New Orleans' Secret Predictive Policing Software Challenged In Court

from the you-might-be-a-gang-member-if... dept

Predictive policing software -- developed by Palantir and deployed secretly by the New Orleans Police Department for nearly six years -- is at the center of a criminal prosecution. The Verge first reported the NOPD's secret use of Palantir's software a few weeks ago, something only the department and the mayor knew anything about.

The relationship between New Orleans and Palantir was finalized on February 23rd, 2012, when Mayor Landrieu signed an agreement granting New Orleans free access to the firm’s public sector data integration platform. Licenses and tech support for Palantir’s law enforcement platform can run to millions of dollars annually, according to an audit of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

In January 2013, New Orleans would also allow Palantir to use its law enforcement account for LexisNexis’ Accurint product, which is comprised of millions of searchable public records, court filings, licenses, addresses, phone numbers, and social media data. The firm also got free access to city criminal and non-criminal data in order to train its software for crime forecasting. Neither the residents of New Orleans nor key city council members whose job it is to oversee the use of municipal data were aware of Palantir’s access to reams of their data.

Suspects being tried didn't know anything about it either. While the NOPD turned over 60,000 pages of documents to Evans "Easy" Lewis during his trial for conspiracy and murder charges, not a single one of them referenced the software the police were using to sniff out suspects. This was mainly due to Palantir giving the city the software for free, which allowed both the city and the PD to cut the public out of the equation by eliminating bidding processes and budgetary reporting requirements.

The mayor ended the program two weeks after the Verge report, choosing not to continue working with the contractor. It appears this decision was made to limit negative coverage of the secret software deployment, rather than out of any concern for the millions of New Orleans residents swept up in Palantir's dragnet.

Yesterday, outgoing New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s press office told the Times-Picayune that his office would not renew its pro bono contract with Palantir, which has been extended three times since 2012. The remarks were the first from Landrieu’s office concerning Palantir’s work with the NOPD. The mayor did not respond to repeated requests for comment from The Verge for the February 28th article, done in partnership with Investigative Fund, or from local media since news of the partnership broke.

Now that the city's secret is no longer secret, defense attorneys are demanding the NOPD start handing over Palantir-generated evidence. A man challenging his conviction on gang-related charges in New Orleans is asking for everything Palantir has on him, under the theory the dragnet also swept up plenty of exculpatory info.

In the first courtroom challenge to the New Orleans Police Department’s use of sophisticated crime-fighting software, a judge on Wednesday granted a convicted Central City gang lord a chance to try to prove his allegation that a Palantir Technologies program spat out exculpatory information on him that was never revealed to his attorneys.

Criminal District Court Judge Camille Buras set an April 3 court date to rule on subpoenas that attorneys for Kentrell "Black" Hickerson will be seeking in order to learn how Palantir's program, called "Gotham," has been used in New Orleans — and particularly in the case against Hickerson and 19 other suspected "3NG" gang members.

Buras said that Hickerson's lead attorney, Kevin Vogeltanz, could add the argument to Hickerson's pending motion for a new trial.

Prosecutors are arguing the Palantir documents will add nothing new. They claim the only thing the software does is aggregate info from multiple law enforcement databases to make it easier to search. But that's not how the software is described in the Verge report. It's predictive policing software -- something that turns people into suspects based on their relationships with people in law enforcement databases or their location in the city. That's far more than "aggregation." It creates criminals who haven't committed crimes and encourages officers to view certain areas of the city as inherently suspicious.

This dovetails directly into the defense's theory about Palantir's attenuated associations and quasi-geofencing of suspected gang members: what Palantir "sees" isn't necessarily what's actually happening.

Hickerson, 38, was convicted of racketeering and drug conspiracy counts after a 10-day trial in Buras’ courtroom two years ago. Prosecutors and former gang allies said he committed or directed a series of killings in a battle over turf rights around Third and Galvez streets.

At the trial and afterward, however, Vogeltanz argued that authorities had created the idea that 3NG was a gang. He pointed to testimony from a key cooperating witness, Tyrone Knockum, who cast doubt on the gang’s cohesiveness.

“Is it a bona fide gang, or is it a group of people that grew up around each other and hang around with each other?” Vogeltanz asked.

“It’s a group of people that grew up around each other,” Knockum said.

That's what happens when algorithms decide people in the general vicinity of each other must all engage in the same activities. If some of them engage in criminal activities, then everyone the software declares to be risky -- based on law enforcement databases and math companies aren't willing to share with the accused -- faces the possibility of being swept up and charged with conspiracy, if nothing else. And criminal conspiracy charges result in real years in real prisons, based on little more than calculated assumptions about a person's relationship to those around them.

Filed Under: new orleans, nopd, police, surveillance
Companies: palantir


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  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 23 Mar 2018 @ 6:01pm

    Comprehensive...eh?

    If the software does not predict crimes that will be committed by the police and prosecutors (failing to produce Brady material for example) then it is not doing the job it purports to be doing and all those 1's and 0's should be recycled.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 8:17pm

    It is doing its job

    It is designed to fill prisons.

    The police also happened to give huge amounts of personal data to this private company. Does this include medical information like pharmacy records? If so, this moves into the HIPAA area of law and the damages are per person not per day.

    They were being paid in citizen personal data and prison capacity bonuses for their incorporated penal system.

    There is no such thing as a free service for local governments. Someone is always profiting from it somehow.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 23 Mar 2018 @ 9:33pm

    Predictive indeed. :/

    "New Orleans' Secret Predictive Policing Software Challenged In Court"

    I could have predicted that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 10:08pm

    This seems to be basically just a high-tech form of profiling, so it comes right back to the age-old question of whether profiling is an acceptable and effective police investigative tool or if it's essentially blatant racism (this is New Orleans here after all) that turns an entire class of people into automatic criminal suspects.

    There are arguments to be made both ways, as well as criticisms both ways. Look at air travel for example. The frequently mocked pictures of TSA agents crotch-searching elderly nuns and patting down young children in their search for terrorists were a result of the TSA's preoccupation with NOT profiling people. Meanwhile, Israel's counterpart method of anti-terrorism that specifically targets young Palestinian men for enhanced interrogation and invasive searches while letting other (non-profiled) people go on their way draws at least as much criticism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 23 Mar 2018 @ 10:24pm

    "It can label you a criminal if you grew up in a 'suspicious' area" And if you just recently moved into the area, it's obviously only because you wanted to join in on whatever criminal element that may happen to be there.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2018 @ 12:41am

    In January 2013, New Orleans would also allow Palantir to use its law enforcement account for LexisNexis’ Accurint product

    Aren't there people out there trying to sell us on the idea that sharing account access is a CFAA violation?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Eldakka (profile), 24 Mar 2018 @ 4:35am

      Re:

      I'm sure LexisNexis would be interested in enquiring into what data New Orleans police allowed a 3rd party to hoover out of their systems.

      Sounds a lot like the Cambridge Analytica hoovering of data from Facebook via a 3rd party (with the police being the 3rd party enabler, Palantir the equivalent of CA).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        discordian_eris (profile), 24 Mar 2018 @ 5:07am

        Re: Re:

        The difference is that this violates the LexisNexis TOS not the Facebook TOS. Hopefully LexisNexis sues the pants off both and kicks the NOPD of their platform.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2018 @ 5:48am

      Re:

      > Aren't there people out there trying to sell us on the idea that sharing account access is a CFAA violation?

      Different laws for different people. Cops are "special".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2018 @ 10:52am

      Re:

      Judge Dredd is exempt from all laws.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    oliver, 24 Mar 2018 @ 2:31am

    That "predictive" policing software is total BULLSHIT! There is nothing correct that comes out of it, just GIGO!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    discordian_eris (profile), 24 Mar 2018 @ 3:17am

    The biggest problem with predictive policing is that it, along with so many algorithmic 'solutions', is inherently flawed at a very basic level. It something that statisticians are aware of, and that programmers seemingly are just becoming aware of.

    Data lies in extraordinarily accurate ways.

    I remember one of the lessons I had when I was much younger. That logic is the art of going wrong with confidence. And Palantir, starting from the logical premise that associates of criminals are also criminals, has charged headlong over a cliff.

    Their data on an individual may be extensive and comprehensive, it may even be completely accurate. That doesn't make it the truth, and it sure as hell doesn't mean that any computer program can interpret it correctly. Just like the software in Wisconsin that is used to determine if someone is a flight risk and is used to set bail and determine sentences, it is only as good as the interpretation of the data that the program has. ( https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/01/us/politics/sent-to-prison-by-a-software-programs-secret-algorith ms.html )

    The fact that any person is in jail because of a programmers assumptions is surreal. The fact that any police department would rely on it is a sad indictment of that departments ethical foundation. But then again, we are talking about the marriage of a Randian and one of the most ethically bankrupt cop shops in the US.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2018 @ 5:59am

      Re:

      It something that statisticians are aware of, and that programmers seemingly are just becoming aware of.

      That really depends on the programmer.

      Data lies in extraordinarily accurate ways.

      Accurate data doesn't lie. But, it is often misinterpreted.

      That logic is the art of going wrong with confidence.

      Not really. But what is actually illogical is often falsely present as logical.

      And Palantir, starting from the logical premise that associates of criminals are also criminals,

      A good example of the illogical being presented as logical.

      The fact that any person is in jail because of a programmers assumptions is surreal.

      Agreed.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Richard (profile), 24 Mar 2018 @ 1:02pm

        Re: Re:

        The problem happens when technology is used by people who don't have a clue about how it works.

        Such people have a tendency to believe what the little back box tells them in the teeth of the obvious evidence of their own eyeballs.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2018 @ 9:03pm

          Re: the teeth of their own eyeballs

          thing is, ignorant or not, this is how Palantir products and their ilk are intended to be used

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2018 @ 7:25am

    Predictive software eh? Bet it didn't see this coming.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Gang.Stalking, 24 Mar 2018 @ 9:03am

    This is called organized gang stalking

    Palantir is being used in ways that defy every civilized norm of policing and due process, and they use it across databases. Then, used in real time with Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs)), bus cards, public library logins, or any of many other invasive tools, the net effect is targeting individuals with the full brunt of these military tools.

    This is the largest part of what gang stalking is.

    Had a run in with a dirty cop? They put you on a list. Owe child support to a woman who has kids by five daddies? You get put on a list.

    Were you involved in a domestic violence incident? You go on a list- and dirty cops share that list with SESTA/FOSTA NGOs, and womens shelters and advocates who are de facto domestic spies(there really isnt THAT much DV that isnt a he said she said to begin with) .

    And then, any of many NGOs working with the DHS, or any of the other Domestic Violence Industrial Complex and its hydra of Panoptical database abusers track your every move. Worse, they use Fusion Centers as de facto political spy centers.

    Combined, we can see that the boogieman (all criminal laws except prostitution are gendered male)is always some poor sucker who gets enslaved in a database, sometimes from birth, as we see with the CalGang database in Dianne Frankensteins home state.

    But organized gang stalking starts with software like Palantir.

    Worse, when we factor in SWAT teams that train in Israel, and mass shooters, psycholihical operations that span SocMed platforms like Facebook and Twitter....it gets even uglier Than this guys trial.

    www.researchorganizedgangstalking.wordpress.com

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2018 @ 10:47am

      Re: "Swedish Model"

      "all criminal laws except prostitution are gendered male"

      While that was historically true, in recent years the so-called "Swedish Model" -- making prostitution completely legal for women while extremely illegal for men -- has been sweeping the Western World, being adopted in ever-more countries at a dizzying pace.

      Just one more example of the "Equality through Inequality" principle -- which even George Orwell never saw coming.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        The Swedes Contribution to Civilization, 25 Mar 2018 @ 10:15am

        Re: Re: "Swedish Model"

        ....the Swedish Model of Destroying Womens Autonomy....

        That model breaks up families,even labeling a prostitutes son as a pimp if he lived with her. Its a strange hybrid between frigid Nordic naziism and Jewish tribal gangsterism.

        The entire abolitionist crusade is thinly veiled Easten bolshevik white slavery, designed to cuckold working class men, while managing to pimp their wives, sisters and daughters, disguised as womens rights.

        While Orwell might have missed that point, Brave New World got it right, and together, they reveal our new total capitulation populace, clueless to Fabian socialism and all the other incremental losses of enlightened reason, rights, or even civility.

        Here we are, to cowed by NSA/FBI blackmail via data theft to organize against it- even 16 years after 911;and even Mike Masnick steers clear of comparisons to COINTELPRO and the CIAs MHCHAOS .

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Wendy Cockcroft, 27 Mar 2018 @ 5:47am

          Re: Re: Re: "Swedish Model"

          The entire abolitionist crusade is thinly veiled Easten bolshevik white slavery, designed to cuckold working class men, while managing to pimp their wives, sisters and daughters, disguised as womens rights.

          Da, comrade.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2018 @ 12:05am

      Re: This is called organized gang stalking

      lol

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2018 @ 10:54am

    I wonder if this Predictive Policing Software can accurately predict when and where officers will most likely encounter probable cause.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Probable cause stalking, 25 Mar 2018 @ 6:57am

      Re: UM..."its probable tha caged animal will shit in public~

      Um, yeah, probably.

      You see, after the Palantir home/life/privacy/total invasion model and the near constant surveilkance of so called targeted individuals, yeah, probably some laws get broken- but only AFTER cops, prosecutors, Fusion Centers, and all if those gang stalking rats have thrown DUE PROCESS under the bus, PRE-EMPTIVE of any crime.

      And these agencies are working off of lusts that began in 2001, until now. Whole families, includinfg babies are on the CalGang version of this database.

      Then, throw in the DHS, and all of those welfare/family court gray area polucing schemes, and yoy have half the nation with a dossiere- and NONE OF IT litigated with due process.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2018 @ 7:55am

        Re: Re: UM..."its probable tha caged animal will shit in public~

        Yes - I suppose so.

        I have to admit that I was going for the cheap joke rather than being serious. You see - ummm, all the "predictive software" would have to is catalog the poor communities and their patterns and would not need any real data on crime. It is automation of probable cause.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Organized databade gang stalking, 25 Mar 2018 @ 9:46am

          Re: Re: Re: UM..."its probable tha caged animal will shit in public~

          Fair enough- and this is well said:It is automation of probable cause.

          These database abuses were rampant before 2001, but few knew or cared how the abuse took place, because it was Law Enforcement Intellugence Units and the Anti Defamation League and the like grinding axes on activists and others who challenged police state practices-and the excuse was that these hidden practices only targeted bad guys and mobsters.

          Post 911, we see not only Israelification/militarization of police, but also political spying with religious undertones by these same groups-but on an industrial scale.

          The mysterious deaths of black males in leadership positions in the Ferguson protests, the many cases where sheriffs target bloggers and Tweets, and the under the radar fact that many males lives and careers are destroyed by the hidden database abuse-all of this is coming home to roost with the rest of America, pist Snowden.

          Hard to ignore the problems of the poor and the disenfranchised, now that midfle class kids are targeted and profiled.

          So- watch closely everytime there's a mass shooting, etc, because in those cases, nearly every single one was folliwed, monitored and harassed for months, years even, by these predictive probable cause scenarios.

          Worse-SWAT teams train in Israel in the exact tactics used there to CREATE terrorist, not least of which is hidden black op that include psychological operations.

          That which worked so well in Paledtine is now in America....

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Probable cause stalking, 25 Mar 2018 @ 8:06am

      Re: UM..."its probable tha caged animal will shit in public~

      Um, yeah, probably.

      You see, after the Palantir home/life/privacy/total invasion model and the near constant surveilkance of so called targeted individuals, yeah, probably some laws get broken- but only AFTER cops, prosecutors, Fusion Centers, and all if those gang stalking rats have thrown DUE PROCESS under the bus, PRE-EMPTIVE of any crime.

      And these agencies are working off of lusts that began in 2001, until now. Whole families, including babies are on the CalGang version of this database.

      Then, throw in the DHS, and all of those welfare/family court gray area polucing schemes, and yoy have half the nation with a dossiere- and NONE OF IT litigated with due process-all slander, he said she said bs that is designed to create a.new form of oppresdion that is diabolical.

      This is just the tip of the police misconduct iceberg.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Probable cause stalking, 25 Mar 2018 @ 9:17am

      Re: UM..."its probable tha caged animal will shit in public~

      Um, yeah, probably.

      You see, after the Palantir home/life/privacy/total invasion model and the near constant surveilkance of so called targeted individuals, yeah, probably some laws get broken- but only AFTER cops, prosecutors, Fusion Centers, and all if those gang stalking rats have thrown DUE PROCESS under the bus, PRE-EMPTIVE of any crime.

      And these agencies are working off of lusts that began in 2001, until now. Whole families, including babies are on the CalGang version of this database.

      Then, throw in the DHS, and all of those welfare/family court gray area polucing schemes, and yoy have half the nation with a dossiere- and NONE OF IT litigated with due process-all slander, he said she said bs that is designed to create a new form of oppresssion that is diabolical.

      This is just the tip of the police misconduct iceberg. Its called community policing, aka organized gang stalking.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2018 @ 9:14pm

    Definitely a useful app to help police do more of what they already do. It's a standard authoritarian gambit: You will suffer "consequences" simply for knowing people or living somewhere that we don't like. (And if you are perfectly innocuous you will likely suffer worse because you won't know how to hide like a criminal or have useful connections for a situation where the law wants you.) On the other hand, if you work with law enfarcement, they will happily stick you in the midst of criminals you can half-assed inform on (or make shit up on demand) and do all sorts of illegal shit, including activity completely unrelated to any investigation, for your own fun and profit, and they will protect and pay you. So, wonsee what the Palantir app for CI is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 25 Mar 2018 @ 4:08am

    Objecting to keep the defense from shooting their own foot?

    Prosecutors are arguing the Palantir documents will add nothing new. They claim the only thing the software does is aggregate info from multiple law enforcement databases to make it easier to search.

    In which case they should have absolutely no problem letting the defense have the data, as it will merely make the case against the defendant all the stronger.

    'We said it didn't contain exculpatory evidence, we handed it over, and look, it doesn't!'

    On the other hand if it does contain evidence that might exonerate the defendant, then their objection makes perfect sense. Can't have any pesky 'evidence' that contradicts what they've presented showing up, that might change the verdict.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AnonCow, 25 Mar 2018 @ 8:35am

    Free doesn't mean secret

    I work with many government agencies at the state level, in most states, we're barred (either by law or by agency policy) from giving a state or local agency "free" technology unless it is for a very limited test period. It creates all sorts of ethical issues for us, the agencies, and the market for the technology in general.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AnonCow, 25 Mar 2018 @ 8:38am

    Palantir must be excited to have a strong competitor in the evil software industry like Cambridge Analytica hit a snag.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2018 @ 1:32pm

    New Orwelleans

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2018 @ 2:17pm

    I doubt this predictive software is capable of predicting which window to not toss a flash bang into.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Yu Betcha, 25 Mar 2018 @ 4:40pm

    A Hoot & A Half

    Use it on all congress critters first!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Gaza Observer, 28 Jul 2019 @ 12:38am

    The private contractors from security industries, Facebook monitors, Google tipsters, and feds who collude in these projects call this practice "gang stalking.”

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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