The New York Police Department used a photo of Woody Harrelson in its facial recognition program in an attempt to identify a beer thief who looked like the actor, according to a report published Thursday.
Georgetown University’s Center on Privacy and Technology highlighted a report on what it says are flawed practices in law enforcement’s use of facial recognition.
The report says security footage of the thief was too pixelated and produced no matches while high-quality images of Harrelson, a three-time Oscar nominee, returned several possible matches and led to one arrest.
The NYPD also used a photo of a New York Knicks player to search its database for a man wanted for a Brooklyn assault, the report said.
The NYPD said it has been deliberate and responsible in its use of facial recognition and that the technology is merely a means of producing leads, including in homicide, rape and robbery cases.
“No one has ever been arrested on the basis of a facial recognition match alone,” Sgt. Jessica McRorie said in a statement. “As with any lead, further investigation is always needed to develop probable cause to arrest.”
A report from Georgetown University says facial recognition has helped the NYPD crack about 2,900 cases in more than five years of using the technology.