Tennessee veteran sues state to share facial recognition software without a license

Adam Jackson, founder of Edge AI, developed facial recognition software capable of detecting violent offenders before they enter a soft target. (Photo: Beacon Center of Tennessee)

A military veteran in Tennessee wants to install groundbreaking facial recognition software at vulnerable targets to thwart potential attacks — except a state licensing board won’t let him, according to a lawsuit filed this week.

The Beacon Center of Tennessee alleges the state’s Alarm Systems Contractors Board placed an unreasonable burden on Adam Jackson — a former U.S. Special Operations soldier — when it ordered he obtain a license to install alarm systems before donating his software to a local synagogue.

“This is another example of a licensing law that hurts everyone,” said Braden Boucek, director of litigation for the Beacon Center. “It hurts Adam’s ability to provide for his family. As a returning serviceman, he deserves better from the country he risked his life to protect.”

According to court documents, Jackson developed the software through his company, Edge AI, after spending years overseas providing electronic security for U.S. embassies. The program uses existing closed circuit television systems — in schools, day cares, domestic violence shelters or churches, for example — to scan a person’s face and check it against offender databases. If the software detects a match, a text alert will be sent to an official designated to handle the issue as they see fit.

Jackson insists a clear difference exists between his software — similar to the Facebook photo tagging function — and traditional alarm systems, therefore he shouldn’t be subjected to the licensing board’s regulations.

“Technological solutions like Adam’s hold far more promise as an effective response to mass shootings than any restrictions on firearms ever could,” Boucek said. “This is a novel and effective response to gun violence, especially in schools, where his software has the capacity to screen out potential shooters before they enter the building.”

While the board itself allegedly copped to the software’s security potential, officials said Jackson’s product inhabits a “gray area” within the industry and told him to obtain proper licensing before distributing it — anywhere. The process, however, could require Jackson spend five years installing security alarms as an apprentice.

“The state of Tennessee should be rolling out the red carpet for Adam,” Boucek said. “Unfortunately, we have a regulatory board more interested in protecting entrenched industries from emergent technology using archaic and poorly fitting regulations than protecting the public.”

Jackson seeks a declaratory order to overturn the board’s decision and all applicable attorneys fees and damages.

Daniel Horowitz, a spokesman for the synagogue interested in Edge AI’s software, said recent high-profile events — including Charlottesville, multiple school shootings and a “perceived uptick in violence and anti-Semitic hate crimes” — rest at the heart of why the board should reverse course.

“We are interested in enhancing our existing security measures in an effort to protect both our members and children on our premises,” he said. “We urgently await the outcome of the proceeding in the hopes that we will be able to utilize Edge AI’s promising security technology.”

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