Judge Tells Research Center To Give Back Facial Recognition Documents The NYPD Forgot To Redact

from the was-'lol-gfy'-not-an-option? dept

The NYPD, that paragon of opacity, screwed up. And now it wants its stuff back.

The Georgetown Center on Privacy & Technology has been engaged in a public records lawsuit against the NYPD since 2017. It's seeking records on the department's use of facial recognition technology. The NYPD has fought hard, but has been forced to hand over almost 3,700 pages of relevant info to date. This after initially telling the Center it had "no responsive documents."

Contained in the steady drip of documents handed over to the Center was something the NYPD wasn't supposed to release in unredacted form. It took almost a month for the department to realize it had screwed up. Rather than let uncensored bygones be bygones, the NYPD took it up with the judge presiding over the case. The NYPD's legal rep wasn't too thrilled with the department's inadvertent transparency.

City attorney Jeffrey Dantowitz conceded that the disclosure was a fiasco.

“That a few documents were inadvertently produced without the intended redactions, while careless, was neither an intelligent nor voluntary disclosure," he wrote in court papers.

So what? Why should this be the Center's problem? Especially when the NYPD didn't realize what it had done for more than 20 days, which allowed the security researchers to peruse the unredacted documents. You can't claw back what's contained in people's minds. In this era of digital duplication, you can't really claw back documents at all.

Nevertheless, a Manhattan judge has agreed to let the NYPD engage in this exercise in futility.

A Manhattan judge has ordered academics researching the NYPD’s facial recognition technology to return documents the police cops accidentally turned over.

Justice Shlomo Hagler said the NYPD “should be more diligent” but that it was clear the 20 pages of confidential information were shared with the Georgetown Center on Privacy and Technology due to an “inadvertent error.”

The judge says Clare Garvie, the Center's attorney, can speak about the documents publicly, but cannot specifically reference which documents she's talking about. As Garvie points out, this effectively neuters this knowledge. Garvie can make assertions based on the documents she's seen, but she can't back those assertions up by referencing the documents.

Even more ridiculously, the NYPD has publicly discussed the information it now claims is too sensitive to remain in Center's hands. A presentation on the NYPD's facial recognition systems was given to conference attendees in 2018 -- a conference anyone with $1,700 on hand could attend, including non-law enforcement members of the public.

And yet the order stands resolute, ignoring logic, common sense, and the NYPD's willingness to share this same "sensitive" info with deep-pocketed randos. This reeks of vindictiveness, rather than actual concern about leaking law enforcement tools of the trade. The Center has already forced 3,700 pages out of the hands of an agency that claimed it had zero pages to turn over prior to being sued. It seems like the NYPD just wants to make the Center pay -- in one form or another -- for anything else it can no longer pretend it doesn't have.

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Filed Under: clare garvie, leaks, new york, nypd, public records, releases, shlomo hagler
Companies: georgetown center on privacy and technology


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2019 @ 1:53pm

    Trying to reclaim digital information is kinda like trying to reclaim Herpes so you can continue denying you have an STD. Once you've passed it on, it's out there.


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