Banjo CEO resigns to preserve the company's AI surveillance deals

He doesn't want his racist past to hurt the company's chances.

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LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 19:  Banjo founder Damien Patton talks with employees at the Innevation Center on June 19, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Wally Skalij/Los Angles Times)
Wally Skalij/Los Angles Times

Banjo is shuffling its leadership in a bid to keep its AI surveillance business with Utah and other customers worried about CEO Damien Patton’s racist past. Patton has resigned from the CEO position effective immediately, with CTO Justin Lindsey taking his place. A spokesperson told DeseretNews that Patton now has “no operating capacity” at the company, including its board.

In a statement, Patton said he believed Banjo’s “best past forward” was with a new leader given the “current circumstances.”

Utah had put its surveillance contract with Banjo on hold after learning that Patton had been a KKK member as a teenager, and had joined a group leader in a drive-by shooting. Patton had renounced his past and vowed that it didn’t affect his company’s practices, but Utah paused its use of the technology and launched an audit to verify that there wasn’t an algorithmic bias in its data gathering from cameras, call centers and emergency vehicles.

It’s not clear how Patton’s exit will influence Utah’s response, if at all. However, it theoretically eliminates the possibility that the history of Banjo’s founder will play a role in future projects. Not that this eliminates underlying concerns about the surveillance itself. Critics are still concerned that Banjo’s system has access to vast amounts of information in real time, and it’s not clear how well the company scrubs out personal data.

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