With access to images of thousands of unknowing New Yorkers offered up by NYPD officials, IBM created new facial recognition search features that allow other police departments to search camera footage for images of people by hair color, facial hair, and skin tone.
The NYPD confirmed that select counter-terrorism officials had access to a pre-released version of IBM’s program, which included skin tone search capabilities, as early as the summer of 2012.
Civil liberties advocates contend that New Yorkers should have been made aware of the potential use of their physical data for a private company’s development of surveillance technology.
IBM declined to comment on its use of NYPD footage to develop the software. However, in an email response to questions, the NYPD did tell The Intercept that “Video, from time to time, was provided to IBM to ensure that the product they were developing would work in the crowded urban NYC environment.