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Adoption of Facial Recognition Technology in U.S. Government

Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) is a type of biometric technology that mimics how people identify or verify others by examining their faces. Recent advancements have increased the accuracy of automated FRT resulting in increased use across a range of applications. As the use of FRT continues to expand, it has become increasingly important to understand its use across the federal government in a comprehensive way. GAO was asked to review the extent of FRT use across the federal government.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report identifies and describes how agencies used FRT in the fiscal year 2020, including any related research and development and interactions with non-federal entities, and how agencies plan to expand their use of FRT through the fiscal year 2023. GAO surveyed the 24 agencies regarding their use of facial recognition technology. GAO also interviewed agency officials and reviewed documents, such as system descriptions, and information provided by agencies that reported using the technology.

According to the report, 18 of the 24 surveyed agencies reported using a Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) system, for one or more purposes, including:

  • Digital access or cybersecurity. Sixteen agencies reported using FRT for digital access or cybersecurity purposes. Of these, 14 agencies authorised personnel to use FRT to unlock their agency-issued smartphones—the most common purpose of FRT reported. Two agencies also reported testing FRT to verify the identities of persons accessing government websites.
  • Domestic law enforcement. Six agencies reported using FRT to generate leads in criminal investigations, such as identifying a person of interest, by comparing their image against mugshots. In some cases, agencies identify crime victims, such as exploited children, by using commercial systems that compare against publicly available images, such as from social media.
  • Physical security. Five agencies reported using FRT to monitor or surveil locations to determine if an individual is present, such as someone on a watchlist, or to control access to a building or facility. For example, an agency used it to monitor live video for persons on watchlists and to alert security personnel to these persons without needing to memorise them.

Ten agencies reported FRT-related research and development. For example, agencies reported researching FRT’s ability to identify individuals wearing masks during the COVID-19 pandemic and to detect image manipulation. Furthermore, ten agencies reported plans to expand their use of FRT through the fiscal year 2023. For example, an agency plans to pilot the use of FRT to automate the identity verification process at airports for travellers.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, Artificial intelligence (AI) is an integral part of modern life in numerous ways, from facial recognition to AI assistance in making more accurate medical diagnoses. In addition, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory are leading efforts to leverage AI to accelerate new and potentially transformative discoveries in science.

The researchers are looking at ways to apply the same advances to scientific problems, such as to discover things faster, to discover unknown things. AI methods can provide humans with very powerful, knowledgeable and imaginative assistance that can accelerate the discovery process. They focus on long-term AI that will change many aspects of society in a way that is currently unimaginable.

Machine learning (ML) and AI play an active role that will provide answers, predictions, or possibilities that any humans could not have possibly thought of. This is all made possible by some significant methodological advances. Moreover, the available data are currently a lot more massive and the computers are far more powerful than before.

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