Defunding the Police Could Lead to More Surveillance

Monday, Jun 29, 2020

Defunding Police Could Lead to More Surveillance

The mass protests against police brutality and racial inequality have highlighted a related issue: the role of surveillance technology in policing.

There have been several significant wins for privacy advocates in recent weeks: in early June, Amazon announced it would bar law enforcement from using its facial recognition technology for a year, while IBM said it would get out of the field entirely. On the policy side, House Democrats are pushing for new regulations on law enforcement use of facial recognition, and the New York City Council passed the POST Act, which requires the NYPD be more transparent about what surveillance technology it uses -- and how.

But some experts, like Ruha Benjamin, Princeton University sociologist and author of "Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools For The New Jim Code," are concerned that calls to defund police departments could be used as excuses to actually increase their reliance on technology and other surveillance methods. In a conversation with WNYC's Jami Floyd, she says replacing police with technology is not a solution, especially when those tools have been demonstrated to be fundamentally biased against people of color and other marginalized communities.

"We need to think about all of the ways that these systems allow policing to continue without the flesh-and-blood police," said Benjamin.

[Originally published on June 19, 2020 via WNYC]

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