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The NYPD used the controversial tool to recognize Clearview’s face. Here’s what you need to know

The NYPD used the controversial tool to recognize Clearview’s face.  Here’s what you need to know


Emails range from October 2018 to February 2020 Clearview AI CEO Hoan Ton-That They are introducing a replacement for NYPD Inspector Chris Flanagan. After initial meetings, Clearview AI entered into a vendor contract with the NYPD in December 2018 as a test that lasted until next March.

The document shows that many people in the NYPD had access to Clearview during that time and then from department management to junior officers. In all exchanges, Clearview AI encouraged the extensive use of its services. (“See if you can do 100 searches,” officials asked for her entry instructions.) The emails show that the NYPD’s trial accounts were created until February 2020, when the probation period ended nearly a year later.

We reviewed the emails and talked to surveillance and legal experts about their content. Here’s what you need to know.

The NYPD lied about the expansion of its relationship with Clearview AI and the use of facial recognition technology

The NYPD said Buzzfeed News and New York Post previously he had no “institutional relationship” with Clearview AI, “formally or informally”. The NYPD made it clear that it had tested Clearview AI, but the emails show that it was used in real time by many people who did a large volume of searches in real-world research.

In an exchange, a detective working in the department’s face recognition unit said “the app works very well”. In another, an agent of the NYPD’s identity theft team said “we continue to receive positive results” and “we continue to make arrests.” (We have removed first and last names and email addresses from these images, other personal data was written in the original documents.)

Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, says the nonprofit advocates discontinuing the use of face-recognition technology in New York City, records clearly contradict NYPD’s previous statement about the use of Clearview AI with the public.

“Here we have a model of officials who receive Clearview accounts — not for weeks or months — but over the years,” he says. “We have evidence of meetings with top NYPD officials, including the face identification section. This is not the few officers who decide to get a trial account. It was aimed at New Yorkers to systematically take Clearview’s face recognition technology.”

Later, NYPD a description of the use of facial knowledge, according to a recently passed law, “investigators compare probe images obtained in investigations with controlled and limited photographic groups available to the NYPD.” It is known for its Clearview AI database More than 3 billion photos out of the net.

The NYPD is working closely with immigration executives, and officials sent Clearview AI to ICE

The emails show that the NYPD sent a number of emails to ICE agents in what appear to be referrals to help Clearview sell its technology to the Department of Homeland Security. Both officers had NYPD and Homeland Security affiliations in their email signatures, while another agent was identified as a member of the Homeland Security team.

“There seems to be so much communication, maybe data sharing and less regular use of technology.”

New York is designated as a sanctuary city, which limits local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration agencies. In fact, the NYPD’s face recognition policy statement it states that “information is not shared for immigration enforcement purposes” and “access will not be granted to other agencies for the purpose of immigration enforcement.”

“I think it’s one of the big takeaways between illegal and unregulated interactions and the surveillance and data sharing landscape between local police, law enforcement and immigration enforcement,” says Matthew Guariglia of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “There seems to be so much communication, maybe data sharing and less use of technology.”

Cahn says emails immediately sound like alarm bells, mostly because they channel a lot of law enforcement information through central systems known as fusion centers.

“All you can say is that you’re a sanctuary city, but if you continue to have these DHS workgroups, if you continue to be information fusion centers that allow real-time data to be exchanged with DHS, that promise will lie.”

Many officers requested the use of Clearview AI on personal devices or through personal email accounts

At least four officials requested access to the Clearview app on their personal devices or via personal emails. Department devices are tightly regulated, and it can be difficult to download apps to official NYPD cell phones. Some officials clearly chose to use their personal devices when department phones were too restrictive.

Clearview responded to this message: “Hello William, you should have a setup email in your inbox soon.”

Jonathan McCoy is a digital court attorney for the Legal Aid Society association and was involved in filing a request for freedom of information. The use of personal devices was particularly worrying. “My lead is that they actively tried to circumvent NYPD policies and procedures, which means that if you use facial recognition technology, you have to go through FIS (facial identification section) and use existing technology that NYPD wholesalers have accepted.” The NYPD already has a face recognition system provided by a company called Dataworks.



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