Facial Recognition and Biometrics: Growing Popularity and Concern

Published: July 20, 2018

ARIZONADELAWAREInformation TechnologyInformation TechnologyJustice and Public SafetyJustice/Public Safety & Homeland SecurityLOS ANGELES, CITY OF (LOS ANGELES) (CALIFORNIA)ORLANDO, CITY OF (ORANGE) (FLORIDA)Professional Services

Deltek’s Justice and Public Safety/Homeland Security (JPS/HS), Transportation and Public Utilities team examines the use of Facial Recognition systems in the State and Local Market and the controversies associated with the increasingly sophisticated technology.

Brief History of Facial Recognition Development

To understand the current implementation of facial recognition systems in the state and local market it is important to acknowledge the history of the technology. Beginning in the 1960’s Woodrow Wilson Bledsoe developed a rudimentary system to recognize faces in photos that still required significant human input. Over the remainder of the 20th century new techniques were developed that were better able to identify faces in photos and by 1991 the first truly automated facial recognition system was developed proving the viability of the technology. Through significant federal investment the technology was improved upon and slowly deployed to different law enforcement agencies between 2000 and 2010 with varying degrees of success. Commercial implementation of facial recognition technology has also been federally sanctioned and is now widely utilized by different social media, retail and technology companies. As of 2014 local and federal law enforcement have had access to mobile facial recognition technology known as The Automated Regional Justice Information System (ARJIS). The ability to discern faces in an efficient and timely manner has progressed immensely in the last two decades. Interoperability and data sharing has presented law enforcement with an incredibly powerful tool to help provide for public safety.  For more information regarding the development of facial recognition technology, please go here.

Facial recognition has become a part major part of many different technologies procured at the state and local level. The most common procurements to include recognition capabilities are drivers’ license systems and booking systems for jails. Identity photos and mug shots are some of the most common pictures used in facial recognition databases. These systems will often pull information such as criminal records and demographics to aid in the booking of criminals and tracking of driver history. Less formal facial data can come from any type of camera used by local governments including body/dash cameras, smart devices and dedicated surveillance cameras. These types of programs are becoming more common in police departments but have faced intense backlash from civil rights groups that caution against the indiscriminate use of recognition technology. Deltek’s Justice and Public Safety/Homeland Security (JPS/HS), Transportation and Public Utilities team considers facial recognition to be one of the top priorities for state and local law enforcement agencies over the next five years. This finding is supported by information gleaned from the “Local Law Enforcement Technology Priorities” survey conducted by Deltek, The Public Technology Institute, The Police Foundation and The Industry Council for Emergency Response Technologies (iCERT). According to this survey mobile data, body-worn cameras and smart devices/public safety applications are the highest priority technologies for police departments over the next five years only behind radio communications. Facial recognition has become a major component of all of the above mentioned systems and is often seen in new procurements.

GovWin Activity

Deltek’s GovWin IQ solution is already tracking several procurement opportunities for facial recognition systems that are coming in the near future. These opportunities feature a mix of drivers’ license credentialing systems, surveillance systems, and biometric identification systems. One of the most recently released facial recognition projects is a request for information (RFI) for a Video Analytics (VA) System for the city of Los Angeles Department of Airports, referred to as the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA).  Major components of this solicitation include facial recognition, area control and object detection with movement pattern analysis. Another example of a future requirement for facial recognition is the Biometric and Identification Management Services project from the Arizona Department of Administration. Arizona issued an RFI for this project that seeks to include extensive biometric examination including facial recognition, iris and retinal scans, mug shots and electronic identification systems. One of the most common implementations of facial recognition systems in GovWin is with drivers’ license systems such as for the Delaware Department of Transportation Secure Drivers’ License and Identification Cards System. Future DL/ID systems will include expanded facial recognition and biometric technology.

Deltek has conducted contract and solicitation analysis on systems that include facial recognition to better understand the types of projects that state and local governments are most likely to require. Often times these systems will be in place for around ten years meaning that a technology refresh could be included in future solicitations. As well, interoperability is a key component of most new solicitations but is especially poignant for facial and biometric identification. A major concern related to some of these projects has been storage and data access controls. Cloud storage is becoming more popular of an option but many agencies still prefer to maintain some records on site to ensure security. These are usually high value contracts that scale depending on the size of the government procuring the technology. When these systems are procured for the first time the information gathering phase is more drawn out compared to more proven technologies. There are still a lot of questions governments need to answer about how they can responsibly implement facial recognition.

Controversy and Look Ahead

Facial recognition technology offers a myriad of opportunities in the public safety sector but this has drawn a lot of criticism from some groups who view it as a potential civil rights violation. A recent example has been the city of Orlando which is moving into a new phase of facial recognition testing with Amazon’s Rekognition platform (Source). While the city is exploring the applications of this technology on police volunteers, groups such as the ALCU have raised concerns about the potential misuse of the technology. This is emblematic of a larger debate surrounding facial recognition that impacts both commercial and government applications of the technology. Some private companies are calling for government assistance in setting up a safe environment for facial recognition technology through regulatory action (Source). Both the commercial and private sectors will be moving forward with this technology as Smart City initiatives continue to arise and new commercial applications arise.

The future of facial recognition will most notably be seen through the application of “smart” technologies. The multi-billion dollar Smart Cities market in the U.S. is projected to grow rapidly over the next five years. The largest portion of this spending will be directed at video surveillance services, and cameras and hardware (Source). Facial recognition has already logarithmically improved in its ability to distinguish faces in the past twenty years and will continue to have a profound impact on public safety in an increasingly interconnected world.       

You can learn more about current procurement opportunities in the GovWin IQ State, Local and Education Opportunities database. Not a Deltek subscriber? Click here to learn more about Deltek's GovWin IQ service and gain access to a free trial.