In Seattle, Washington, the City Council will soon decide on whether or not they should approve an ordinance that green-lights a $1.6 million federal grant, a large chunk of which will be used to purchase sophisticated facial recognition software that supporters of the measure say would help stop crime. Those Department of Homeland Security dollars would let the Seattle police pay for software that digitally scans surveillance camera footage and then tries to match images of the individuals caught on tape with any one of the 350,000-or-so people who have been photographed previously by King County, Washington law enforcement.
“An officer has to reasonably believe that a person has been involved in a crime or committed a crime” before they begin to use the program, Assistant Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best told KIRO-TV this week. Once the facial recognition software is initiated, though, it scours a collection containing close to a half-a-million area residents — including many who may never have been convicted of a crime. That database, members of the local Seattle Privacy anti-surveillance collective say, is composed of more than just the mug shots of convicted criminals.
Images of anyone ever arrested and booked are included in that system, regardless of whether or not they were ever ultimately convicted of a crime. And according to a recent post on the Seattle Privacy website attributed to founding member Jan Bultmann, there has already been mention of perhaps someday including the driver’s license photos of the millions of adults across Washington state into that same system. […]