New York City Mayor Eric Adams is exploring a “dramatic expansion” of police use of facial recognition technology, Politico reports.
Civil rights groups have repeatedly sued over the use of the technology and San Francisco declared the tech “antithetical to democracy.” But Adams, who is trying to brand himself as the most pro-police mayor in the country, is embracing it.
“If you’re on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter — no matter what, they can see and identify who you are without violating the rights of people,” he said last month. “It’s going to be used for investigatory purposes.”
Facial recognition tech has been used by governments to aid in criminal investigations and to screen people entering certain checkpoints. The software takes surveillance images and compares them to images of known individuals scraped from social media.
The New York Police Department has used facial recognition technology for years, leading to at least six different lawsuits and a new state law requiring more transparency.
The software used by the city came under fire in the past after it led to the wrongful arrest of two men in Detroit.
The NYPD has only used the tech in a limited capacity but Adams wants to go further.
“We will also move forward on using the latest in technology to identify problems, follow up on leads and collect evidence — from facial recognition technology to new tools that can spot those carrying weapons, we will use every available method to keep our people safe,” he said last month.
Critics of the technology were alarmed by Adams’ plan.
“It just felt like the floor was dropping out from beneath me. To hear him this enamored with this sort of technology was incredibly disappointing,” Albert Fox Cahn, head of the nonprofit organization Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, told Politico. “I was hopeful that he was someone uniquely positioned to push back against this sort of pseudo-science masquerading as public safety.”
“When it comes to increasing the use of surveillance tools like facial recognition, we first have to ask – what safeguards are we using to protect civil rights?” said New York city Comptroller Brad Lander. “Facial recognition is notoriously inaccurate when it comes to identifying people of color generally and women of color in particular. We shouldn’t rush into expanding the use of technology that may increase the risk of racial profiling and false arrests.”