DOJ funding pipeline subsidizes questionable big data surveillance technologies

Predictive policing has been shown to be an ineffective and biased policing tool. Yet, the Department of Justice has been funding the crime surveillance and analysis technology for years and continues to do so despite criticism from researchers, privacy advocates and members of Congress.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., joined by five Democratic senators, called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to halt funding for predictive policing technologies in a letter issued Jan. 29, 2024. Predictive policing involves analyzing crime data in an attempt to identify where and when crimes are likely to occur and who is likely to commit them.

The request came months after the Department of Justice failed to answer basic questions about how predictive policing funds were being used and who was being harmed by arguably racially discriminatory algorithms that have never been proven to work as intended. The Department of Justice did not have answers to who was using the technology, how it was being evaluated and which communities were affected.

While focused on predictive policing, the senators’ demand raises what I, a law professor who studies big data surveillance, see as a bigger issue: What is the Department of Justice’s role in funding new surveillance technologies? The answer is surprising and reveals an entire ecosystem of how technology companies, police departments and academics benefit from the flow of federal dollars.

Read the full article from The Conversation

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