Op-Ed: Facial Recognition on Transit Goes a Step Too Far

Despite its insistence that the technology would only target criminals, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) should reconsider using facial recognition software to address crime. The potential for abuse may be too high.

February 27, 2016, 5:00 AM PST

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc

Security cameras on a building

Marc Nozell / Flickr

Prompted by concerns about crime, Dallas' DART system is experimenting with facial recognition software linked to an offender database. Although officials likely have good intentions, Michael A. Lindenberger is worried about the creep factor: will riders be logged and tracked every time they use the system?

The question is whether DART will restrict its use of the technology to criminal situations alone. "DART says it will build its own database of names and photos, based on incidents in which DART riders come to the attention to DART police. Maybe you get busted for not paying your fare. The police take your picture, and in you go to the database. You get in a fight on the train, and in you go."

While Lindenberger's concerns may be unfounded right now, facial recognition could become yet another way to assault citizens' privacy and anonymity. "Computers at DART could be building a database full of information about each of its riders, forevermore. And someday, if DART wants to find me at 8:30 on a Monday morning, it won't even have to ask its cameras to help. It will have years' worth of my travel habits, and will simply make a guess. It'll be a pretty good one."

Friday, February 19, 2016 in The Dallas Morning News

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