The NYPD today announced the Department’s facial recognition technology policy. While the NYPD has had an existent policy in place, with rapidly evolving technology, it was important to update it, memorialize the rules surrounding its use, and remind all members of the department of those rules. Facial recognition is a digital technology used by the Department exclusively to compare images obtained during criminal investigations with lawfully possessed arrest photos. When used in combination with human analysis and additional investigative steps, facial recognition technology is an important tool in solving crime, increasing public safety, and bringing justice for victims. The NYPD has never arrested anyone on the basis of a facial recognition match alone – it is merely a lead in the investigative process.
At the center of these reforms are explicit guidelines detailing the appropriate scope, uses, and procedures members of the service must follow when utilizing facial recognition technology. This Patrol Guide provision is effective immediately and is part of a continued effort to increase transparency and promote trust—all while enhancing the capabilities of investigators to better serve New Yorkers who have been victimized.
“When you look at policing and the evolution of technology proliferation of cameras, I think it is self-evident that as businesses and private citizens deploy the use of cameras more and more, it logically leads to the next question of how you are going to use those images once you recover someone committing a crime.
“It is our responsibility to ensure investigators are equipped with effective technologies to bring justice to New Yorkers who have been victimized,” said Police Commissioner Dermot Shea. “When a crime occurs and there is video or images of a perpetrator committing a crime—and that perpetrator is unidentifiable—trained investigators take that image and compare it against lawfully obtained arrest photos. A facial recognition match is merely a lead; it is not probable cause. This new policy clearly defines the permissible use of facial recognition technology and it strikes the right balance between public safety and privacy.”
Facial recognition technology must only be used for legitimate law enforcement purposes. Specifically, the following are the only authorized uses for employing facial recognition technology:
a) To identify an individual when there is a basis to believe that such individual has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime,
b) To identify an individual when there is a basis to believe that such individual is a missing person, crime victim, or witness to criminal activity,
c) To identify a deceased person,
d) To identify a person who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to identify themselves,
e) To identify an individual who is under arrest and does not possess valid identification, is not forthcoming with valid identification, or who appears to be using someone else’s identification, or a false identification, or
f) To mitigate an imminent threat to health or public safety (e.g. to thwart an active terrorism scheme or plot, etc).