Major concerns raised over facial recognition system used by Pinellas Co. Sheriff's Office

Posted at 6:31 AM, Oct 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-19 17:13:00-04

There are major concerns being raised over the facial recognition system used by the Pinellas County sheriff's office, as well as departments across the state.

A new study indicates that a lack of transparency could lead to abuse. Pinellas County Sheriff, Bob Gualtieri is set to address some of the concerns over this study on Wednesday.

Gualtieri says that a lot of the information used is available to the public through mug shots, driver's license photos, even pictures on Facebook..

However, according to the report just released by the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law, the Pinellas county Sheriff's Office has broad guidelines outlining the use of the software system that raises privacy concerns and could lead to misuse.

The Pinellas system is used for 8-thousand monthly searches without audits. Over the years, they've touted its effectiveness in fighting crime and getting criminals off of the street.

"A surveillance image could be a bank robbery photo, it could be a retail image, it could be any find of face image. If you're looking for that needle in a haystack, facial recognition can help you find it," system analyst Scott McCallum told ABC Action News.

The Sheriff's Office launched the facial recognition system in 2001. It's one of the longest running programs in the country.

The system is used by law enforcement agencies across the state, including St. Petersburg and Tampa.