NEW ORLEANS – Eye on Surveillance, a coalition of advocacy groups concerned with mass surveillance in New Orleans, hailed Councilman Jason Williams’ introduction of an ordinance that would ban the use of facial recognition technology by police and increase oversight of the city’s use of surveillance tools. The Smart and Sustainable Cities Committee will consider the ordinance on July 8, and the ordinance will go before the full Council on July 16.
Lucy Blumberg of Jewish Voice for Peace New Orleans said: “Law enforcement uses an array of surveillance tools, along with other methods of police brutality, to maintain white supremacy by further criminalizing Black and Brown communities. We refuse to let New Orleans, a predominantly Black city, be used as a testing ground for invasive and racially biased surveillance tools like facial recognition that have no record of reducing crime, even as they increase incarceration. Tools like stingrays, automatic license plate readers, tracking technologies like Briefcam, and facial recognition are often implicated in human rights abuses nationally and around the world. Instead of investing in surveillance tools that generate profit for private companies using our taxpayer dollars, let's invest in community safety through things like job training, affordable housing, and mental health care that keep all of us safe.”
Alanah Odoms Hebert, ACLU of Louisiana executive director stated: “These surveillance technologies trample on our right to privacy and give police unprecedented power to enforce racist laws and policies – both at protests and in everyday scenarios. Far from improving public safety, mass surveillance threatens communities of color, perpetuates a racist criminal legal system, and infringes on our basic constitutional rights. We commend Councilman Williams for his leadership and urge the Council to pass these sensible, long-overdue reforms without delay.”
Marvin Arnold, organizer with Eye on Surveillance, stated: “Defunding surveillance is a concrete step we can take towards defunding systems that control and harm us. A 2018 UNO survey showed that 62% of New Orleanians agree and want the speed cameras taken down.”
Surveillance technologies are shown to have a disparate racial impact, with Black people more likely to be misidentified as suspects and disproportionately placed under surveillance. Research by scholars Joy Buolamwini and Timnit Gebru concluded that some facial analysis algorithms misclassified Black women nearly 35 percent of the time, while nearly always getting it right for white men. A 2019 study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) found that face recognition algorithms do not perform as well when examining the faces of women, people of color, the elderly, and children.
In addition, video surveillance has not been proven effective. Criminologists studying camera deployments say there is no evidence they prevent or reduce crime. According to the Office of the Independent Police Monitor, “the City of Chicago spent over $60 million of taxpayer’s dollars on 10,000 surveillance cameras, the presence of which have not conclusively proven to deter or reduce crime.”
More about the coalition is available online at: https://eyeonsurveillance.org/