Pittsburgh city councillor Corey O’Connor has introduced legislation that, if passed, would ban the city’s Public Safety Department (PPSD) from using facial recognition software or Predictive Policing Technology.
The PPSD oversees the city’s police department, which is already prohibited by the Pittsburgh Public Safety policy from acquiring and using facial recognition software, though news site PublicSource reported that the force did in fact recently use the state’s facial recognition solution, Jnet.
The city’s predictive policing program — defined by O’Connor’s ordinance as ““programs, devices, hardware, or software used to predict information or trends on crime or criminality that has or has yet to occur” — was also suspended by the city in June of this year following concerns over racial bias.
This is the latest example of pushback and action being taken against the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement and other government agencies. Over the past several months, many high profile stories have cast a spotlight on the privacy and racial bias issues that its use raises.
In December of 2019, NIST published a study that demonstrated that a number of facial recognition algorithms were drastically less accurate when attempting to identify people of color (especially women), potentially leading to dramatically more false positive identifications than they do for white men.
Shortly after that, a front page story by the New York Times revealed that New York-based startup Clearview AI had created a database of billions of images of people scraped off of social media sites, and was marketing its facial recognition solution to law enforcement agencies around the world.
“We want to hold certain departments accountable, and I think it starts that process,” says O’Connor of his ordinance. “It was conservation that needed to happen. We want to hold people accountable. Now is the time to show leadership and talk about these things.”
A number of high profile lawsuits filed under Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), which prohibits the capture and storage of biometric data without the express written consent of the individual, have also garnered much attention, and the law itself has led to senators Bernie Sanders and Jeff Merkley proposing a national version of the BIPA legislation.
Source: Pittsburgh City Paper
August 26, 2020 – by Tony Bitzionis