During the 2020 summer protests, it appears as though the NYPD used new ethically questionable facial recognition software in order to track and monitor participants. Outside organizations had attempted to force the department to release documents detailing how it was used and to what extent, but their efforts have only now bore fruit.
The protests are well remembered by Americans today. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets, which demanded that law enforcement keep things as civil as possible.
Many controversial tactics were used, and criticism was levied on police departments around the country. Now that the tensions have died down, a more serious investigation into any malpractice can commence.
We’ve talked at length about facial recognition in the past. We had primarily pitched it as something happening outside of America, but it seems that this dangerous technology has already reached our shores.
According to now released documents which the NYPD tried and failed to prevent reaching the light of day all the way up to the Supreme Court of New York, facial recognition in addition to gait recognition software was used by the police department to monitor and track protestors.
They could identify problematic suspects, follow their movements through a crowd, tally what crimes they committed, and grab them when it was possible. This itself doesn’t seem problematic on its face, but the direction things are headed is not good.
It goes without saying that this is a frightening development. The idea that technology that’s led to such severe abuses in countries like China and Myanmar already found use here at home is frankly unacceptable. The kinds of doors it opens are unprecedented, and ripe for abuse.
While private companies like Meta tend to steal headlines with their infringements on your privacy, the government shouldn’t be ignored. The threat is just as pernicious, and needs to be watched with care, and acted against where possible.