New Facial Recognition Citizen’s Guide Empowers Public to Investigate Use of the Technology

The Citizen’s Guide by Open The Government and MuckRock explores federal, local and state agencies’ acquisition of controversial facial recognition technology over the last few years. Little is known about how widespread the use of the technology is. Many police departments share software with other law enforcement bureaus or agencies, sidestepping standard procurement disclosures, while some companies require governments to sign non-disclosure agreements before acquisition. Nonetheless, the public has the right to information about its deployment and implementation.

The federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and comparable state laws give people the power to request information from public bodies, such as police departments and the intelligence community.

Open The Government and MuckRock are using FOIA to send public records requests about facial recognition technology to hundreds of police agencies across the country. Hundreds of other agencies, however, remain unaudited.

If you would like to know more about the use of facial recognition technology in your community, this guide will provide resources on how to start. It explains how a private citizen can file a request for information, how the request should be structured, the rules governing requests, and possible next steps when an agency responds or does not respond to the request.

The federal Freedom of Information Act—and comparable state laws—give people the power to request information from public bodies.

Read the full guide here.