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How Facial Recognition Investigative Training Can Help Avoid Wrongful Arrests

By Clearview AI BLOG

This century has seen many significant advances in criminal forensic technology. For example, forensic DNA analysis developed significantly over the last twenty years. Prior to the 1990s, criminal investigators did not have DNA as an investigative tool to assist them in verifying or refuting the veracity of a person’s involvement in a crime. Police were dependent on limited information such as eyewitness testimonies, mugshot books, anonymous tips, and informants as their primary investigative resources to solve crimes. With DNA technologies now available, numerous cold cases were solved, innocent people exonerated, and victims received justice. One of many examples is the 2019 arrest of a suspect in the 1972 murder of Jody Loomis in 2019. The Snohomish County Sheriff said in a statement, “After more than 46 years of searching for her killer, we finally have some answers for Jody’s family.” [1]

Now, in 2022, cutting edge facial recognition technology (FRT), like Clearview AI’s technology, has the potential to be a game-changer for solving crimes and exonerating the innocent. Despite FRT’s high level of accuracy and proven effectiveness, its detractors continue to make aggressive attempts to ban its use by law enforcement. These bans are motivated by unjustified fears and factually incorrect narratives.

Simply put: banning FRT is the wrong approach.

Many of today’s alleged crimes have digital image evidence associated with them. Surveillance footage of a suspect, a video image of an act of human trafficking, or a child sexual abuse victim are commonplace in criminal investigations. A 2017 study showed that CCTV proved useful to police in 65% of criminal investigations. [2] Using evidentiary images in investigations, and high-performing facial recognition technology with already available databases (i.e., criminal records, motor vehicles, and public images located on the internet), law enforcement has access to incredible investigative leads.

High-performing FRT, designed around machine-learning and artificial intelligence, has extinguished the concern about demographic discrimination or bias in its performance. According to testimony by the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)’s Information Technology Laboratory, high performing algorithmic FRT has undetectable demographic bias in the technology.

Unfortunately, some policy makers seek to limit or outright ban FRT as an investigative tool, citing common myths about the technology and outdated incomplete information. A lack of understanding about FRT fosters an environment where policymakers craft laws that ultimately harm victims rather than protect them by eliminating a valuable crime-fighting tool.

The limitations on eyewitness accounts are well-known and prevalent. Prior to using DNA as evidence, many wrongful convictions were linked to misidentifications by an eyewitness. [3] Not to say that all human eyewitness accounts are inaccura