This past August, the Transportation Security Administration announced that they intended to run a pilot program for facial recognition technology.  

The location?  Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport.

The purpose is to gauge the emerging technology’s ability to verify fliers’ facial images while passing through security checkpoints against any photo identification that they present.

But there’s one outspoken lawmaker who wants the Transportation Security Agency to dial it back.

The Democratic Senator, Ed Markey, from Massachusetts cited concerns during last weeks’ hearing that was held by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Security.

The long-time politician, who started his career in politics in 1976, brought up that the commonplace research and implementation of facial recognition technologies across the U.S. poses concerns about exactly how said data is being collected and that some protections should be discussed and enacted for that data as well as a means to protect the civil liberties of travelers.

“As we work to keep pace with emerging threats to aviation travel, civil liberties cannot be an afterthought,” Markey stated. “The public lacks enforceable rights and rules to protect travelers’ privacy and address unique threats that TSA’s biometric data collection poses to our civil liberties.”

During the hearing, Markey directed several questions toward Chris McLaughlin, who was appointed as the Denver International Airport Chief Operations Officer back in November, 2018.

The exchange between the Senator and Chris McLaughlin is as follows:

“Do you agree that any collection of Americans’ biometric information at airports should always be voluntary?” Markey had asked.

“Yes, I do,” McLaughlin replied.

Markey followed up with:

“Do you agree that TSA should enact enforceable rules and take all necessary steps to ensure that biometric data it collects is secure?”

McLaughlin again agreeably responded “Yes.”

“Do you agree that TSA should enact binding safeguards to ensure that its use of biometric technology does not disproportionately burden or misidentify people of color?” Markey asked.

McLaughlin responded “Absolutely, yes.”

The Senator then concluded the exchange with:

“I agree with you. I agree with all of your answers. We’re, however, quickly moving toward a point of no return when it comes to the deployment of facial recognition technology.”

Markey asked that the TSA to cease the deployment of facial recognition technology, including the active pilot at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport, until policies are put into place to address the aforementioned.

Senator Ed Markey sentiments towards the TSA’s ongoing adoption and use of said tech was expressed in no uncertain terms by stating:

“TSA should stop using these invasive tools in the absence of formal rules that reflect our values and protect our privacies. I call upon the agency to formalize these rules. It’s absolutely essential. We should not be moving forward until we’ve decided what those protections are going to be.”

The TSA spokesperson recently released a statement with regard to the drafting of official policies, which is still in progress.

“Specific privacy policies have not yet been formalized, but will align with requirements on the development of privacy policies and will implement the Fair Information Practice Principles to the greatest extent practicable.”

The statement also reiterated previous congressional testimony from acting Deputy Administrator Patricia Cogswell when mentioning:

“TSA expects to limit its use of facial recognition to identity verification functions at the checkpoint.”

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Too bad his privacy concerns don’t extend to police officers.

Did you catch that story this week?

In a widely unprecedented move, the District Attorney’s office in the Bronx is releasing secret records concerning information on police officers that they apparently don’t trust.

And now members of the NYPD are finding themselves thrown in the public spotlight without a chance to defend themselves.

The rare move came about after New York radio station WNYC requested that the records be made public in light of the Freedom of Information Act.

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The Bronx D.A.’s office has just released the names of officers they don’t trust. (Facebook)

 

According to a report from the Gothamist, the ‘evidence’ against the officers comes in the form of articles from the media, as well as findings from judges who found the officers’ testimony to be untruthful.

The Bronx D.A. turned over 11 pages of documents to WNYC. The documents have a ton of redactions due to privacy restrictions of the Freedom of Information Act, but nevertheless, employees within the radio station were able to pin down the identity of some of the officers in question. 

One of the officers named in the database, who we won’t identify here because we believe in due process, had his credibility called into question over the matter of a search that turned up a gun. 

A search of a vehicle’s car rendered the seizure of an unlicensed revolver. But the defense said that the officer’s body cam video didn’t exactly match his statements, saying the car couldn’t have smelled like marijuana because none was found and that the search was illegal.

“I believe that the officers lied under oath on the stand when they said that they smelled marijuana and that that is what occasioned the search of the car,” a judge said.

So they threw out the gun charge.

 

Now, that officer is being considered ‘untrustworthy’ in a court of law. He argues that the judge was hell-bent on killing the gun charge, and found any way she could to do so.

With these documents now going public, this officer will now be seen as a non-credible witness across the city… all based on an opinion. 

The list of so-called ‘bad apples’ released by the Bronx D.A.’s office includes 39 other officers. 21 of those names were redacted due to the court sealing case files.

The privacy of the officers is now also under fire, with legal representatives calling for the entire list to be made public without redactions.

“Without names, our systems of checks and balances fails and yet again police evade accountability,” said Cynthia Conti-Cook, a staff attorney with Legal Aid. 

Legal Aid is New York’s largest domain of public defenders.

Earlier this year, Manhattan D.A. Andrew Stengel said that all of the information should be released, regardless of the impact it would have on current investigations and trials.

“Stengel called for the Bronx D.A. to release all files it has on officers with questionable credibility, even if such a release could throw scores of ongoing prosecutions and past convictions into question,” said the Gothamist.

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Darcel Clark is the head of the Bronx D.A.’s office. Now she’s releasing public information about police officers that ‘can’t be trusted.’ (Facebook)

 

Conti-Cook is pushing for more of these kinds of records to be pushed into the public limelight.

“The release of these records is another important step towards transparency,” she said. “But it is not the last step. We must continue to demand more public access to internal police misconduct information to allow the public to hold police and the administrations that protect them accountable.”

And of course, a legal director within the ACLU sided with the public smearing of the involved officers, who are not exactly being given due process, but instead are being subjected to the media’s portrayal and people’s opinions. 

“This revelation suggests there may be large numbers of police officers that prosecutors know are not reliable,” said Christopher Dunn. “This is exactly the type of information the public must know about. If they don’t, it just calls our entire system into doubt.”

Can we really trust these findings? After all, if you want to know what the media thinks about police, just go to Google and type the word in. You’ll find yourself overrun with articles about bad cops, killer officers and a system of oppression. 

In our view, the officers that are being thrown under the bus deserve a chance to defend themselves before having their reputations torn apart in the public eye.

This is America. Due process exists. Let’s do our best to remember that. 

 

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