Speed Reads


Boston police used facial recognition software on thousands of people at a music festival

Attendees of last year's Boston Calling music festival were — without their knowledge — test subjects for the Boston Police Department's new facial recognition software. The IBM program — which also analyzes each individual's build, clothes, and skin color — captured video of thousands of people, 50 hours of which is still intact.

When Boston's Dig website found data, documents, and more from the facial recognition project carelessly left available to the public online, Boston PD denied all involvement, saying, "BPD was not part of this initiative. We do not and have not used or possess this type of technology." However, the Dig reporters also uncovered photos showing Boston PD officers actively using the monitoring software with guidance from IBM staff.

Use of facial recognition programs by local and state government has come under criticism in other areas, like Ohio, where some 26,000 police officers and other state employees were allowed to use the program at will. And the FBI has worried civil liberties advocates with its plans to have biometric data on as many as 52 million people by 2015.