Enlarge / The seditionists who broke into the US Capitol on Wednesday were not particularly subtle and did not put any particular effort into avoiding being identified. (credit: Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images)
Law enforcement agencies trying to track down insurrectionists who participated in yesterday’s events at the US Capitol have a wide array of tools at their disposal thanks to the ubiquity of cameras and social media.
Both local police and the FBI are seeking information about individuals who were “actively instigating violence” in Washington, DC, on January 6. While media organizations took thousands of photos police can use, they also have more advanced technologies at their disposal to identify participants, following what several other agencies have done in recent months.
Several police departments, such as Miami, Philadelphia, and New York City, turned to facial recognition platforms—including the highly controversial Clearview AI—during the widespread summer 2020 demonstrations against police brutality and in support of Black communities. In Philadelphia, for example, police used software to compare protest footage against Instagram photos to identify and arrest a protestor. In November, The Washington Post reported that investigators from 14 local and federal agencies in the DC area have used a powerful facial recognition system more than 12,000 times since 2019.