“The New York Police Department (NYPD) has been loading thousands of arrest photos of children and teenagers into a facial recognition database despite evidence the technology has a higher risk of false matches in younger faces,” reports The New York Times. Some of the children included in the database are as young as 11, but most are teenagers between 13 and 16 years old. From the report: Elected officials and civil rights groups said the disclosure that the city was deploying a powerful surveillance tool on adolescents — whose privacy seems sacrosanct and whose status is protected in the criminal justice system — was a striking example of the Police Department’s ability to adopt advancing technology with little public scrutiny. Several members of the City Council as well as a range of civil liberties groups said they were unaware of the policy until they were contacted by The New York Times.
Police Department officials defended the decision, saying it was just the latest evolution of a longstanding policing technique: using arrest photos to identify suspects. The New York Police Department can take arrest photos of minors as young as 11 who are charged with a felony, depending on the severity of the charge. And in many cases, the department keeps the photos for years, making facial recognition comparisons to what may have effectively become outdated images. There are photos of 5,500 individuals in the juvenile database, 4,100 of whom are no longer 16 or under, the department said. Teenagers 17 and older are considered adults in the criminal justice system. Civil rights advocates say that including their photos in a facial recognition database runs the risk that an imperfect algorithm identifies them as possible suspects in later crimes. A mistaken match could lead investigators to focus on the wrong person from the outset, they said.