Face Plant: NY Agency’s Attempt at Facial Recognition on Drivers Fails

The MTA's attempt to capture drivers' faces at RFK Bridge did not go as planned.

Toll Plaza at the Robert F Kennedy Bridge.(Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)
Toll Plaza at the Robert F Kennedy Bridge.(Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)
UIG via Getty Images

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An initial attempt by New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority to identify the faces of drivers as they pass over the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge has been a massive failure thus far.

According to an MTA email reviewed by The Wall Street Journalthe state-controlled agency was unsuccessful in its attempt to record and recognize drivers’ faces as they rolled along the highway at RFK.

Cameras at the bridge, which links Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens, were supposed to capture the faces of drivers through their windshields as they passed and then identify them by running them through government databases.

But, the facial recognition software, which was provided by French multinational security and identity company Idemia, had a 0% success rate in identifying faces “within acceptable parameters.”

Had the proof of concept testing been successful, the MTA claims the results would have only been used for security and that “only a small handful” of MTA workers have access to the data.

“Nothing whatsoever is being shared with law enforcement or anyone outside of the people involved with the pilot,” an MTA spokesperson told the WSJ.

Despite the failure, the pilot program will continue at the bridge.

“We are testing the technology, and all others that will help us keep New Yorkers safe, while protecting their civil liberties,” said a spokesman for Governor Andrew Cuomo.

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