Activists Build Facial Recognition to ID Cops Who Hide Their Badges 1

By Dan Robitzski, Futurism

In order to hold police accountable when they try to hide their identities, a growing number of activists are developing facial recognition tools that identify cops, The New York Times reports — a striking inversion of the way cops tend to use facial recognition on protestors and suspects.

It’s a satisfying role reversal. Police are hiding their identities while cracking down on protests, in other words, just to be outed by the same invasive technology that they use to surveil the populace.

One of the projects was a shower thought for self-taught programmer Christopher Howell. He’s identifying cops in Portland, Oregon because they were permitted to cover their names while responding to protests. Portland banned facial recognition for cops and companies, but the NYT reports that Howell’s project is permitted because he’s an individual working on a passion project.

“There’s a lot of excessive force here in Portland,” Howell told the NYT. “Knowing who the officers are seems like a baseline.”

Building these tools has become simple, the NYT reports, due to increasingly common off-the-shelf software. The real challenge, activists say, is finding enough images of local police to train the algorithm. They’ve had luck on social media, they told the newspaper.

“For a while now, everyone was aware the big guys could use this to identify and oppress the little guys, but we’re now approaching the technological threshold where the little guys can do it to the big guys,” Andrew Maximov, a developer working on a similar project, told the NYT. “It’s not just the loss of anonymity. It’s the threat of infamy.”

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One comment

  1. “Portland banned facial recognition for cops and companies, but the NYT reports that Howell’s project is permitted because he’s an individual working on a passion project.””

    This is not necessarily a positive development. It’s fine if the City of Portland decides to not use facial recognition for various purposes, including law enforcement. They can make rules for their own people.

    But Portland ALSO has banned use of facial recognition by companies, including those hit by arson and other property damage.
    I’d argue that the Portland Government is pandering to the left-wing rioters, who want to ‘feel free’ to cause damage and yet not fear being identified by their main victims.

    For a few years, it has been alleged that the Portland Police have been ordered to ‘stand down’, and to ignore rioters, at least those of the local, left-wing variety. Faced with this reality, the ‘logical’ reaction from local businesses is obvious: Use technology to identify those rioters, which will soon enough make it very difficult for the City of Portland to ignore.

    Worse, from this article it is obvious that Portland Government will make convenient ‘exceptions’ for their own buddies.

    This is disgusting, a blatant display of double-standards.

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