back to article Black Lives Matter protester ID'd from Twitter photo via facial-recog system secretly used by US law enforcement

A protester accused of punching a police officer was arrested after he was identified by facial-recognition software that has not been publicly disclosed before: the National Capital Region Facial Recognition Investigative Leads System (NCRFRILS). The software is currently employed by 14 local and federal agencies in the US …

  1. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I guess it comes down to where they obtained their database of 1.4m people to match him against? It is of mug shot photos taken by the police from previous arrests or have they used driving license, passport photos, or even scraping them from social media etc?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Big Brother

      Not so bold prediction

      We'll never know because for "security reasons" they'll never tell us.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not so bold prediction


        If you're arrested because they had a picture of you and used facial recognition to identify you...

        You do have a right to question the source, otherwise you could raise a question about the evidence and a violation of your civil rights (4th,5th and I think the 14th)

        That said...

        1) If they use police/prison records... you're toast.

        2) if they use drivers license / state ID... you're toast

        Here there is no expectation of privacy.

        If your photo was in the public domain... you're toast. Again no expectation of privacy.

        And here's the kicker...

        Suppose the software only narrowed the search to maybe 20 people which were then compared by a person looking at the photos.

        Then the police went to interview you and in addition there was other evidence... like your cell phone's metadata ... you're toast.

        Again best rule of thumb... don't take a swing at a cop.

        1. sabroni Silver badge

          Re: Again best rule of thumb... don't take a swing at a cop.

          Of course not.

          Resistance is futile.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      @Mark It doesn't matter... well sort of...

      First rule... Don't punch a cop.

      This would not even be an issue if the guy didn't punch the cop.

      That said.

      If the source was in a government database (e.g. State ID , Jail, prior arrest) its clearly fair game.

      If the source was in the public domain... e.g. a friend took a picture and posted it online using creative commons... it's free to be scraped.

      Now if the source is private and should have been protected... you could see a legal challenge under 4th, 5th, and I think 14th Amendment. (Going from memory so F you guys if I'm wrong on the 14th.) ;-P

      1. Insert sadsack pun here Silver badge

        Re: @Mark It doesn't matter... well sort of...

        I like the way you've leapt ahead of the criminal trial to decide that the person charged is actually the person in the Twitter photograph, that the guy in the Twitter photograph is the guy who punched a cop, that a cop was actually punched, and that the punch was actually illegal (instead of, for example, self-defence against an assault).

        1. Anonymous Coward

          @ Sad Sack ... Re: @Mark It doesn't matter... well sort of...


          I didn't mean to confuse you.

          The legal issue is the use of facial recognition against a database to determine the identity of the person who assaulted the officer.

          That issue will come up during the pre-trial motions and defense getting ready for a trial.

          The defendant has the ability to question the police as to the source and method they used to identify him.

          Now... to your point, the police wouldn't just use the facial recognition. That may be enough to get a warrant and / or bring the person in for questioning.

          If the photo shows a unique identifier like a tattoo in a specific area... (e.g. a skull on a fist) that would be enough for a unique identifier.

          If there isn't enough to identify uniquely identify the individual, if they get a short list, they will work to get corroborating evidence.

          Now you raise a couple of points.

          1) Hitting a cop ... there is no 'self defense' argument.

          2) You don't just have the photo, but the officer himself/herself raising the complaint.

          Again go back to my first rule... you don't punch the police.

  2. Robert Grant


    > the National Capital Region Facial Recognition Investigative Leads System (NCRFRILS).

    They missed their chance to be the National Online Facial Recognition Investigative Leads Legal System. Then they'd show us how legal they are. And how frugal.

    1. Insert sadsack pun here Silver badge

      Re: NOFRILLS

      tbf it's pretty much "knicker frills" already

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One thing that I never liked

    Is the Anglo-Saxon press' habit of naming mere suspects.

    Does it really matter whether the person they caught is named Michael Joseph Peterson Jr or Joe Bloggs the 23rd? Not to most of us, I'd like to think, but it does to the individual concerned.

    Haven't we learnt anything from the Gatwick drones incident last (?) year? Two innocent people had their homes vandalised, amongst other things, by mindless vigilantes. Something which could have been avoided had the press refrained from publishing their names and addresses.

    I am sorry but I much prefer the German approach of divulging only vague descriptions ("a young man") or at most first name and initials ("Christopher S.")

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: One thing that I never liked

      The thing is that the press takes a very definitive stance. It's not some random bloke in an altercation with the police, or somebody joyriding a drone. No, it's a matter of Great Importance and the fate of the continuation of society rests upon it. The correct response is therefore to get angry. And you can't get properly angry if you don't have somebody to get angry at.

      That the named and shamed target may well be an innocent person is (mumble) (mumble) lessons will be learned (mumble) our sources indicated (mumble).

    2. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: One thing that I never liked

      An argument for naming people arrested is to prevent secret arrests, prevent people from 'disappearing' and provide a degree of transparency within the justice system.

      I would concur that the press reporting of arrests could improve, as the arrestee could for instance be named by the courts but not published by the media. I'm not sure where the right balance is.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: One thing that I never liked

        > An argument for naming people arrested is to prevent secret arrests, prevent people from 'disappearing'

        Small flaw with that argument:

        — Oh, I see Pete's got collared. I better destroy the rest of the evidence.

      2. Helcat Bronze badge

        Re: One thing that I never liked

        The reason I hear most often for publishing the names of the accused is to allow other potential 'victims' to come forward and add their claims to the case. I've also heard claims it helps the defence as possible witnesses might come forward, too - but that would only work if they knew the accused.

        Mostly it's to make money, though. That's what the media's about after all.

        A better system would be to keep the name to the court filings, and the media respect the legal process and only publish names when the case is over - and even then I'd argue it should only be when the case is found against the accused. But I believe in protecting the innocent rather than dragging them through the court of public opinion and media attention.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @AC ,Re: One thing that I never liked


      You do realize that when the police release the name of the individual... he's been arrested and charged... or there's an active manhunt for him.

  4. BebopWeBop

    Remarkable coincidence that a police officer who had been there was just browsing Twatter - or maybe not.

    1. BebopWeBop

      But I suppose it is a 'plausible' explanation.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Probably didn't take much when some 'tard had posted it to Twatter with #bml #punchacop #fuqdapolice

      And why would they not be trawling for pictures from the event? That's actual police work unlike Scotland where they spend their time policing non-PC [no pun] thoughts typed on said platform.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Aww, did someone get sanctioned for stupid bigotted posts?

        1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

          Aww, did someone recently get a humour bypass?

        2. PTW

          to the ac above

          From the original ac, fuck no! Why would I spend any valuable drinking time on Twatter <-- and I'd have thought that was a give away in the original post. Dullard

          But you are one of said offend-o-trons that wastes police time with such nonsense, and I claim my £5

  5. John Sturdy
    Big Brother

    Meanwhile in the UK... the "need" for facial recognition algorithms is reduced by the police employing "super recognizers" --- people with an exceptional ability for matching faces.

  6. codejunky Silver badge


    I can see AI being helpful but has such reliability issues that it shouldnt be anything more than a tool.

    I hear people are looking forward to more mostly peaceful protests if Trump wins. I feel sorry for the residents and police in those areas.

    1. onemark03

      AI ... shouldnt be ... more than a tool


      Trouble is, countries and police forces are going to keep pushing the envelope with shonky face-recognition software because they consider it "too useful".

      And they're going to keep doing this until said software is finally fit for purpose.

    2. Flywheel

      Re: Hmm

      I can imagine certain regimes combining AI with DeepFakes to manufacture a match...

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: Hmm


        To be fair doctored images has been happening for a long time already

  7. TimMaher Silver badge

    Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments

    Who, exactly, the cuff are they?

    How come they have so much influence?

    Do they wear a cilice?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Protesters don’t go around assaulting people

    Protesters certainly don’t go around assaulting officers

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