Facial recognition may help find US Capitol rioters, but at a cost


Police officers in riot gear stand guard while supporters of then president Donald Trump protest on the steps of the US Capitol building in Washington, D.C., on Jan 6, 2021. As facial recognition is increasingly used by authorities to nab lawbreakers from criminals to US Capitol rioters, experts warn it could harm many others. — Abaca Press/TNS

LOS ANGELES: In the days following the Jan 6 riot at the nation’s Capitol, there was a rush to identify those who had stormed the building’s hallowed halls.

Instagram accounts with names like Homegrown Terrorists popped up, claiming to use AI software and neural networks to trawl publicly available images to identify rioters. Researchers such as the cybersecurity expert John Scott-Railton said they deployed facial recognition software to detect trespassers, including a retired Air Force lieutenant alleged to have been spotted on the Senate floor during the riot. Clearview AI, a US facial recognition firm, said it saw a 26% jump in usage from law enforcement agencies on Jan 7.

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