Surveillance company Banjo has suspended all of its operations in the state of Utah until its software is audited, following reactions to a OneZero investigation that revealed CEO Damien Patton’s past connection to white supremacist groups.
Documents unearthed by OneZero indicated that Patton had fraternized with neo-Nazi skinheads in his youth and participated in a shooting of a synagogue, according to his own grand jury testimony.
Following the OneZero report, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes announced that his office would suspend its $750,000 contract with Banjo and recommended that other agencies in the state pause using Banjo’s products until a third-party audit is performed. The same day, Utah’s department of public safety suspended its $20 million contract with Banjo as well. That contract had given Banjo access to data in up to 70 Utah cities. At least one additional Banjo contract was suspended in Indiana.
CEO of Surveillance Firm Banjo Once Helped KKK Leader Shoot Up a Synagogue
Documents reveal Damien Patton, CEO of SoftBank-backed Banjo, admitted to being a Neo-Nazi skinhead in his youth
The company had invested so much into Utah that it set up two additional offices in the state, according to LinkedIn data.
Banjo partners with law enforcement agencies to scan and analyze enormous swaths of data from public and private sources to detect events. Banjo’s suspension of operations in the state means the company will not collect any data from the government or provide its event-detection services to government agencies until the audit is completed.
The audit will look for potential cases of bias in the company’s algorithmic systems, as well as ensuring data privacy, according to Reyes’ statement. Both researchers and technology giants have documented how algorithms can be infected with the unconscious biases of its creators as well as perpetuate societal biases against women and people of color.
“Banjo believes that any company working with the government should be subject to audits and oversight,” the company wrote on its blog.