Spitting Image: Map of Facial Recognition Use by Law Enforcement + DIY Resistance Tips

What: A map of U.S. cities that are using public facial recognition technology (especially by law enforcement) and those cities that have banned it.

Why: Because it is scary. Very, very scary. And you should pull your head out of your Twitter feed and find out why.  Hint:  The further your skin tone is from pale, the riskier it can be for you to be misidentified for just about anything, but especially as having been involved in criminal activity.  This is because facial recognition software has a TERRIBLE accuracy rate (1, 2, 3, 4) –and this is especially true for people with darker skin tones, children and women.  If surgical procedures had the level of accuracy that facial recognition software does, no one–I mean no one--would ever have a hernia operation or circumcision procedure again.

For more information: See the MIT report on accuracy of facial recognition systems and Amazon Is Pushing Facial Technology That a Study Says Could be Biased.

“Facial recognition technology is not accurate 100% of the time. In fact, in the case of women, children, and ethnic minorities, this accuracy may be as low as 65%.” (source)

Plus: Despite the public’s trust of law enforcement using facial recognition technology, mass surveillance has never worked out well for the populace.  Look into it.

Why else: Given our country’s history, there is a fairly good likelihood facial recognition technology and databases can and will eventually be misused for something unethical, inappropriate, and perhaps even harmful–such as creating a database of people who attend lawful, peaceful protests that are unfavorable to corporations (like environmental protests, animal rights, GMOs, and so on), or who attend parades or rallies organized by minority groups (like LGBTQ or Black Lives Matter, for instance), or attend a march against the political party in power (this one is too easy, folks). If these databases or lists are made available to banks, employers, insurance companies, landlords, or others in power, this holds the potential for having serious deleterious effects at the personal level.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation said that of the 52 million photos the FBI will collect, 4.3 million of those will have been obtained for noncriminal reasons, like employer background checks. (source)

Faulty Facial Recognition Technology is Already Taking Over

A 2016 Georgetown University study found that one in two American adults, or 117 million people, are already in facial recognition databases with few rules on how these systems may be accessed.  And facial recognition technology is coming to U.S. airports year after next.

President Trump (who is a Big Fan! Big Fan! of the technology) is rolling out facial recognition technology at 20 of the largest domestic U.S. airports. The motion will affect more than 100 million passengers. The controversial technology is a bid to improve security agents’ “biometric verification of identities.”

It is already in widespread use by federal and local law enforcement agencies across the U.S.

Approximately half of adult Americans’ photographs are stored in facial recognition databases that can be accessed by the FBI, without their knowledge or consent, in the hunt for suspected criminals. About 80% of photos in the FBI’s network are non-criminal entries, including pictures from driver’s licenses and passports.


And what is next?  On the horizon, law enforcement would like to use face recognition with body-worn cameras, to identify people in the dark, to match a person to a police sketch, or even to construct an image of a person’s face from a small sample of their DNA. (source)

In short, ladies and gentlemen, you are no longer free to move about the cabin.

flight attendant

Can’t anything be done to control it?

heh.  Well, yeah.  The American people can, by contacting their state representatives and letting them know this technology must be tightly regulated and controlled.  One such bill currently on the table would ban facial recognition in federally-funded housing. There is also a growing movement to ban facial recognition for which people can sign up to join the effort at the local level.


And to this end, the digital rights nonprofit Fight for the Future has created an interactive map that shows where in the United States it’s being used and where it’s being resisted. 

map fr

The map draws on news reports and research to show the ways that state and local governments have rolled out facial recognition-related initiatives, like where agencies are scanning driver’s license databases or screening passengers on international flights, as well as which cities have banned local government from buying or using the technology or are considering legislation to that effect.

The map also shows all the places where police have formed partnerships with Amazon’s home security subsidiary, Ring. Police departments across the country have given residents free or discounted doorbell camera systems and encouraged people to share their security footage, creating what privacy advocates describe as an unprecedented surveillance network.  (source)

Go Here to See the Interactive Map and Learn What YOUR City or State is Doing with Facial Recognition Technology

And in the meantime, here are some DIY resistance options to lower your risk of being inaccurately identified.

What you will need:

sunglassesDark or Mirrored Sunglasses hatLarge Brim Hat

af full  Aluminum Foil

pantyhose  Pantyhose


face shield bandana

Face Shield/Bandana


Putting it all together

anti facial recog



anti facial recog2


“Fly low and avoid the radar, babeez.”        -Dusty Street



The writer is a privacy advocate, regular contributor at several social, cultural, and environmental issues forums, documentary filmmaker, zine founder and author of social satire essays, stage plays and books including, Not For Public Consumption.