Secret Service Testing Facial Recognition Software at White House

Joining a list of other agencies experimenting with facial recognition software, most of them within the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Secret Service “is experimenting with the use of a new kind of surveillance at one of the most highly surveilled locations in the country – the White House,” writes FedScoop’s Tajha Chappelet-Lanier, noting that the pilot program is focused on using facial recognition tools “to ‘biometrically confirm’ the identity of volunteer Secret Service employees when and where they are spotted.”

Chappelet-Lanier notes that the agency currently uses known photos of its volunteer test subjects “to identify ‘known subjects of interest’ who approach the White House gates,” and now hopes to increase and automate those capabilities.

Currently, the program is said to be in pilot mode, running through August 30th of next year, with the tests focusing only on Secret Service agents who have volunteered to help hone and test the technology. However, the tech may find itself quickly in action, despite its pilot status.

“While the pilot is only actively searching for volunteer faces, members of the public in the streets and parks near the White House may inadvertently find themselves subjected to the system,” Chappelet-Lanier writes.

According to an announcement regarding the pilot from DHS, “individuals passing the cameras involved in the pilot will not be able to opt out of having their faces run against the facial recognition algorithm. However, individuals who do not wish to be captured by the White House Complex CCTV and cameras involved in this pilot may choose to avoid the area,” clarifying that the agency will provide “general notice” if the pilot expands beyond the testing phase.

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