Detroit City Council greenlights $200,000 facial recognition contract

By Scott McClallen

The Center Square) — The Detroit City Council on Tuesday approved a contract supporting facial recognition in Detroit, even after a vast majority of public comments were in opposition to the measure.

The measure, approved by a 6–3 vote, approves spending $219,984 to cover costs associated with upgrades and maintenance. The council’s vote was preceded by a morning protest and an hour of public comment from residents opposing facial recognition, arguing the technology is “racist.”

The contract with Dataworks Plus LLC will be extended from Oct. 1, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2022.

Over 500 businesses currently are equipped with facial recognition and traffic lights, which span across Detroit’s Project Greenlight.

Police cite violence as a reason to upgrade the software.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation Monday ranked the Motor City as one of the most violent in America. However, the use of facial recognition in Detroit is controversial.

Facial recognition is less accurate for females, Blacks, and subjects 18 to 30 years old, compared to other races and ages of people, according to a 2012 study. Critics say those statistics pose problems because Detroit’s population is approximately 80 percent Black.

Most surveillance cameras are mounted at an angle different from photos taken for a drivers’ license, mugshot or Facebook and, if compiled with poor lighting and low-quality image resolution, it can produce false hits.

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