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Policing & Technology

New surveillance technologies allow police to collect enormous swaths of data about ordinary citizens. We bring these programs to light and recommend ways to increase transparency and accountability.


Police depart­ments across the coun­try are using new surveil­lance tools such as facial recog­ni­tion, social media monit­or­ing, license plate read­ers, cell phone track­ers, and predict­ive poli­cing. These tools pose new chal­lenges to protect­ing Amer­ic­ans’ civil rights and civil liber­ties and raise novel consti­tu­tional issues, some of which are being tested in court. They risk obscur­ing and auto­mat­ing racial inequal­it­ies under the guise of unbiased computer systems. Some, like facial recog­ni­tion, are more error-prone for people of color. Others, like predict­ive poli­cing programs, may simply recre­ate histor­ical patterns of biased poli­cing. And when used in tandem, surveil­lance tech­no­lo­gies can result in a pervas­ive drag­net that is incom­pat­ible with a demo­cratic soci­ety.

The Bren­nan Center has been at the fore­front of expos­ing police surveil­lance tech­no­lo­gies, explain­ing their risks, and advoc­at­ing for greater trans­par­ency, safe­guards, and over­sight of their use. 

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