The New York Police Department will soon have to release thousands of documents pertaining to its use of facial recognition to monitor Black Lives Matter protests, according to a legal ruling from the New York Supreme Court.
The ruling is the result of a lawsuit filed by Amnesty International and the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project last summer. Through Freedom of Information Law requests, the organizations had asked the NYPD to release over 30 million documents pertaining to biometric surveillance activities; the police agency rejected the requests as unreasonably burdensome.
Lawyers representing both sides have been negotiating since the lawsuit was filed, and brought down the total number of documents to 2,700. New York Supreme Court Justice Lawrence Love has now determined that this number does, in fact, represent a reasonable request, and has asked Amnesty International and STOP to formally re-file their Freedom of Information Law request to cover the smaller number of documents.
Police organizations’ use of facial recognition technology during the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 in particular helped to link biometric technologies to police misconduct, complicating perceptions of facial recognition and how it should be used by the state.
For its part, the NYPD has not helped the reputation of biometric tech, thanks to its use of Clearview AI’s controversial face matching platform, and its deception of the public on that matter. Clearview notoriously trawls the internet, including social media accounts, to collect face images that police can use for biometric matching. The NYPD had claimed that only a select few of its officers had trialed the system, before leaked documents revealed much more extensive use of Clearview’s system by the police force.
Recent developments have further complicated the image of law enforcement’s use of facial recognition. In Russia, state authorities used the technology this year to identify pro-democracy activists when organizing mass arrests. In the United States, law enforcement agencies used facial recognition in their efforts to identify participants in the January 6 Capitol Riots.
August 2, 2022 – by Alex Perala