person:jay stanley

  • Can the Manufacturer of Tasers Provide the Answer to Police Abuse ? | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/08/27/can-the-manufacturer-of-tasers-provide-the-answer-to-police-abuse

    Tasers are carried by some six hundred thousand law-enforcement officers around the world—a kind of market saturation that also presents a problem. “One of the challenges with Taser is: where do you go next, what’s Act II?” Smith said. “For us, luckily, Act II is cameras.” He began adding cameras to his company’s weapons in 2006, to defend against allegations of abuse, and in the process inadvertently opened a business line that may soon overshadow the Taser. In recent years, body cameras—the officer’s answer to bystander cell-phone video—have become ubiquitous, and Smith’s company, now worth four billion dollars, is their largest manufacturer, holding contracts with more than half the major police departments in the country.

    The cameras have little intrinsic value, but the information they collect is worth a fortune to whoever can organize and safeguard it. Smith has what he calls an iPod/iTunes opportunity—a chance to pair a hardware business with an endlessly recurring and expanding data-storage subscription plan. In service of an intensifying surveillance state and the objectives of police as they battle the public for control of the story, Smith is building a network of electrical weapons, cameras, drones, and someday, possibly, robots, connected by a software platform called Evidence.com. In the process, he is trying to reposition his company in the public imagination, not as a dubious purveyor of stun guns but as a heroic seeker of truth.

    A year ago, Smith changed Taser’s name to Axon Enterprise, referring to the conductive fibre of a nerve cell. Taser was founded in Scottsdale, Arizona, where Smith lives; to transform into Axon, he opened an office in Seattle, hiring designers and engineers from Uber, Google, and Apple. When I met him at the Seattle office this spring, he wore a company T-shirt that read “Expect Candor” and a pair of leather sneakers in caution yellow, the same color as Axon’s logo: a delta symbol—for change—which also resembles the lens of a surveillance camera.

    Already, Axon’s servers, at Microsoft, store nearly thirty petabytes of video—a quarter-million DVDs’ worth—and add approximately two petabytes each month. When body-camera footage is released—say, in the case of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man killed by police in Sacramento, or of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, this past fall—Axon’s logo is often visible in the upper-right corner of the screen. The company’s stock is up a hundred and thirty per cent since January.

    The original Taser was the invention of an aerospace engineer named Jack Cover, inspired by the sci-fi story “Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle,” about a boy inventor whose long gun fires a five-thousand-volt charge. Early experiments were comical: Cover wired the family couch to shock his sister and her boyfriend as they were on the brink of making out. Later, he discovered that he could fell buffalo when he hit them with electrified darts. In 1974, Cover got a patent and began to manufacture an electric gun. That weapon was similar to today’s Taser: a Glock-shaped object that sends out two live wires, loaded with fifty thousand volts of electricity and ending in barbed darts that attach to a target. When the hooks connect, they create a charged circuit, which causes muscles to contract painfully, rendering the subject temporarily incapacitated. More inventor than entrepreneur, Cover designed the Taser to propel its darts with an explosive, leading the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to classify it a Title II weapon (a category that also includes sawed-off shotguns), which required an arduous registration process and narrowed its appeal.

    A few years after Tasers went on the market, Rick Smith added a data port to track each trigger pull. The idea, he told me, came from the Baltimore Police Department, which was resisting Tasers out of a concern that officers would abuse people with them. In theory, with a data port, cops would use their Tasers more conscientiously, knowing that each deployment would be recorded and subject to review. But in Baltimore it didn’t work out that way. Recent reports in the Sun revealed that nearly sixty per cent of people Tased by police in Maryland between 2012 and 2014—primarily black and living in low-income neighborhoods—were “non-compliant and non-threatening.”

    Act II begins in the nauseous summer of 2014, when Eric Garner died after being put in a choke hold by police in Staten Island and Michael Brown was shot by Darren Wilson, of the Ferguson Police. After a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson—witness statements differed wildly, and no footage of the shooting came to light—Brown’s family released a statement calling on the public to “join with us in our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera.”

    In the fall of 2014, Taser débuted the Officer Safety Plan, which now costs a hundred and nine dollars a month and includes Tasers, cameras, and a sensor that wirelessly activates all the cameras in its range whenever a cop draws his sidearm. This feature is described on the Web site as a prudent hedge in chaotic times: “In today’s online culture where videos go viral in an instant, officers must capture the truth of a critical event. But the intensity of the moment can mean that hitting ‘record’ is an afterthought. Both officers and communities facing confusion and unrest have asked for a solution that turns cameras on reliably, leaving no room for dispute.” According to White’s review of current literature, half of the randomized controlled studies show a substantial or statistically significant reduction in use of force following the introduction of body cameras. The research into citizen complaints is more definitive: cameras clearly reduce the number of complaints from the public.

    The practice of “testi-lying”—officers lying under oath—is made much more difficult by the presence of video.

    Even without flagrant dissimulation, body-camera footage is often highly contentious. Michael White said, “The technology is the easy part. The human use of the technology really is making things very complex.” Policies on how and when cameras should be used, and how and when and by whom footage can be accessed, vary widely from region to region. Jay Stanley, who researches technology for the American Civil Liberties Union, said that the value of a body camera to support democracy depends on those details. “When is it activated? When is it turned off? How vigorously are those rules enforced? What happens to the video footage, how long is it retained, is it released to the public?” he said. “These are the questions that shape the nature of the technology and decide whether it just furthers the police state.”

    Increasingly, civil-liberties groups fear that body cameras will do more to amplify police officers’ power than to restrain their behavior. Black Lives Matter activists view body-camera programs with suspicion, arguing that communities of color need better educational and employment opportunities, environmental justice, and adequate housing, rather than souped-up robo-cops. They also argue that video has been ineffectual: many times, the public has watched the police abuse and kill black men without facing conviction. Melina Abdullah, a professor of Pan-African studies at Cal State Los Angeles, who is active in Black Lives Matter, told me, “Video surveillance, including body cameras, are being used to bolster police claims, to hide what police are doing, and engage in what we call the double murder of our people. They kill the body and use the footage to increase accusations around the character of the person they just killed.” In her view, police use video as a weapon: a black man shown in a liquor store in a rough neighborhood becomes a suspect in the public mind. Video generated by civilians, on the other hand, she sees as a potential check on abuses. She stops to record with her cell phone almost every time she witnesses a law-enforcement interaction with a civilian.

    Bringing in talented engineers is crucial to Smith’s vision. The public-safety nervous system that he is building runs on artificial intelligence, software that can process and analyze an ever-expanding trove of video evidence. The L.A.P.D. alone has already made some five million videos, and adds more than eleven thousand every day. At the moment, A.I. is used for redaction, and Axon technicians at a special facility in Scottsdale are using data from police departments to train the software to detect and blur license plates and faces.

    Facial recognition, which techno-pessimists see as the advent of the Orwellian state, is not far behind. Recently, Smith assembled an A.I. Ethics Board, to help steer Axon’s decisions. (His lead A.I. researcher, recruited from Uber, told him that he wouldn’t be able to hire the best engineers without an ethics board.) Smith told me, “I don’t want to wake up like the guy Nobel, who spent his life making things that kill people, and then, at the end of his life, it’s, like, ‘O.K., I have to buy my way out of this.’ ”

    #Taser #Intelligence_artificielle #Caméras #Police #Stockage_données


  • How A ’Deviant’ Philosopher Built #Palantir, A CIA-Funded #Data-Mining Juggernaut - Forbes
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2013/08/14/agent-of-intelligence-how-a-deviant-philosopher-built-palantir-a-cia-funded-

    The biggest problem for Palantir’s business may be just how well its software works: It helps its customers see too much. In the wake of NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s revelations of the agency’s mass surveillance, Palantir’s tools have come to represent privacy advocates’ greatest fears of data-mining technology — Google-level engineering applied directly to government spying. That combination of Big Brother and Big Data has come into focus just as Palantir is emerging as one of the fastest-growing startups in the Valley, threatening to contaminate its first public impressions and render the firm toxic in the eyes of customers and investors just when it needs them most.

    “They’re in a scary business,” says Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Lee Tien. ACLU analyst Jay Stanley has written that Palantir’s software could enable a “true totalitarian nightmare, monitoring the activities of innocent Americans on a mass scale.”

    Karp, a social theory Ph.D., doesn’t dodge those concerns. He sees Palantir as the company that can rewrite the rules of the zero-sum game of privacy and security. “I didn’t sign up for the government to know when I smoke a joint or have an affair,” he acknowledges. In a company address he stated, “We have to find places that we protect away from government so that we can all be the unique and interesting and, in my case, somewhat deviant people we’d like to be.”

    Palantir has explored work in Saudi Arabia despite the staff’s misgivings about human rights abuses in the kingdom. And for all Karp’s emphasis on values, his apology for the WikiLeaks affair also doesn’t seem to have left much of an impression in his memory. In his address to Palantir engineers in July he sounded defiant: “We’ve never had a scandal that was really our fault.”

    AT 4:07 P.M. ON NOV. 14, 2009 Michael Katz-Lacabe was parking his red Toyota Prius in the driveway of his home in the quiet Oakland suburb of San Leandro when a police car drove past. A license plate camera mounted on the squad car silently and routinely snapped a photo of the scene: his off-white, single-floor house, his wilted lawn and rosebushes, and his 5- and 8-year-old daughters jumping out of the car.

    Katz-Lacabe, a gray-bearded and shaggy-haired member of the local school board, community activist and blogger, saw the photo only a year later: In 2010 he learned about the San Leandro Police Department’s automatic license plate readers, designed to constantly photograph and track the movements of every car in the city. He filed a public records request for any images that included either of his two cars. The police sent back 112 photos. He found the one of his children most disturbing.

    “Who knows how many other people’s kids are captured in these images?” he asks. His concerns go beyond a mere sense of parental protection. “With this technology you can wind back the clock and see where everyone is, if they were parked at the house of someone other than their wife, a medical marijuana clinic, a Planned Parenthood center, a protest.”

    ... it’s clear that #Alex_Karp does indeed value privacy–his own.

    His office, decorated with cardboard effigies of himself built by Palantir staff and a Lego fortress on a coffee table, overlooks Palo Alto’s Alma Street through two-way mirrors. Each pane is fitted with a wired device resembling a white hockey puck. The gadgets, known as acoustic transducers, imperceptibly vibrate the glass with white noise to prevent eavesdropping techniques, such as bouncing lasers off windows to listen to conversations inside.

    He’s reminiscing about a more carefree time in his life–years before Palantir–and has put down his Rubik’s cube to better gesticulate. “I had $40,000 in the bank, and no one knew who I was. I loved it. I loved it. I just loved it. I just loved it!” he says, his voice rising and his hands waving above his head. “I would walk around, go into skanky places in Berlin all night. I’d talk to whoever would talk to me, occasionally go home with people, as often as I could. I went to places where people were doing things, smoking things. I just loved it.”

    “One of the things I find really hard and view as a massive drag … is that I’m losing my ability to be completely anonymous.”

    It’s not easy for a man in Karp’s position to be a deviant in the modern world. And with tools like Palantir in the hands of the government, deviance may not be easy for the rest of us, either. With or without safeguards, the “complete anonymity” Karp savors may be a 20th-century luxury.

    Karp lowers his arms, and the enthusiasm drains from his voice: “I have to get over this.”

    #surveillance, la préservation de la #vie_privée consideree comme un #luxe