Police surveillance and facial recognition: Why data privacy is an imperative for communities of color

Paper by Nicol Turner Lee and Caitlin Chin: “Governments and private companies have a long history of collecting data from civilians, often justifying the resulting loss of privacy in the name of national security, economic stability, or other societal benefits. But it is important to note that these trade-offs do not affect all individuals equally. In fact, surveillance and data collection have disproportionately affected communities of color under both past and current circumstances and political regimes.

From the historical surveillance of civil rights leaders by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to the current misuse of facial recognition technologies, surveillance patterns often reflect existing societal biases and build upon harmful and virtuous cycles. Facial recognition and other surveillance technologies also enable more precise discrimination, especially as law enforcement agencies continue to make misinformed, predictive decisions around arrest and detainment that disproportionately impact marginalized populations.

In this paper, we present the case for stronger federal privacy protections with proscriptive guardrails for the public and private sectors to mitigate the high risks that are associated with the development and procurement of surveillance technologies. We also discuss the role of federal agencies in addressing the purposes and uses of facial recognition and other monitoring tools under their jurisdiction, as well as increased training for state and local law enforcement agencies to prevent the unfair or inaccurate profiling of people of color. We conclude the paper with a series of proposals that lean either toward clear restrictions on the use of surveillance technologies in certain contexts, or greater accountability and oversight mechanisms, including audits, policy interventions, and more inclusive technical designs….(More)”