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The undercurrents of the future. A publication from Medium about technology and people.

Law Enforcement

In OneZero. More on Medium.

The FBI, which is searching for insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol last week, is working with an unlikely partner: a local police department more than 600 miles away from Washington, D.C.

An officer in Alabama named Jason Webb told the Wall Street Journal that he had used Clearview AI technology on photos captured during the riot and sent matches to the FBI.

The story highlights how access to Clearview’s platform fundamentally changes the capabilities of local law enforcement. Local and state police departments that use facial recognition typically rely on mug shots they’ve collected or even state driver’s license…

This week, the Los Angeles Police Department told BuzzFeed News that it would stop using Clearview AI, the company that scraped billions of images from the internet, including social media sites, to form a massive searchable database of faces and identities.

Reading that story, it’s important to keep in mind that despite the headline, L.A. law enforcement is far from giving up facial recognition technology. The police department will still use its existing facial recognition database with more than eight million booking photos run by facial recognition contractor DataWorks Plus.

DataWorks Plus sells photo management software that connects to third-party…

The letter also asks for the resignation of Seattle’s mayor and for full support of Black Lives Matter

Photo: Jeenah Moon/Stringer/Getty Images

Hundreds of Microsoft employees have signed a letter to the company’s top executives asking for Microsoft to take action in the wake of national protests. The letter, which was obtained by OneZero, requests that Microsoft cancel contracts with the Seattle Police Department (SPD) and other law enforcement agencies, asks the company to formally support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, and calls for the resignation of the Seattle mayor.

The email, which eventually included more than 250 employees CC’d in solidarity, was sent in the early hours of Monday, June 8, and was addressed to Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, and…

1,100 law enforcement departments across the country now use drones

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Unmanned aerial vehicle of the CBP Air and Marine Unmanned Aircraft System. Photo: Gerald L Nino/Wikimedia Commons

It was the digital trail that gave away the Predator above Minneapolis.

At around 12 p.m. on May 29, journalist Jason Paladino noticed an unusual aircraft on an unusual flight pattern above Minneapolis. Paladino, an investigative reporter at the Project on Government Oversight, used open-source flight data to identify the machine as an unarmed Predator B drone, circling the sky above ongoing protests following the police murder of George Floyd.

The Predator spent just 88 minutes over Minneapolis. Afterwards, U.S. Customs and Border Protection released a statement saying the drone was there to provide situation awareness via live video feed…

Consumer DNA databases are a powerful new tool for police

Illustration: Wenkai Mao

Like most people who take a 23andMe test, Georgia resident Jessi Johnson Still was curious about her ancestry when she spit into a tube and mailed it away to get her DNA analyzed.

After getting her results back, she uploaded her DNA data to a website called GEDmatch that lets people explore their family tree in more detail. She had heard that police used it to catch the suspected Golden State Killer, Joseph James DeAngelo, and she thought maybe her DNA could eventually help solve a crime, too.

Just two months later, in June 2019, Still got an email from…

VR could be especially well-suited for teaching officers how to spot problems that aren’t often immediately recognizable

The VR experience “Trapped” places police officers inside 14-year-old Lisa’s head as she interacts with a sex trafficker. Image: Radical Empathy

A little after 5 a.m. on November 5, 2019, a police officer in Lodi, California received a dispatch: gunshots had been heard in the industrial park. He pulled up to find a 37-year-old male armed with a semi-automatic rifle and handgun. When the man started shooting, the officer returned fire, flooring the suspect, who was transported to the hospital with nonthreatening wounds. The officer was unharmed.

What could have gone differently in this scenario? Was there a way to disarm the suspect without fire?

These are the types of questions Lieutenant Steve Nelson of the Lodi Police Department wants his…

The city outsources facial recognition work to other Louisiana law enforcement departments

Photo: The Washington Post/Getty Images

The City of New Orleans has been adamant that it “does not use facial recognition software.” Though there is no city ordinance outright banning the technology, city officials often repeat that claim, and have even included a line in the privacy policy of its Real-Time Crime Center surveillance hub stating “Facial recognition is not utilized by the System.”

But that is an incomplete picture of how facial recognition technology is being used in New Orleans. Now, court evidence reveals that Louisiana state police officers can and have utilized a searchable facial recognition database to assist New Orleans police in their…


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