Recently, we compiled a primer on the various legislative responses to facial recognition currently percolating at all levels of government. Since then, facial recognition, especially law enforcement use-cases, has received increased scrutiny as part of the ongoing national conversation about racial justice and police reform. Last week, major vendors Microsoft, IBM, and Amazon all announced cancellations or moratoria to their sale of facial recognition capabilities to police departments in the United States. It is clear we are in the midst of a long overdue public reckoning with trade-offs involved with the technology.
With this infographic, we hope to enrich this discourse by visualizing some of the many permutations a facial recognition query can take. The infographic displays how various sectors have deployed the technology, classifying facial recognition queries along several dimensions identified from available research and reporting on key use-cases.
While the use-cases are all real-world deployments of facial recognition (which you can find linked at the top of each column), the descriptions are meant to be illustrative, rather than comprehensive. The categorizations we present here pull from what is publicly known about the most high-profile facial recognition deployments.
The goal of this document is to highlight the range of facial recognition uses, rather than to definitively catalogue them all. For instance, though we highlight just three law enforcement uses of facial recognition here, Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy & Technology highlighted ten unique law enforcement use-cases in their own risk assessment framework.
Realistically, entities operationalize facial recognition tools on an individual basis and in many cases are not required to transparently share the details of their deployment. As such, we cannot ascertain whether our categorizations hold true for every entity within a category or use-case. Nevertheless, we believe this infographic is a helpful first step towards conceptualizing the array of facial recognition deployments currently in operation across various segments of society, leaving room for future developments within the space.