ACLU and ACLU of Florida Sound Alarm on Lakeland’s New Nightmare-Inducing Face Surveillance Program

The organizations are seeking records to shine a light on an alarming new tracking system unleashed on an unsuspecting public

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
March 29, 2024 11:00 am

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LAKELAND, Fla. — The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Florida today filed public records requests with the Lakeland Police Department (LPD) and the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority (LDDA) demanding information about the use of an alarming facial recognition surveillance system recently installed throughout downtown Lakeland by the LDDA.

According to press reports, the LDDA deployed a network of facial recognition cameras in downtown Lakeland, subjecting everyone who goes there to invasive biometric surveillance. The system reportedly includes a database of “persons of interest,” whose photos LDDA has loaded into the system, and sends alerts in real-time to the LDDA and LPD when individuals on that list “move through a camera’s field.” An LDDA staffer speaking to The Ledger defined “people of interest” as individuals who have caused trouble or other issues downtown, but did not specify what, if any, factors are considered before deciding to track an individual.

“The public deserves to know how this deeply invasive technology is being used, who is being targeted for round-the-clock monitoring, and what policies, if any, restrain its use,” said Nathan Freed Wessler, deputy director of ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. “Real-time face surveillance poses such a massive threat to our civil rights and civil liberties that other American cities have rightly been unwilling to deploy it. Lakeland should reverse course immediately.”

The ACLU’s records requests seek policies, procedures, and training materials related to the facial recognition system, as well as information about alerts generated by the cameras and actions taken by police in response. The request also asks for information on the makeup of the “persons of interest” database and the process for adding individuals to that list.

“Floridians should not have to submit to dystopian face surveillance and risk being tracked by police every time they walk down the sidewalk,” said Daniel Tilley, legal director of the ACLU of Florida. “We will continue to fight back against this unrestrained government surveillance so that together we can protect Floridians’ constitutional rights.”

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