NYPD must disclose facial recognition procedures deployed against Black Lives Matter protesters

The force repeatedly failed to comply with records requests filed by Amnesty International.

Eduardo Munoz / reuters

New York police must now comply with a public records request related to its use of facial recognition and other surveillance on protestors. A judge has ordered the New York Police Department to release documents pertaining to its monitoring of Black Lives Matters protests during the summer of 2020, requiring it to release 2,700 emails and other documents to the public or state why it fall"and/or allege with specificity that each document falls within one of the enumerated exemptions of Public Officers Law."

The NYPD previously rejected a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request by Amnesty International and the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project for records related to its use of facial recognition and surveillance tools on activists (as well as a subsequent appeal to that FOIL request), leading both groups to sue the law enforcement organization last year. The police agency has argued that the records request would cover over 30 million documents, and that following through would be “unreasonably burdensome."

In a ruling issued on Friday, New York Supreme Court Justice Lawrence Love rejected the NYPD's reasoning. Legal teams for the NYPD and Amnesty International have met since the lawsuit was filed, and narrowed down the number of documents to 2,700 in total, an amount that Love called “far more reasonable." The judge also ordered both Amnesty International and STOP to re-submit its FOIL request, this time tailoring it to cover the 2,700 documents in question.

A number of public records requests from Buzzfeed, Wired and other news outlets revealed that the NYPD has an extensive range of surveillance tools at its disposal. The policy agency has purchased technology such as cell site simulators, gait recognition software, X-ray vans and facial recognition software from notorious vendor Clearview AI.