NYPD use facial recognition app against their own officers to ID cops drinking before mate’s funeral


NYPD used facial recognition app against its own officers to ID cops caught drinking on their way to the funeral of slain colleague

  • The NYPD’s head of internal affairs ordered the use controversial facial recognition to identify cops drinking before the funeral of a slain colleague
  • Deputy Commissioner Joseph Reznick’s decision to turn the Clearview AI app on his own men emerged in a 235-page trove of internal documents 
  • The documents show a close relationship between NYPD officers and the founder of the Clearview AI app, Hoan Ton-That
  • The NY Post reported Reznick’s order led to the suspension of two cops caught drinking on a train to the February 2019 funeral of Detective Brian Simonsen

Two New York cops were reportedly suspended after they were photographed drinking on a train on the way to a slain colleague’s funeral and later identified by  controversial facial recognition software. 

Deputy Commissioner Joseph Reznick, the head of the NYPD’s Internal Affairs unit, is said to have ordered officers to use the Clearview AI app to pick out a detective and a sergeant caught drinking on their way to a memorial service for Detective Brian Simonsen in February 2019.

The New York Post reported the two officers were photographed traveling on the Long Island Railroad to Simonsen’s funeral, and were suspended from duties for drinking in uniform. 

The use of facial recognition software against one of their own officers is included in a 235-page trove of internal NYPD documents obtained by the Legal Aid Society, a non-profit organization.

It shows the NYPD had in-person meetings and received customer support directly from Clearview AI’s founder Hoan Ton-That, as he tried to woo the force with a free trial of the software.

The NYPD has since said it stopped using Clearview AI over security concerns.  

Two NYPD officers, a detective and a sergeant, were identified using facial recognition software and later suspended for drinking on their way to a slain colleague’s funeral

Joseph Reznick, the head of the NYPD's internal affairs bureau, ordered the use of Clearwater AI facial recognition software to track down the two officers snapped drinking on a train

Joseph Reznick, the head of the NYPD’s internal affairs bureau, ordered the use of Clearwater AI facial recognition software to track down the two officers snapped drinking on a train

The officers had been traveling to the funeral service for Detective Brian Simonsen, who was killed while attending a robbery in Queens on what should have been his day off

The officers had been traveling to the funeral service for Detective Brian Simonsen, who was killed while attending a robbery in Queens on what should have been his day off

In an email released by the NYPD as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, a detective from the Internal Affairs Bureau Alfredo Torres writes to Deputy Inspector Michael King of the Joint Terrorism Task Force with the photograph of the men aboard the train. 

‘As per commissioner Reznick can you please identify the Members of service in the photo,’ Torres wrote.

The images attached to the email show what appears to be photos surreptitiously shot by another cop. Their faces are blanked out. 

Simonsen was hailed as a hero after being killed by friendly fire while responding to a robbery in Queens. He’d been at work even though it was his day off. 

The Clearview AI software works by checking a photo against a database of billions of images it has scraped from websites such as Facebook, YouTube and Venmo.

The New York Post reported that as a result of the use of the recognition software, the two officers were suspended.

The case in internal emails obtained via a Freedom of Information lawsuit over the NYPD’s use of the Clearview app. 

The Clearview App was at one time being used by more than 600 law enforcement agencies. The NYPD said it ceased using the app in 2019 over security concerns

The Clearview App was at one time being used by more than 600 law enforcement agencies. The NYPD said it ceased using the app in 2019 over security concerns

Jonathan McCoy of the Legal Aid Society’s digital forensics unit told the paper the public would never have known the extent of the NYPD’s use of the software without their lawsuit. 

A spokeswoman for the NYPD told the Post this use of facial recognition apps to identify its own officers was not prohibited ‘simply because Clearview AI did not exist at the time our Facial Recognition Practices were established’.

The NYPD was offered a free three-month trial program of the Clearview AI app in 2018 in the hope the country’s largest police force would take up a contract with the company. 

In 2020, the New York Times revealed Clearview was the creation of Hoan Ton-That, a young Australian ‘techie’, and was being used by 600 law enforcement agencies.

It also had backing from Peter Thiel, a prominent venture capitalist, an early investor in Facebook and one-time supporter of Donald Trump. 

The NYPD says it stopped using Clearview AI in March 2019 over security concerns.  

However, the documents obtained by the Legal Aid Society appear to show a close, friendly relationship between NYPD officers and Clearview’s founder, Ton-That.

Dozens of officers signed up to use the app even though they weren’t part of the official trial. 

The newly-released documents also show officers continued using the  app until February 2020.    

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