Archives October 29, 2020

Police Are Using Facial Recognition For Minor Crimes, ‘Because They Can’

In a recent court filing, the New York police department noted that it’s turned to facial recognition in more than 22,000 cases in the last three years. “Even though the NYPD claims facial recognition is only used for serious crimes, the numbers tell a different story,” said Albert Fox Cahn, the executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project. “As facial recognition continues to grow, it’s being routinely deployed for everything from shoplifting to graffiti.”

Asked for comment, an NYPD spokeswoman pointed to a 2019 opinion article by police commissioner James O’Neill titled “How Facial Recognition Makes You Safer.” In the piece, O’Neill talked about how facial recognition had been used to make arrests in murder, robbery and rape cases, but he didn’t disclose how often it was used for low-level crimes. The department’s facial recognition policy, established in March, allows the technology to be used for any crime, no matter the severity. Without any limits, police have more frequently used the technology for petty thefts than the dangerous crimes, privacy advocates say. Before Amazon put a moratorium on police use of its Rekognition face-identifying software, the program was used in a $12 shoplifting case in Oregon in 2018…

Without any limits, police can use facial recognition however they please, and in many cases, arrested suspects don’t even know that the flawed technology was used… Attorneys representing protesters in Miami didn’t know that police used facial recognition in their arrests, according to an NBC Miami report. Police used facial recognition software in a $50 drug dealing case in Florida in 2016 but made no mention of it in the arrest report.

The article also notes that as recently as this Tuesday, Hoan Ton-That, the CEO of facial recognition startup Clearview AI “said it isn’t the company’s responsibility to make sure its technology is being properly used by its thousands of police partners.

“Though the company has its own guidelines, Ton-That said Clearview AI wouldn’t be enforcing them, saying that ‘it’s not our job to set the policy as a tech company…'”

Surveillance Startup Used Own Cameras To Harass Coworkers

Verkada, a fast-growing Silicon Valley surveillance startup, equips its offices in downtown San Mateo, California, with its own state-of-the-art security cameras. Last year, a sales director on the company’s sales team abused their access to these cameras to take and post photos of colleagues in a Slack channel called #RawVerkadawgz where they made sexually explicit jokes about women who worked at the company, according to a report in IPVM, which Motherboard independently verified and obtained more information about. “Face match… find me a squirt,” the sales director wrote in the company Slack channel in August 2019, according to one screenshot obtained by Motherboard. The comment was posted along with a series of photos of employees’ faces captured with the office’s surveillance system which were patched together using a Verkada facial recognition feature. “Face search,” as it’s called, can pinpoint an individual in a sea of faces. The pinpointed face, in this instance, belonged to a Verkada employee, her mouth wide open. In addition to verifying the incident with three sources who worked at Verkada at the time, Motherboard compared the format of the images posted to those included in Verkada’s publicly available demo videos to verify that they were indeed captured by the company’s surveillance cameras.