Face recognition technology boosts racist police in New York

  • The non-white neighborhoods of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx have more video surveillance cameras

New interactive website With detailed information on exposure to invasive technology

In New York, people who live in areas at greater risk of being stopped and searched by police are also more exposed to Invasive facial recognition technology; This is revealed by new research by Amnesty International and its partners.

New analysis in the context of the global campaign Scan ban (veto survey) showed that the process of mass surveillance of New York Police Department (NYPD) particularly affects those who have already experienced selective stop-and-search measures in New York City’s five boroughs.

in a Bronx, Brooklyn and QueensThe research also reveals that the higher the percentage of the non-white population, the higher the focus of surveillance cameras compatible with facial recognition technology.

“Our analysis shows that NYPD’s use of facial recognition technology contributes to strengthening discriminatory policing against minority communities in the city,” said Matt Mahmoudy, Amnesty International’s Human Rights Researcher.

We also now know that the communities that suffer the most from this practice are also the ones most exposed to discriminatory policing through mass surveillance.

Matt Mahmoudi, Amnesty International

We’ve known for a long time that “stop and frisk” is a racist New York police tactic. We also now know that the communities that suffer the most from this practice are also more vulnerable to discriminatory policing through invasive surveillance.”

“The astonishing proliferation of facial recognition technology in the city is leaving entire neighborhoods vulnerable to mass surveillance. The NYPD must do so. Explain without delay how exactly this invasive technology is used“.

“Banning facial recognition for mass surveillance would be a much-needed first step to end racist policing, and New York City Council must act immediately to move toward a comprehensive ban.”

The conclusions are based on data obtained through the collective collaboration of thousands of digital volunteers as part of the project New York City decoding, which has located more than 25,500 video surveillance cameras throughout New York City. Amnesty International worked with data experts to compare this data with stop-and-go statistics and demographic data.

Facial recognition technologies for identification purposes are mass surveillance systems that violate the right to privacy and threaten the rights to freedom of assembly, equality, and freedom from discrimination.

The New York Police Department used facial recognition technology in at least 22,000 cases between 2016 and 2019. According to data from the NYPD’s stop-and-search actions since 2002, such practices significantly affect the black and Latino communities.

Last year, Amnesty International sued the New York Police Department for refusing to release public records related to acquiring facial recognition technology and other surveillance tools. The case is still open.

New interactive website with detailed information on exposure to facial recognition technology

Today Amnesty International also presents a new site It allows its users to discover which part of a potential walking route between two points in New York City will be monitored based on facial recognition technology.

During the period of movement protests Black Lives Matter Movement In the middle of 2020, those who participated in the New York protests experienced higher levels of exposure to facial recognition technology. For example, a protester who traveled to Washington Square Park from the nearest subway station would have been monitored by NYPD Argus cameras throughout the trip.

“By examining the trips to and from nearby subway stations traveled by those going to and from the protests, we found that coverage of surveillance by publicly owned cameras, mostly NYPD Argus York cameras, was almost complete,” said Matt Mahmoudi.

“The widespread use of facial recognition technology is, in practice, to perform digital stop and check. Mass surveillance technology is used at protest sites to identify, locate and harass people exercising their human rights“.

“This is a deliberate fear tactic used by the NYPD that has no place in a free society and must be stopped immediately.”

The new site also allows its users to discover the degree of facial recognition technology used on the way to any of the main tourist attractions in the city by determining the distance and plotting a possible route.

Amnesty International is encouraging New Yorkers to take action by sending a letter of protest to their city council member to demand a bill that would ban facial recognition technology to help protect their communities. Users around the world can sign an AI petition calling for regulation of public use of facial recognition technologies.

Parties associated with Amnesty International in this investigation include: Julian Cornebese, Department of Computing, University College London. BetaNYC, a civil society organization that uses data and technology to hold government to account, and Damon Wischik, an independent data expert.

The investigation represents the final stage of the campaign Scan ban (veto survey), after surveillance investigations in New York and Hyderabad, India last year. Amnesty International is calling for a complete ban on the use, development, production, sale and export of facial recognition technologies for the purposes of mass surveillance by both the state and the private sector.


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