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GAO Publishes Report on Agencies’ Use of Facial Recognition Technology

Facial recognition

GAO Publishes Report on Agencies’ Use of Facial Recognition Technology

The Government Accountability Office has released a report on how government agencies used facial recognition technology in fiscal year 2020.

GAO said a comprehensive understanding of facial recognition’s use in government is important as the technology’s adoption continues to expand.

The agencies included in the survey were the U.S. Agency for International Development, Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration, NASA and the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation and the Treasury.

GAO said it interviewed agency officials and reviewed documents, system descriptions and other information related to the topic.

Of the 24 agencies, 18 responded that they were using some form of facial recognition technology for purposes such as digital access or cybersecurity, domestic law enforcement and physical security.

Fourteen agencies said they authorized their personnel to use facial recognition to unlock their agency-issued smartphones, a use case that GAO said is the technology’s most common application.

Six agencies said they use facial recognition for criminal investigations. Some reported identifying crime victims by comparing their features against publicly available images.

Five agencies said they use the technology to monitor their facilities for persons on a watchlist. One agency said facial recognition eliminates the need for security personnel to memorize faces.

GAO also found that ten agencies are conducting some form of facial recognition-related research and development.

For instance, some agencies reported developing the capability to identify individuals wearing face masks and to detect image manipulation.

Ten agencies also disclosed plans to expand their use of facial recognition through fiscal 2023 such as through the automation of the identity verification process at airports.

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Category: Federal Civilian

Tags: cybersecurity facial recognition federal civilian GAO Government Accountability Office physical security Research and Development security