New study finds problems with facial recognition software

Wikimedia Commons photo credit Mbroemme5783

(WFLA) — A new study released by the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law found a lot of problems with facial recognition software.

The study from Georgetown law calls facial recognition software biased and unregulated.

Hundreds of agencies across Florida use the software, including the Saint Petersburg Police Department. Sergeant Kevin Smith uses facial recognition software and says it’s a fast way to get an investigation started. “Within 24 hours we were able to get the potential suspect’s name from the facial recognition program.”

There were no leads in that particular fraud case but faces software helped get the ball rolling.


“It took what could have potentially been a case that kind of sat dormant because we didn’t know who the person was.”

That is just one example of many times faces has been used. The new study says face recognition may be least accurate for African Americans.

A detective showed us an example of a black male search. “I successfully used this database particularly that I got a website.”

Then she showed a white male search. “As we can see the first photograph is actually this photograph.”

The study further said the human backstop to accuracy is non-standardized and overstated.

News Channel 8 reporter Jana Jones provided her picture to test that theory.

The first time the system did not find her. But with a picture with better lighting, she was the second result to come up.

“You’re in the top three of matching photographs to the one you just provided.”

The study encourages legislatures to better regulate the software but Sergeant Smith says this software isn’t  the be all end all to begin with.

“It’s a step in the process. It’s not something where we suddenly say that’s the person, we’re going to go out and make a physical arrest, we still have to put other evidence together.”

Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and Tampa Police Department also use the software. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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