Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Stop Posting Pics! Cops Are Watching: The Journal of Steffanie Rivers

Composite image of a diverse group of people superimposed on a woman's profile*If you live in North Carolina and you post photos on social media chances are law enforcement is using your posting habits against you. That’s because North Carolina leads the way in using facial recognition software to catch suspected criminals. Not to say you’re a criminal, but we know you don’t have to actually be a criminal for law enforcement to accuse you of criminal activity. And that’s part of the problem.

You might think to yourself ‘I haven’t robbed a bank or killed anybody.’ Most people haven’t done anything like that! Have you bounced a check, do you owe child support or have you let your car insurance lapse, but you’re still driving? The cops can criminalize anything and they often do.

It’s likely law enforcement in Elizabeth City, N.C. took video of protestors. Then they fed that video into artificial intelligence software. If they compared photos of protestors to photos of people with arrest warrants on file and got a match, then they went to social media to find out who your friends are and where you hang out. It’s easy to do, because you post that information every five minutes! The next thing you know SWAT is knocking on your door. And you wonder how they found you.  

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News outlet Buzzfeed reviewed the client list of facial recognition company Clearview. It revealed more than sixty state, county and local law enforcement agencies in North Carolina are on that client list as of April 2021. And the software has been used at least 5,000 times in a matter of months. Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Fayetteville and Raleigh-Durham law enforcement used Clearview most. But lots of police departments across the country have used, are using, or have in the budget plans to use facial recognition technology – without your permission. When Buzzfeed tried to get feedback from some of these agencies on Clearview’s client list some denied using it, or never responded to inquiries.

Facial recognition technology is used at customs and immigration border crossings, at airports, and other places. Those signs in stores that say something along the lines of ‘You are being recorded and the fact that you’re here means you consent’ means these businesses can use your image any way they want, and apparently they are: for advertising, market research and to hunt you down later. 

But what if the software erroneously matches your photo to the person who robbed that store? Now SWAT is at your door with a warrant. Now you have to spend time and resources trying to clear your name! It’s like identity theft in the worst way. Apparently the software has trouble differentiating features of darker skinned people from one person to the next. So some innocent Black people are getting accused of crimes. 

Click on the video to find out how one innocent Black man was presumed guilty when he was innocent.

Steffanie Rivers (screenshot)

Steffanie Rivers is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. Email her at [email protected] with your comments, questions and speaking inquiries. Follow her @TCBStef on Twitter and Instagram.

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