with the big piece on law enforcement's use of facial recognition in the New York Times, I was just reminded of the conversation I had a few weeks ago with Tawana Petty of the Detroit Community Technology Project, who has been organizing in Detroit against facial recognition being used against its people, and why the fight for regulation must happen at the highest level possible.

it'll appear in Logic's next issue (Security) but I can share a few things now:

starting in 2016, the Detroit Police Department (DPD) incentivized community businesses to set up real-time video feeds that fed into DPD in response to predictive models that identified certain businesses in certain neighborhoods as being at the greatest risk for violent crime.

this was named Project Green Light (PGL).

in enrolling in PGL, those businesses received priority from PDP.

more context in DCTP's critical summary here:

in 2017, the City of Detroit put out a call and subsequently awarded a contract to set up a facial recognition system that would use the real-time video streams as input, to match any faces found in the stream against a watch list that pulled data from a number of government photo databases (including mug shots and DMV photos).

the project has continued in operation since, and the city has plans to expand.

again, more context in the summary:

that's all pretty post-apocalyptic in its own, but with the context of detroit it becomes a case study in the intersection of racial capitalism, infrastructural inequities and neighborhood disinvestment, overpolicing of minority and low income communities, and the rise of the surveillance state—all in the name of "security."

for much more on this, check out the Riverwise special issue "Detroiters want to be seen, not watched":

there's a community-led resistance against the adoption of facial recognition within Detroit. Tawana is one of the people at the front lines.

when talking about Detroit within the context of other US cities that have banned facial recognition, she points out there's a lot to learn but also the cities are rich and majority white.

Detroit is over 80% black. she points out that there's much more to lose with facial recognition in Detroit, and it's going to be a much harder fight.

we can't let each city fight on their own for this, because it means the places with the most to lose—where folks most at risk of surveillance are also often the communities with the least political capital/enfranchisement—will have to fight the hardest.

we need effective regulation at the federal level, and we need it now.

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