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[10/18/16]  Half of all American adults are included in databases police use to identify citizens with facial recognition technology, according to new research that raises serious concerns about privacy violations and the widespread use of racially biased surveillance technology.

report from Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and Technology found that more than 117 million adults are captured in a “virtual, perpetual lineup”, which means law enforcement offices across the US can scan their photos and use unregulated software to track law-abiding citizens in government datasets.

Numerous major police departments have “real-time face recognition” technology that allows surveillance cameras to scan the faces of pedestrians walking down the street, the report found. In Maryland, police have been using software to identify faces in protest photos and match them to people with warrants, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The report’s findings, along with revelations from the ACLU on police monitoringin Baltimore, suggest that the technology may be violating the rights of millions of Americans and is disproportionately impacting communities of color, advocates said.

“Face recognition, when it’s used most aggressively, can change the nature of public spaces,” said Alvaro Bedoya, executive director of Georgetown’s privacy and technology center. “It can change the basic freedom we have to go about our lives without people identifying us from afar and in secret.”

The center’s year-long investigation, based on more than 100 police records requests, has produced the most comprehensive survey of facial databases to date and raises numerous questions about the lack of transparency and privacy protections.

Law enforcement biometric databases have traditionally captured DNA profiles related to criminal arrests or forensic investigations. What’s alarming about the FBI’s “face recognition unit”, according to the report, is that it is “overwhelmingly made up of non-criminal entries”.

The FBI database photos come from state driver’s licenses, passports and visa applications, meaning police can easily identify and monitor people who haven’t had any run-ins with the law.

“In the case of face recognition, there appears to be very few controls or safeguards to ensure it’s not used in situations in which people are engaged in first amendment activity,” said Neema Singh Guliani, ACLU’s legislative counsel.

The ACLU recently found that police in Baltimore may have used the recognition technology along with social media accounts to identify and arrest people with outstanding warrants during high-profile police protests last year. That alleged surveillance relied on tools from Geofeedia, a controversial social media monitoring company that partners with police.

The ACLU, which on Tuesday urged the US department of justice to investigate facial recognition, also revealed last week that Facebook and Twitter have provided users’ data to Geofeedia, with records suggesting that the social media sites have aided police in surveillance of protesters. The firms have since cut off Geofeedia’s special access to their data.