Federal agencies are concerned that masks may thwart facial recognition

Face masks designed to defend against COVID-19 spread that interfere with facial recognition technologies, according to the US department of homeland security as reported by The Intercept. The worry is that people will use facial masks to escape law enforcement long after the COVID-19 pandemic has stopped.

A report from 22nd of May, written in collaboration with several government departments, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, addresses the potential impacts that widespread use of protective masks could have on security operations that incorporate face recognition systems — such as video cameras, image processing hardware and software, and image recognition algorithms — to monitor public spaces during the ongoing Covid-19 public health emergency and in the months after the pandemic subsides,” according to the Intercept.

Throughout the report, the department indicates that protestors will utilize masks to prevent detection by facial recognition systems, though admitting that they have ” no specific information that violent extremists or other criminals in the United States are using protective face coverings to conduct attacks. ”

The CDC advises that people wear facial fabric coverings in general. These face coverings ” help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others, ” says the CDC.

Cities and states around the US have been using facial recognition in law enforcement. Last month, Boston prohibited the usage of technology in the region, following prohibitions in Oakland and San Francisco prohibiting government departments from utilizing it. The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan lodged a federal lawsuit over the January unlawful detention of a man misidentified by facial recognition against the Detroit police force.

A bill introduced late last month by Democrats in the House would prohibit the use of facial recognition technology until there is a law that explicitly allows this.

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