Mobile Biometric Technologies (Houston Police Department)

Dave Maass filed this request with the Houston Police Department of Houston, TX.

It is a clone of this request.



From: Michael Morisy

Dear Custodian of Records/Public Records Coordinator,

I am collaborating with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a public interest group, and the media organization MuckRock, to survey how law enforcement agencies deploy mobile biometric technologies.

Mobile biometric technologies can be defined as any mobile device or mobile app used by law enforcement agencies to scan, capture, analyze, store, or automatically recognize any physical or biological characteristic of a subject. Commonly used mobile biometric technologies include fingerprint/thumbprint collection, facial recognition, scans of the iris or other elements of the human eye, Rapid DNA, and tattoo recognition. (Please see below for examples.)

Pursuant to Texas Public Information Act, I request the following records pertaining to mobile biometric technologies, including those listed above, as well as other biometric technologies I have not identified:

1) Purchasing and procurement documents, including but not limited to: purchase orders, RFPs, responses to RFPs, invoices and contracts

2) Policy, procedural, and training documents, including but not limited to: use policies, standard operating procedures, training materials, presentations, privacy assessments, data retention policies, and other guidelines

3) Programming documents, including but not limited to: funding opportunity announcements, grant applications and grantor status/progress reports, reports to legislative bodies, annual reports

4) Audit documents, including but not limited to: audits of the system, misuse reports, and reports to oversight bodies

In your response, I would appreciate that you individually address each of the above categories of documents individually.

In addition to the above classes of documents, I am also seeking the following information:

- The total number of individuals whose biometric data has been collected over the last three years,
- The total number of [biometric data points] contained in the agency’s database
- The retention period for biometric data
- The number of mobile biometrics devices purchased and in use
- The total number of authorized users of the mobile biometrics devices
- Which external agencies and entities have access to biometric data in the database and under what conditions,
- Whether biometric data is combined with biographic data such as name and address in the database, and
- The process by which data is entered into the database

These documents will be published online and inform the public dialog over police technology. Because of the great public interest in these issues, I ask that you waive any fees. If your agency is unable to do so, please contact me with an estimate of the costs.

Thank you.


Rick Potthoff


Mobile facial recognition

Mobile fingerprint readers

Mobile iris scanners

Rapid DNA

Mobile Tattoo Recognition

From: HPD - Open Records

Dear Rick Potthoff,

We need clarification from you in order to process your request. We are not sure about what technologies you are referring to; however, we do not have facial scanners, iris scanners, rapid DNA, or tattoo recognition, so we have no responsive documents for those technologies.

We do have equipment that identifies persons using fingerprints, known as AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System); however, this is a federal database, not a database maintained here at the Houston Police Department.

For clarification in order for us to be able to process your request, are you seeking information about the mobile AFIS equipment?

Thank you,

Houston Police Department
Public Affairs / Open Records Unit

From: Michael Morisy

Thank you for responding to our request. In terms of clarifying our request, we are interested in AFIS only if the Houston Police Department is equipped with mobile devices to scan, analyze, or otherwise capture fingerprints or thumbprints in the field. If HPD’s AFIS use is exclusively within police facilities, then records are not required.

From: HPD - Open Records

Dear Rick Potthoff,

The Houston Police Department has a total of 291 mobile AFIS devices (brand names: Blue Check & Mobile Ident II).
The mobile AFIS system searches HPD, DPS and the FBI RISC databases.
The devices are used by officers for identification purposes only, no biometric (fingerprints) information is retained in any database.
Permanent fingerprint records are acquired only from Livescan machines located at various inmate processing facilities throughout the Department.

Thank you,

Houston Police Department
Public Affairs / Open Records Unit


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