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GAO’s Gretta Goodwin: Agencies Should Monitor Employees’ Use of Facial Recognition Systems

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Gretta Goodwin
Gretta Goodwin GAO

Gretta Goodwin, director of Homeland Security and Justice at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), said GAO assessed the use of facial recognition systems by federal law enforcement agencies and recommended that agencies should take measures to track their employees’ use of non-federal systems for criminal investigations.

Goodwin said in an interview posted Tuesday that GAO made the recommendation after it found that only one of the 14 agencies included in the review had knowledge about their employees’ use of non-federal platforms.

“When we asked one of the agencies about its use of non-federal systems, officials told us that they had to poll their employees because the information was not maintained by the agency. In another instance, officials from an agency initially told us that their employees did not use non-federal systems. But, after they conducted a poll, they learned that the employees had used the system to conduct more than 1,000 facial recognition searches,” she said.

Goodwin talked about how agencies might abuse the use of facial recognition systems. She cited the risk of failing to comply with privacy-related laws and the risk of inaccurate search results that could lead to the identification of innocent individuals as investigative leads.

“So it is essential that federal agencies have a thorough understanding of what systems are being used by their employees. They also need to ensure that employee use of these systems complies with privacy laws and that these systems are sufficiently accurate,” she said.