Home > Community Groups Call on DA Zappala to End Use of Facial Recognition Technology and Increase Transparency in Surveillance

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Community Groups Call on DA Zappala to End Use of Facial Recognition Technology and Increase Transparency in Surveillance
 

 

 

 

A coalition of 21 advocacy groups in Allegheny County has called on District Attorney Stephen Zappala to end the use of facial recognition cameras and to be more transparent in what surveillance technologies his office is using. The coalition sent a letter to Zappala late last week, in response to reporting by The Caucus, a government watchdog publication, about the deployment of a network of over 1,000 cameras by the district attorney’s office.

 

According to the report, some of the cameras have facial recognition capabilities, and a staff person from the district attorney’s office suggested that the cameras could be used in public schools to track children who are on probation. The report also stated that the network is run by a private company, which the D.A.’s office refuses to identify, and that there are no policies governing the use of the cameras or the data they gather.

 

“These cameras have great potential for abuse if there are no policies in place that limit how they are used,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (pictured), one of the signers of the letter. “It’s clear that the district attorney has not done his due diligence in creating this camera network, and his own staff has talked about expanding their use. This situation is troubling.”

 

According to the letter sent to the district attorney’s office, “facial recognition technology could be used for general, suspicionless surveillance in violation of citizens’ privacy rights.” The letter cites research showing that the technology is often inaccurate and that mistakes disproportionately happen in images with people of color and women.

 

Signers of the letter include 412 Resistance, Abolitionist Law Center, Black Political Empowerment Project, New Voices for Reproductive Justice, and One Pennsylvania, among others. The letter is available at this link.

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