government to: (a) take your picture; (b) store it; (c) link it to your name and other personal data; and (d) compare it in real-time with other photos?

To date, no court has determined whether, and under what circumstances, a search warrant is needed. Because of that fact, the government is speedily building its photographic database. The U.S government has more than 400 million facial photographs in its database. Its stated aim is to have photographs of every human on earth.

With no laws, and no court oversight, just remember to always smile! Big brother is not only watching, he is recording.

Bruce K. Packard Riney Packard, PLLC Dallas, Texas Phone: 214-461-1203 Fax: 214-461-1210

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