By Tara Molina

CHICAGO (CBS) — They’re watching you in a whole new way, with controversial new facial recognition software used by Chicago Police.

CBS 2’s Tara Molina is Always Investigating and she found that while this software is new to the city, the practice isn’t.

The department has used some form of facial recognition tech since at least 2013. They say it’s used within the law, and never used alone to make an arrest, but there are still privacy concerns.

The technology is called Clearview Ai.

The controversial new facial recognition software relies on billions of photos scraped from social media and websites.

These are photos the company grabs without permission.

Google, YouTube, Venmo and LinkedIn have all sent cease-and-desist letters to Clearview Ai, according to CBS News.

A lawsuit trying to stop the company’s collection process was just filed in federal court here in Chicago last month.

But it hasn’t stopped the city from getting involved. Their database allows investigators to match images of unknown suspects in just seconds. And on the first of the year, those matches started happening in Chicago.

“We strictly use these processes to solve crimes that have been reported, where we have evidence that gives us a person’s face, but not identity,” said Interim Police Superintendent Charlie Beck.

CPD signed a 24-month pilot agreement on Jan. 1 for just under $50,000.

According to CPD, only 30 members have access to the software, each with a unique login. And they say it’s not used as live surveillance but only in criminal investigations.

Police didn’t give us an example of how they’re using it right now.

Instead, they showed us a match-up, from another facial recognition program they use.

Surveillance images of a suspect in public indecency and aggravated robbery case, matched mug shots. He was ultimately convicted.

IIT Professor Jeremy Hajek said, “The law has not caught up.”

Critics call it an invasion of privacy and hints of racial bias. However, until laws change Hajek says, “There’s nothing that’s right or wrong, it’s too new. Some people will take advantage of something and use it.”

Chicago Police Department’s facial recognition technology didn’t get approval from the City Council. They didn’t need it and there have been no public hearings on its use.

CPD statement:

“The Chicago Police Department (CPD) does not have or utilize any Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) or software, which uses dynamic algorithms in video technology to identify individuals in a live or realtime environment. The CPD uses a facial matching tool to sort through its mugshot database and public source information in the course of an investigation triggered by an incident or crime, allowing the Department to speed up the sorting of thousands of mugshot photos when there is a possible comparator image. Live FRT is very different from the facial matching tool used by the CPD.

“CPD is committed to ensuring the safety of all of our communities in a constitutional way that respects privacy. Access to CPD’s facial matching tools is not shared with any other department, City agency or federal law enforcement agency, and it is reserved only in key situations, for properly trained and authorized personnel, once photo evidence of a crime has emerged.

“As new technology emerges, we will continue to engage with internal and external stakeholders to ensure that we only use tools that meet constitutional and privacy norms.”

Mayor Lightfoot statement:

“We have been assured repeatedly by the Chicago Police Department and the relevant vendors that the Department does not utilize any live Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) or software, which uses dynamic algorithms in video technology to identify individuals in a live or real-time environment. The CPD uses a facial matching tool to sort through its mugshot database and public source information in the course of an investigation triggered by an incident or crime, allowing the Department to speed up the sorting of thousands of mugshot photos when there is a possible comparator image.

“From early on in our administration, we have conferred with a range of stakeholders. We will now formalize those discussions through the creation of a working group consisting of public safety leaders, privacy advocates and other stakeholders to conduct an immediate review of the City’s current use of this technology.”

ACLU Statement

“Facial recognition technology is prone to inaccuracy, racially discriminatory, and a threat to privacy and First Amendment rights. The Chicago Police Department must stop using it immediately. CPD has used facial recognition technology since at least 2013, without any public notice or debate, and without any public policies or guidelines for its use. We need to stop acquiring and using this invasive technology in the shadows, and engage the public in a debate about how much surveillance is necessary in the City of Chicago.”

Tara Molina