Parisa Vinzant, a member of the Technology and Innovation Council who has been studying the city’s use of facial recognition technology on Wednesday, said a city memo released late last week had put Commissions were cut to a minimum, sparking controversy. recommendations, and potentially killing two years of work and community input.
The memo from City Manager Tom Modica was originally published on the evening of December 12th. On the 16th, it outlined a nearly two-year review by the Technology and Innovation Commission and subsequent recommendations from the Fairness and Human Relations Commission to ban the use of technology. Modica advised the city council against approving the committee’s recommendations, but acknowledged that additional policy steps are needed to build trust in the city’s use of smart technology.
Vinzant said the memo is “substantially different” from the committee’s recommendations to address concerns about facial recognition technology.
“I’m sorry to say this, but I sincerely doubt that the council will take up this project, given that city managers have clearly expressed their opposition,” Wenzant said.
The commission has been investigating the issue since January 2021, after it approved a citywide reconciliation framework plan to address systemic racial inequities.
Community members and civil rights groups have called for a ban on facial recognition technology because of concerns about how it is being used and the accuracy of the technology. The ACLU called for a federal ban in February 2021 because it “disproportionately misidentifies and misclassifies people of color, transgender people, women, and other marginalized groups” and enables “the government to track all The public activities, habits and associations of people, at any time.”
Police Chief Wally Hebeish has said the department will not use the technology for mass surveillance of communities and that it is a valuable tool in generating leads in criminal investigations when evidence supports its use. In a memo accompanying Modica’s recommendations, Hebeish also said the department uses the technology to help identify victims of human trafficking.
The technology and innovation commissioner worked on a white paper outlining some of the technology’s downsides, such as its potential to misidentify people of color, and what other cities are doing to address the problem.
In March, the committee recommended:
- The city created an independent board to oversee algorithmic surveillance technology;
- The committee suspends all current and future technologies; and
- The city has adopted a framework to vet and monitor the technology.
The city’s fairness and human rights commission went a step further, calling for an outright ban on the technology and asking the city to redirect the more than $7 million it spent on the technology toward youth development programs, workforce training and other community benefit programs.
Vinzant claimed the city was working to slow down the commission’s work, pointing to the original memo, which was issued on Dec. 12. On the 16th, the memo did not include EHRC’s full recommendations as an annex — the city reissued the memo on Dec. 16. 22 and this letter—as yet another example of city staff undermining two commission recommendations.
Modica said the timing of the memo’s release was a product of the level of information that needed to be reviewed and that the council could still address the issue, though Modica said the policy had been discussed several times by the council’s public safety committee.
Putting it on the City Council’s agenda requires a City Council member to request that the item be added for full agency consideration. Modica’s office could put the item on the agenda without the involvement of any council members, but he said he felt he “did his part” in making the proposal and reiterated that he did not support banning or Pause technology.
“We want our officers to crack the case,” Modica said, adding that there are strong protocols in place to protect the privacy and security of the data collected and that the city is working to strengthen them.
He noted that the council voted in March 2021 to adopt data privacy guidelines and an implementation plan, which included 13 recommendations to build public trust, such as hiring data privacy staff — the council approved funding in the past budget cycle — — and the adoption of data privacy regulations governing the use of technology.
Neither has been fully implemented, but Modica said the city’s police department is working to update its special order outlining its procedures for using facial recognition technology and related databases while the city works to refine and enforce its policies .
Another of the 13 recommendations is similar to the Technology and Innovation Council’s call for a new committee to oversee the use of facial recognition technology, but it would serve an advisory role rather than provide oversight. Creating a new committee would require dedicated staff and commissioner allowances, which Modica said could be similar to the one recently created for women and girls. The city estimates the annual cost of setting up the commission is about $115,000.
Vinzant said she’s currently “trying to find hope” and that council members are open to the issue, given how the city manager’s proposal would affect council members.
“We did all this work, and the community did its part and showed up,” Vinzant said. “Why can’t we equally expect that our elected leaders will come before us and really consider this collective effort and this collective evidence?”
LBPD already uses facial recognition technology, but debate simmers over whether it should
UPDATE: Fairness Commission Recommends Banning Certain Police Surveillance Technology