From the use of facial recognition technology and Project Green Light cameras to the ShotSpotter gunfire-detection sensors, technology has expanded policing in Detroit.
Though debate over the use of facial recognition has been widely reported, investigators also turn to social media to help solve crimes, according to Detroit Police Department reports.
Almost half of the department’s facial recognition leads come from social media, according to a Data Driven Detroit analysis, raising new concerns for Detroiters.
“It’s now obvious that social media, starting from last April, has become an important lead source for facial recognition technology and for the department,” said Rosie Liu, a research analyst with Data Driven Detroit.
Liu collected and analyzed Detroit police facial recognition data from April 1, 2020, through March, 14, 2021.
Eric Williams, the managing attorney for the economic equity practice at the Detroit Justice Center, said police can use social media and other surveillance techniques with little legal backlash because the law hasn’t caught up to the technology.
“The police do have carte blanche to look at whoever they want, and we don’t really have anything in place to prevent that,” Williams said.
Williams said he has a problem with law enforcement using social media because “we are all potential suspects” and the practice lends itself to the overcriminalization of Black and Brown people.
“Certain categories of people suddenly become suspects all the time,” Williams said. “Whether it’s because of race, gender or where they live, it’s very problematic.”
Williams said citizens need to understand what they post can be used against them.
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