Minneapolis, Minnesota Becomes The Latest Major City To Pass A Facial Recognition Ban

from the facial-recognition-lobby-still-incredibly-weak dept

Facial recognition bans are slowly becoming the status quo around the nation. Good.

The tech is faulty. And that’s understating things. There’s plenty of evidence showing the tech does little but generate false positives. Bogus arrests are starting to pile up.

Just as concerning are the false negatives — something no one can actually tabulate. But you can’t ignore the fact that AI prone to misidentifying people (especially minorities) is capable of letting as many guilty people go free as it’s capable of subjecting innocent people to wrongful detainments and arrests.

Pockets of facial recognition resistance have cropped up. They’ve been mainly relegated to the coasts so far. Following multiple municipal bans, the state of California blocked use of this technology until 2022. The same thing happened on the other side of the country when Massachusetts lawmakers passed a moratorium on the tech — one that will prevent law enforcement agencies from acquiring or using this tech until at least the end of 2021. This move followed several citywide bans passed by local governments in the state.

But what about the rest of the country? There’s a lot of flyover country between the two coasts. And there’s been very little activity in America’s so-called “heartland.” Until now. The Minneapolis city council has decided it’s not just going to sit on the sidelines and see how this whole facial recognition thing plays out.

Minneapolis could soon join a small but growing number of American cities that have banned most uses of facial recognition technology by its police and other municipal departments.

The proposal, which has been quietly discussed for months among a coalition of progressive groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, was signed off on without discussion by a City Council committee Thursday. The matter will next be taken up at a public comment session on Feb. 10 before going to the full council for a final vote on Feb. 12.

The ban would prohibit city agencies from acquiring or using the tech. But it wouldn’t prevent other agencies operating in the city — like the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department — from deploying facial recognition tech. And the Sheriff’s Department already has this tech and it’s being used regularly by agencies that would be affected by this ban.

Since 2018, police have run nearly 1,000 searches through the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office’s facial recognition system, with more than half of those searches coming this year alone, according to new county figures.


[O]utside agencies used the Sheriff’s Office facial recognition platform 516 times through the first nine months of 2020, far more than any previous year. The Sheriff’s Office processed 308 such requests all of last year, up from 18 in 2015.

City legislators will need to put some teeth in its enforcement of this ban if it hopes to actually prevent use of the tech by city agencies. In 2018, the Minneapolis PD spokesperson told the Star Tribune it had no plans to use the tech. Then the MPD went and did what it said it wasn’t planning to do hundreds of times over the next couple of years.

On February 12th, the City Council passed the ordinance unanimously, adding Minneapolis to the growing list of cities banning facial recognition tech. And its move, of course, prompted some ridiculous comments from the Minneapolis PD, which felt its desire to keep using unproven, biased tech went ignored.

[I]n a strongly worded statement, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said that the ban was “crafted and approved without any consideration or conversation, insight or feedback” from him.

Oh well. Maybe try to participate more. The MPD chief attended quarterly meetings with the ACLU and other concerned citizens during the run-up to this vote and the PD is always welcome at city council meetings. That no one specifically gave Chief Arradondo an opportunity to scuttle the proposal isn’t a failure on anyone’s part. Of course the MPD doesn’t want to give up its access to facial recognition tech. And city reps shouldn’t be expected to cater to only one of several stakeholders, just because it’s the stakeholder that’s going to complain the loudest when it doesn’t get its way.

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Comments on “Minneapolis, Minnesota Becomes The Latest Major City To Pass A Facial Recognition Ban”

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Professor Ronny says:

Arresting Innocent People

But you can’t ignore the fact that AI prone to misidentifying people (especially minorities) is capable of letting as many guilty people go free as it’s capable of subjecting innocent people to wrongful detainments and arrests.

Incorrect. There are far, far more innocent people than there are guilty people. So, these systems will always subject far more innocent people to wrongful arrests than it will let guilty people go.

Assume that 1% of people are guilty of something. If the "hit" rates are the same, the system would misidentify 99 innocent people for every 1 guilty person.

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