The day after video surfaced of a North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer shooting Walter Scott in the back, the town’s mayor announced plans to outfit all its police officers with body cameras. The New York Police Department has started to put cameras on officers, and the White House has announced a $263 million program to supply 50,000 body cameras to local police.
Advocates for these cameras hope that they will hold police accountable for their behavior. Skeptics point out that unobstructed video footage did nothing to win an indictment in the police killing of Eric Garner. But this debate has overlooked another possibility. Even if cameras reduce police violence, they could transform how citizens interact with police once facial recognition technology allows officers automatically to identify each individual they lay eyes on.
Facial recognition technology isn’t science fiction. Police in the United Kingdom, Dubai and Canada already wear cameras that can recognize faces to identify suspects and missing persons. Apps for Google Glass allow wearers to automatically connect faces to photos, and Taser — the leading seller of police body cameras — is developing cameras that integrate facial recognition with police databases. (more…)