The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently surveyed 24 Federal agencies on their facial recognition technology (FRT) use and found that a majority of the agencies use it for digital access and cybersecurity for employees.

The survey was conducted on FRT activities in fiscal year 2020, and 18 of the 24 agencies that were surveyed reported that they use an FRT system for one or more purposes. Among these purposes, GAO found, include: digital access or cybersecurity; domestic law enforcement; and physical security.

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“GAO was asked to review the extent of FRT use across the Federal government,” wrote GAO. “This report identifies and describes how agencies used FRT in fiscal year 2020, including any related research and development and interactions with non-Federal entities, and how agencies plan to expand their use of FRT through fiscal year 2023.”

What GAO found, included:

  • 16 agencies surveyed said they were using FRT for digital access or cybersecurity—such as allowing employees to unlock agency smartphones;
  • Six said they were using FRT to generate leads in criminal investigations;
  • Five reported that they were using FRT for physical security, like controlling building access; and
  • 10 said they planned to expand FRT use.

“Recent advancements have increased the accuracy of automated FRT resulting in increased use across a range of applications,” wrote GAO. “As the use of FRT continues to expand, it has become increasingly important to understand its use across the Federal government in a comprehensive way.”

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.
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