Privacy researcher ordered to return 20 accidentally shared pages on NYPD facial biometric system

Privacy researcher ordered to return 20 accidentally shared pages on NYPD facial biometric system

Researchers at Georgetown University’s Center on Privacy and Technology must return 20 pages of confidential information about its biometric facial identification systems accidentally given to them by the New York Police Department after a legal ruling by Manhattan District Justice Shlomo Hagler, New York Daily News reports.

Center on Privacy and Technology (CPT) attorney Clare Garvie obtained the documents as part of a two-year effort to force disclosure of the system’s details. Hagler ruled that Garvie can speak about the information, but cannot specifically reference the documents which he said were clearly shared in “inadvertent error.” That puts Garvie in a difficult situation.

“I rely on the information I learn through reviewing these records to write academic papers, raise awareness about the use of face recognition, and train public defenders,” she said. “But I’m now faced with being able to speak about the information I’ve learned but I can’t back up my assertions. the information has essentially become useless.”

Garvie says the NYPD’s disclosures have been inconsistent and selective, with a Dataworks Plus facial recognition program user guide given to the CPT after heavy redaction, but given unredacted to attorneys in a separate lawsuit. She also notes that information was presented at a conference last September, but then considered too sensitive to disclose for the lawsuit.

Hagler noted that the NYPD should be more diligent. The force originally responded to a request from the CPT for information on its facial biometrics use by saying it could not find relevant records, before ultimately providing 3,700 pages of documents.

“Our request to retrieve certain information was in large measure to protect the privacy rights of individuals and entities whose information and records were released in error,” an NYPD spokesperson said. The spokesperson also said that that the NYPD does not engage in mass image collection from camera systems, does not collect images from the internet or social media, and has never arrested anyone on the basis of a facial biometric match alone.

The Intercept has reported that NYPD surveillance cameras were used to collect data used for technology development by IBM.

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