Last week, Taser, the stun gun company that has recently become an industry leader in body-mounted cameras, announced the creation of its own in-house artificial intelligence division. The new unit will utilize the company’s acquisition of two AI-focused firms: Dextro, a New York-based computer vision startup, and Misfit, another computer vision company previously owned by the watch manufacturer Fossil. Taser says the newly formed division will develop AI-powered tech specifically aimed at law enforcement, using automation and machine learning algorithms to let cops search for people and objects in video footage captured by on-body camera systems, reports Vocative.
Moreover, the move suggests that body-worn cameras, which are already being used by police departments in many major cities, could soon become powerful surveillance tools capable of identifying different objects, events, and people encountered by officers on the street — both retroactively and in real time.
Searchable video will also have major implications for civilian privacy, especially since there are no federal laws preventing police from trawling through databases to track people en masse.
Taser has previously expressed interest in adding face recognition capabilities to its body camera systems. A Department of Justice study published last year also found that at least nine different body camera manufacturers either currently support face recognition in their products or have the ability to add it later. And according to a recent Georgetown University Law report, roughly half of all American adults have been entered into a law enforcement face recognition database, meaning there’s decent chance that any random person walking down the street can be identified and tracked in secret by a camera-equipped cop.
A Taser representative told Vocativ that while Dextro’s computer vision technology will allow Taser’s law enforcement customers to detect faces for the purpose of redacting them from videos, it does not currently support face recognition.