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NYC Mayor Will Reassess NYPD's Use of Facial Recognition Technology

By Grace Stewart , Aug 17, 2020 11:34 PM EDT

Mayor Bill de Blasio says he will reassess the NYPD's use of facial recognition software. The police use of the controversial technology was again questioned during his Media Availability last August 17, 2020.

Mayor de Blasio responded to a Gothamist reporter. The reporter asked if the use of the technology on activists in public protests is "ever appropriate." Mayor de Blasio said that facial recognition has no place as a tool "in any way to undermine" public expression or public protest. "Absolutely not," he stressed.

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NYPD admitted use of facial recognition technology during Ingram's investigation

On August 14, 2020, Gothamist reported that the NYPD used facial recognition in their investigation into Derrick Ingram. He is a Black Lives Matter activist.

The New York Police Department attempted to arrest Ingram for an assault on a police officer. The police allegedly had no warrant to show during the failed raid on August 7.

Ingram allegedly shouted into an officer's ears using a bullhorn during a protest last June. This incident caused the officer's temporary hearing loss. Dozens of NYPD officers surrounded Ingram's apartment. They were urging him to surrender. Meanwhile, protesters gathered outside Hell's Kitchen building questioning the department's lack of a warrant. Ingram can be seen refusing to let in the officers. The whole interaction was live-streamed on Instagram.

Ingram turned himself in the next day. His attorney and supporters accompanied him. A spokeswoman for the NY County Defender Services said that Ingram's attorney negotiated the surrender. Ingram is a co-founder of the Warriors in The Garden, a nonviolent activist group.

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In a video by FreedomNewsTV, an officer can be seen holding a Facial Identification Section report. It included Ingram's photo from his social media account. An NYPD spokesperson confirmed that facial recognition was used during their investigation, Gothamist reported.

The spokesperson said that the technology is used as a limited tool for investigation. It compares surveillance video still image from arrest photos. However, it was not clear whether it was appropriate to use Ingram's Instagram photo as it was neither a surveillance still image nor an arrest photo. The department did not respond to Gothamist's follow-up inquiries.

Mayor de Blasio admitted that the higher leadership did not approve the attempt to arrest Ingram. He said it should have been handled the right way. He vowed that it would not happen in the future.

Limited use of facial recognition technology

Mayor de Blasio recognized that there is a need to use facial recognition technology sparingly. He said that Ingram's case does not take away the fact that they should be very careful. The use of anything involving facial recognition should be limited.

A bill seeking to prohibit law enforcement agencies from using biometric surveillance technology was proposed in early 2020. It includes the prohibition of facial recognition tools. The NYPD is currently allowed to employ facial recognition technology for specific law enforcement purposes.

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