The fight over law enforcement using facial recognition software to solve (or prevent) crimes has been raging for quite a while now. We’ve seen bans on the use of this technology by police in San Francisco, Oakland, Detroit, and other major cities. Even more bizarrely, the entire State of California is poised to ban the technology when used with police body cameras. And it’s all supposedly being done to protect the privacy of private citizens, prevent false arrests (which never happen) and defeat racism or something.
But these objections are largely driven by Democratic politicians and activist groups like the ACLU. How do the individual citizens being protected by the police feel about it? Yet another survey has been done on this topic by Scott Rasmussen and it turns out that your average Joe on the street really isn’t too upset about law enforcement employing such tools to catch the bad guys.
In the performance of its duties, 71% of voters believe the FBI should be allowed to use facial recognition technologies. A ScottRasmussen.com national survey found that 69% said the same about the CIA and 59% think local law enforcement should be able to use that technology. However, just 32% believe tech companies should be allowed to do so.
However, voters recognize the risks involved. More than six-out-of-ten believe that each of those groups might regularly abuse their power while using facial recognition technology. Forty-two percent (42%) are Very Concerned that tech companies would abuse that power and 34% have that fear about local law enforcement. Twenty-seven percent (27%) are Very Concerned about FBI abuse and 26% about CIA abuse.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen results along these lines. A YouGov poll back in June indicated that 32% opposed facial recognition software while 42% supported it. But that one was only asking about the use of such technology by the TSA at airports. Rasmussen’s survey covers a much broader spectrum.
What I found unexpected about these results is that the further away from your front door the law enforcement agencies lived, the more people trusted them with the software. The largest number supported its use by the FBI and nearly the same percentage were okay with the CIA using it. The lowest support level was registered for such use by local police, though that was still a majority.
Who doesn’t the public trust with facial recognition software? Big tech companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon. (Kind of hard to blame them, don’t you think?) But Republicans were more likely to be suspicious of Big Tech while Democrats were more distrustful of the government.
The bottom line for me in this discussion is that it appears that Democrats are once again overplaying their hand. They’re so eager to battle law enforcement rather than criminals that they’re actually pushing policies that the majority of voters disagree with. Your average person doesn’t hate the police, though they do want them monitored to root out any rogue cops or unnecessary violence. Mostly they want to be kept safe from the bad guys, and if this software can help the police get that done, so be it.
This might be an issue for the GOP to run on next year, particularly in districts imposing these bans. The Democrats’ collective rush to the hard left has once again stranded them on an island where they are out of step with the priorities of average Americans.