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ACLU Colorado opposes AI review of Aurora PD body camera video, citing privacy and surveillance concerns

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Posted at 8:52 PM, Mar 29, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-29 23:15:29-04

AURORA, Colo. — The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado said it is opposed to artificial intelligence (AI) analysis of Aurora Police Department’s body camera video.

Interim Police Chief Art Acevedo announced his intention to employ the technology earlier this month, and the Aurora City Council approved a $250,000 contract with the company, Truleo, during its Monday meeting.

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Anaya Robinson, a senior policy strategist for ACLU Colorado, said he is concerned the technology could be used to surveil civilians in Aurora.

“There’s definitely civil rights and civil liberties issues,” Robinson said. “There are concerns about privacy, concerns about overreach with surveillance.”

On its website, Truleo says its mission is to “improve trust in the police with body camera analytics.” The technology combs through every minute of audio caught on body cameras to analyze the professionalism of officers, and to flag potential concerns in hostility or de-escalation tactics.

“Analyzing an officer’s voice through body cam footage is one thing, and I think that portion can potentially prove to be useful in some cases,” Robinson said. “But when we look at it in conjunction with the fact that civilians’ voices are also going to be analyzed — and think about the reality that those civilian are not, unlike the officers, trained to remain calm in stressful situations — we’re already starting on an uneven playing field.”

ACLU Colorado is not alone in raising these concerns. The Seattle Police Department used Truleo’s AI on its body camera footage, but discontinued its use earlier this year after pushback from local advocates and the ACLU of Washington. Still, a handful of police departments across the country continue to use the technology, and now Aurora PD is set to join them.

Earlier this month, Denver7 spoke with Acevedo about the implementation of AI and the concerns over privacy. He said each officer will have digital “voice print” taken by the program to ensure it hones in on Aurora police officers and not citizens. Screen recordings of the program on Truleo’s website show it sharing the names of officers in recordings, but no identifying information for other voices captured.

“I think it’s going to improve policing. I think it’s going to increase trust,” Acevedo said. “And most importantly, for the privacy concerns that come up, the tool automatically redacts personal identifying information of the civilians captured by our video.”

Robinson, though, said ACLU Colorado is still concerned about the technology’s long-term use and will be closely following its rollout.

“Just because they say they’re isolating the officer’s voice, doesn’t mean that they have to. This technology isn’t regulated,” Robinson said. “If you can isolate one person’s voice from body cam footage, you can isolate anybody’s voice from body cam footage.”

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