A new report from the Pew Research Center found that 56 percent of Americans “trust law enforcement agencies to use [facial recognition] technologies responsibly.” In addition to trusting law enforcement with facial recognition, 59 percent of the 4,272 U.S. adults surveyed said that they believe it is “acceptable for law enforcement to use facial recognition tools to assess security threats in public spaces.”

The report, released Sept. 5, comes at the heels of a recent investigation that found that U.S. law enforcement agencies are using state Department of Motor Vehicles records to identify individual Americans without their consent and reports that Customs and Border Control is looking to expand facial recognition capabilities in its vetting of international travelers.

Pew noted that approval rates differ across demographic groups. Forty-nine percent of respondents between the ages of 18 to 29 approved of law enforcement use of facial recognition, whereas 76 percent of respondents 65 and older approve of law enforcement use of facial recognition.

Pew also found that Hispanic and black respondents had different rates of approval – 56 percent and 43 percent respectively – compared to 54 percent of white respondents.

In terms of political affiliation, Republicans are somewhat more accepting of law enforcement using facial recognition (67 percent) than Democrats (55 percent), though a majority of each group find it acceptable.

Despite many public reports indicating that facial recognition isn’t completely accurate at identifying individuals correctly, the majority (73 percent) of Americans believe that it can effectively identify individual people and correctly classify them by gender (63 percent) and race (61 percent).

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.