Bernard'Jack' Young, the mayor of Baltimore, spoke about the city's high number of murders and distanced himself from taking any blame. So far, reports have indicated that the city has had 296 homicides. As Baltimore grapples with an ever-growing homicide rate, the city's mayor raised eyebrows on Monday when he voiced concern about a mysterious white van roaming the streets with someone trying to "snatch up young girls" -- something that has been refuted by his own police force. Baltimore Mayor Bernard "Jack" Young made the comment during an interview with WBAL-TV while discussing human trafficking. He said he had received information about a white van trying to abduct girls for their organs.
New York (CNN)Terrifying rumors initially propelled by Facebook's algorithms have sparked fears that men driving white vans are kidnapping women all across the United States for sex trafficking and to sell their body parts. While there is no evidence to suggest this is happening, much less on a national, coordinated scale, a series of viral Facebook (FB) posts created a domino effect that led to the mayor of a major American city issuing a warning based on the unsubstantiated claims. The latest online-induced panic shows how viral Facebook posts can stoke paranoia and make people believe that spotting something as common as a white van, can be deemed suspicious and connected to a nationwide cabal. "Don't park near a white van," Baltimore Mayor Bernard "Jack" Young said in a TV interview on Monday. "Make sure you keep your cellphone in case somebody tries to abduct you."
Surveillance is becoming an increasingly controversial application given the rapid pace at which AI systems are being developed and deployed worldwide. While protestors marched through the city demanding justice for George Floyd and an end to police brutality, Minneapolis police trained surveillance tools to identify them. With just hours to sift through thousands of CCTV camera feeds and other dragnet data streams, the police turned to a range of automated systems for help, reaching for information collected by automated license plate readers, CCTV-video analysis software, open-source geolocation tools, and Clearview AI's controversial facial recognition system. High above the city, an unarmed Predator drone flew in circles, outfitted with a specialized camera first pioneered by the police in Baltimore that is capable of identifying individuals from 10,000 feet in the air, providing real-time surveillance of protestors across the city. But Minneapolis is not an isolated case of excessive policing and technology run amok. Instead, it is part of a larger strategy by the state, local, and federal government to build surveillance dragnets that pull in people's emails, texts, bank records, and smartphone location as well as their faces, movements, and physical whereabouts to equip law enforcement with unprecedented tools to search for and identify Americans without a warrant.
Advanced surveillance technology is already intensifying racial discrimination at police departments in the United States, and there's a good chance it's going to get worse. This is a fact well-documented by plenty of extensive reviews conducted by the Department of Justice that have unearthed a tremendous number of civil rights violations committed by officers against minority residents. What's less understood is how surveillance technologies employed by the police intensify the racially discriminatory strategies that already exist. Police use of captured cellphone data, social media monitoring tools, and facial recognition technology has already been called racially biased, and these technologies aren't likely to disappear from departments. One of the starkest examples of police using technology to compound racially biased policing comes out of Baltimore.
The New York City Council today voted in favor of the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology (POST) Act, a bill that requires the New York City Police Department (NYPD) to disclose their use of surveillance technologies. The POST Act also mandates that the NYPD develop policies on how it deploys those tools, as well as establish oversight of the department's surveillance programs to ensure they remain compliant. The passage of the POST Act, a three-year-old piece of legislation written with input from local activist organization Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP), comes as cities around the country reexamine law enforcement policies following widespread demonstrations against abuse. Residents and activists on Tuesday urged the Detroit City Council to reject a contract that would extend the city police's use of facial recognition technology. On Wednesday, racial justice and civil liberties groups called on members of the U.S. Congress to end funding for surveillance technology law enforcement is using to spy on demonstrators.