Law enforcement is going high-tech with the use of biometrics in their pursuit of criminals and evidence for criminal cases. The information coming out of the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) is illuminating — and a little bit scary.
Here’s what you need to know:
- There are all kinds of investigative tools available to the federal government, including the use of facial-recognition algorithms, data analysis of a subject’s irises or speech patterns in order to generate leads on suspects.
- Another tool being used by federal investigators is probabilistic genotyping, which is the use of statistics and mathematics to determine who contributed DNA, their genetic material, to the evidence — even when the DNA is co-mingled with someone else’s DNA or is just a tiny sample.
- Latent print algorithms also use mathematical formulas to tie partial prints — even when they overlap with other partial prints or are somewhat unclear — to a specific suspect. (Latent print algorithms are also designed to help reduce human error due to subjective factors, which can be a problem when matching fingerprints.)
Many people worry about the use of biometrics by investigative authorities, like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and others — and rightly so. There’s a huge potential for the invasion of privacy. Many of these tools also have yet to be firmly evaluated for their accuracy. That means that innocent people can be put in the crosshairs of an investigation for no fair reason.
These days, it’s hard to tell how you may attract the attention of federal authorities. One thing is certain, however: Once you do, it’s time to get some experienced legal assistance right away.