Delaware State Police purchase of facial recognition software prompts some calls for oversight

Delaware Public Media | May 21, 2023
by Paul Kiefer

In March, the Delaware State Police secured a $15,000 grant — funded through the state’s civil asset forfeiture revenues — to purchase the facial recognition software Clearview AI, which will enable the agency’s biometrics unit to compare investigative images to an open-source database of images scraped from the internet.


Though the group does not have an official stance on the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement, Delaware’s Coalition for Open Government has raised some concerns about the purchase of Clearview AI by the Delaware State Police, citing the lack of transparency inherent in the use of privately owned software by public agencies.

“When we’re talking about facial recognition or the use of AI through private contracts, that means there are proprietary algorithms being used that cannot be disclosed to the public, preventing public oversight,” said Coalition President John Kowalko III.

Kowalko also noted that in the absence of an external oversight structure, Delaware residents and lawmakers cannot confirm that the Delaware State Police will comply with their agency’s internal policies on the appropriate use of facial recognition software.

“That should be a concern for all members of the public – that this technology is being used in a way that they will and can have no idea about,” he said. “If we’re going to use that type of technology, there needs to be a strong regulatory scheme and oversight structure in place to make sure that use is appropriate.”


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