webnexttech | Evansville police officer resigned after misusing Clearview AI software, department says
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EVANSVILLE — An Evansville Police Department officer resigned earlier this month after an audit showed he used Clearview AI facial recognition technology for “personal purposes” over a span of months, Chief of Police Phil Smith disclosed during a news conference Tuesday. Smith told reporters that the officer, Michael Eric Dockery, had used the powerful software suite in ways that violated Clearview AI’s terms of service, an outcome that some privacy advocates have long pointed to as a potential risk for departments that adopt the technology. Dockery, a nearly 5-year veteran of the department, resigned on June 5 after Smith placed him on a 21-day unpaid suspension, according to a Police Merit Commission meeting agenda. Smith said he recommended that Dockery be fired, but Dockery resigned before the merit commission could take such a step. The revelation that an officer had misused facial recognition software pushed the department to institute new safeguards against abuses, Smith said, including the introduction of mandatory, quarterly audits. The incident involving Dockery was “not a criminal matter,” according to Smith. The Courier & Press first published a report about the EPD’s use of Clearview AI tools last year after the newspaper reviewed police records and company documents. At the time, public officials outside the department said they knew little about how the technology was used. The EPD has maintained that the software is a highly effective investigative tool and that its officers and detectives use it responsibly. Clearview AI, a New York-based technology company, operates one of the most powerful facial recognition suites in the world and has obtained billions of what it has called “face print” images from social media sites, mugshot repositories and even payment transaction applications. More: Experts voice concern over police use of facial recognition tech in Evansville Law enforcement agencies who purchase the software can compare images obtained during investigations with Clearview AI’s database without the need to obtain a warrant. Exactly who Dockery searched and why was not immediately clear. Last year, the Courier & Press reported that EPD detectives have cited Clearview AI results in court records when they sought a person’s arrest, a practice that had gone largely unpublicized and that has drawn criticism from some legal and privacy advocates. Smith: Misuse discovered while preparing to renew Clearview AI software licenses Reading from a prepared statement on Tuesday, Smith said Dockery’s improper use of Clearview AI software first hit the department’s radar in March. “When we were in talks with Clearview AI about renewing our subscription – and we were looking into how many licenses to renew – we performed an audit on the usage of Clearview AI by our officers,” Smith’s statement read, in part. “At that point, we observed an anomaly of very high usage of the software by an officer whose work output was not indicative of the amount of inquiry searches that they had.” According to Clearview AI, its facial recognition software suite requires law enforcement officers to enter a “case number” before they can perform searches. Smith said Dockery exploited that safety process to perform the improper searches. “A closer look at the digital footprint left behind revealed that this officer was utilizing an actual case number associated with an actual incident to disguise the searches of people that had nothing to do with the incident,” Smith said. “We further located the images that this officer searched for, and they were unlike the types of images searched during legitimate investigations.” According to Smith, Dockery ran photos depicting nine different people through Clearview between April 2023 and December 2023 that had no connection to police investigations. Three of the people reportedly told the police that they knew Dockery and had asked him to run their photos through Clearview AI, which Smith said still constituted an improper “personal use.” The six others were unaware at the time. During the probe, EPD contacted all nine and notified them about the searches, Smith added. The internal probe regarding Dockery is closed, according to Smith, and it found that Dockery had not violated any state or federal laws by performing the unofficial searches. In response to a reporter’s question on Tuesday, Smith said the EPD had submitted the necessary paperwork to secure renewals of its Clearview AI software licenses. The department had not discussed the incident with Clearview AI. “You guys are the first people we talked to,” Smith told reporters. “We thought it was very important to speak to our community about it first and let our community know because we stood before everyone when we got the software and said that we would be using it the right way, and if we weren’t, that we were going to take swift action. And we wanted to let the community know that we meant that.” Going forward, Smith said the EPD would perform quarterly audits of Clearview AI usage. Under Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act, documents related to such audits would likely be available for public review if a formal request is filed with the department. Houston may be contacted at houston.harwood@courierpress.com This article originally appeared on Evansville Courier & Press: Police chief: Evansville officer misused Clearview AI technology

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