A new Government Accountability Office report shows that numerous federal agencies are currently using facial recognition software to conduct investigations:

Agencies reported using the technology to support several activities (e.g., criminal investigations) and in response to COVID-19 (e.g., verify an individual’s identity remotely). Six agencies reported using the technology on images of the unrest, riots, or protests following the death of George Floyd in May 2020. Three agencies reported using it on images of the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Agencies said the searches used images of suspected criminal activity.

Okay….but as Reason’s Ron Bailey writes, there’s a very big problem with the third party facial recognition programs:

One of the chief findings of the GAO report is that 13 of the surveyed agencies actually have no real idea how their employees are using outside systems in their investigative activities. In addition, most of the agencies have never formally assessed the privacy and accuracy-related risks of using non-federal facial recognition systems.

Which is deeply troubling, for a host of reasons:

Civil liberties advocates are right to worry that expanding police use of facial recognition technologies has already placed essentially all Americans in a perpetual lineup. The longer-term concern, however, is that the ongoing normalization of cyber-surveillance will anesthetize the public and eventually enable law enforcement to begin using the technology for pervasive real-time surveillance. Deploying such tech would essentially turn our faces into ID cards on permanent display to the police.

Putting a dystopian technology in the hands of government agents to use as they see fit. What could possibly go wrong?