A preliminary vote by Pittsburgh City Council has paved the way for a new bill requiring law enforcement to seek Council approval before the purchase of facial recognition and predictive policing technology to be passed into law this week.
Though the bill received support from the majority of the council, there are some who are critical of it for not going far enough with calls to outright regulate the use of face biometrics and ban predictive policing technology by the police.
“I’m in favor of banning predictive policing,” said councillor Ricky Burgess. “This bill does not ban predictive policing. I’m in favor of regulating facial recognition [and] this bill does not regulate facial recognition.”
Burgess’ sentiments regarding banning the use of the two controversial policing methods were echoed by residents who had the opportunity to speak during the public-comment portion of the council’s meetings.
The issue of law enforcement’s use of biometric technology found its way into the spotlight this year following a front page story from the New York Times revealing that the startup Clearview AI had developed an algorithm that ‘scraped’ social media sites for facial images and had then marketed the resulting database of faces to police forces around the world.
Following the report, a number of law enforcement agencies in North America agreed to stop using Clearview’s services, while the technology has also been banned in several municipalities as well.
Predictive policing tools — which use biometrics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to analyze data and try to predict future crimes — have been subject to much scrutiny themselves, with many critics arguing they could lead to racial profiling.
Other critics of the bill have expressed concern over the dangerous line it may blur between politics and policing, and argued over the merit of keeping the two separated, especially in light of recent events in the United States.
“I’m going to be honest: I don’t like when it comes to public safety or public health,” said Council President Theresa Kail-Smith, who abstained from voting. “I have an issue with politics being involved with that, because we have not seen great results with that [and] I think we need to know and understand what it is, and what the effects are of what we’re doing,” she added.
Despite the criticisms, the majority of Council supported the bill, and it is slated to go to a final vote on Tuesday.
Source: WESA FM
September 17, 2020 – by Tony Bitzionis