Civil Rights Groups Urge Strong Ethical Review of Axon’s Police Technology

Categories: Criminal Justice, Media & Technology, Press Releases

For Immediate Release
Contact: Shin Inouye, 202.869.0398, inouye@civilrights.org

WASHINGTON – The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Upturn, Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law, and 39 leading civil rights, racial justice, and community organizations today shared a series of recommendations with the “artificial intelligence (AI) ethics board” launched this morning by Axon, a major U.S. police technology vendor. The groups urge the board to hold the company to its ethical responsibilities, and “to ensure that its present and future products, including AI-based products, don’t drive unfair or unethical outcomes or amplify racial inequities in policing.”

In a letter to the board, the groups note that the nation’s criminal legal system is already plagued by a documented history of racial discrimination and other abuses and point out that advanced technology could make these problems worse.

The groups express serious concerns about the direction of Axon’s product development, including the possible integration of real-time face recognition with body-worn camera systems. The letter states that this would be “categorically unethical to deploy,” asserting, “Axon must not offer or enable this feature.” The letter also calls on the ethics board to center the voices and perspectives of those most impacted by Axon’s technologies in its review process. “[A]n ethics process that does not center the voices of those who live in the most heavily policed communities will have no legitimacy,” say the groups.

The full text of the letter is available here, and the signatories are listed below:

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
The Leadership Conference Education Fund
Upturn
Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law
18MillionRising.org
ACLU
AI Now Institute at NYU
Algorithmic Justice League
American Friends Service Committee
Center for Media Justice
Color of Change
Communities United for Police Reform (CPR)
Data for Black Lives
Democracy NC
Detroit Community Technology Project
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
Fayetteville PACT
Free Press
Law for Black Lives – DC
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
Legal Aid Society
Media Alliance
Media Mobilizing Project
NAACP
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
National Hispanic Media Coalition
National Urban League
NC Black Leadership and Organizing Collective
NC Black Womens Roundtable
NC Statewide Police Accountability Network
New America’s Open Technology Institute
Open MIC (Open Media and Information Companies Initiative)
Our Data Bodies Project
Siembra NC
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
The Tribe
UnidosUS
Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center
WITNESS
Working Narratives

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.

Upturn works to ensure that technology addresses longstanding social inequities, especially those rooted in race and poverty. For more information about Upturn, visit https://www.teamupturn.org.

The Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law is a think tank focused on privacy and surveillance law and policy. The Center brings Georgetown Law’s legal ability to bear on privacy debates in federal and state legislatures, regulatory agencies and the academy and trains Georgetown Law students to be leaders in privacy practice, policymaking, and advocacy. For more information on the Center on Privacy & Technology, visit www.law.georgetown.edu/go/privacy.