São Paulo City Hall suspends facial monitoring auction

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The city of São Paulo suspended the electronic auction for hiring a video surveillance platform, with facial recognition, to be implemented in the capital of São Paulo. The system, called Smart Sampa, was criticized by parliamentarians and civil entities.

“The city of São Paulo, through the Municipal Secretariat for Urban Security, informs that, within the policy of public transparency, it decided to suspend the electronic auction to suppress any and all doubts about the Smart Sampa program, which aims to integrate all public services, allow the monitoring of occurrences in real time and preventative public safety for the benefit of all São Paulo citizens”, said the city hall in a note.

Last week, civil society organizations called the Public Ministry (MP) of the State of São Paulo against the public notice. According to the representation, the platform could unequally impact vulnerable populations, especially black people, because facial recognition systems can make “very serious errors based on algorithmic discrimination”.

The entities highlighted that the facial recognition system already implemented in Feira de Santana, Bahia, and Rio de Janeiro and presented false positives. “The implementation of the video surveillance platform, in practice, will produce disproportionate negative impacts for the black population due to the racial bias inherent in the use of this technology, as well as for transgender people, regardless of the supposed good intentions that eventually guide the adoption of this technology by public managers”, said the entities in the representation.

Civil entities also drew attention to another feature of the platform provided for in the announcement, which consists of creating a social media monitoring system, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. “In other words, the city hall of São Paulo wants to know what citizens are doing on social networks in real time, being able to use this against them and analyze each content by feeling, categorizing each text in positive, neutral or negative.”

According to the City Hall, the personal identification feature will consider existing data in official records and documents and information stored in the databases of state and federal government security agencies. The feature will only be used by police agencies and in support of the Judiciary.

“In order to prevent criminal actions, the platform will be able to issue alerts for the analysis of technicians from the Monitoring Center, assessing the need for intervention in cases of trawlers, robberies, vandalism of vehicles, at traffic lights, theft and theft of wires, in addition to the action of criminal groups in different regions of the city, such as the gangs that operate in the central region of the city.”

The municipal administration also emphasized that Smart Sampa will not monitor social media, but will monitor the demands and needs for services expressed by São Paulo citizens in the official accounts of the city hall.

According to the City Hall, the action will allow public management to respond to the demands of the population more quickly, since several areas of management will be integrated. “It will be possible to measure the degrees of satisfaction and dissatisfaction and, based on these findings, create actions and targeted public policies.”

In the first version of the notice, published on November 17, it was expected that the cameras would be able to track suspicious people, based on skin color, face and other characteristics. “The search should be done for different types of characteristics such as color, face, clothes, body shape/physical appearance and other characteristics”. The equipment should have “onboard analytics” to identify “loitering/permanence”.

“The SMSU [Secretaria Municipal de Segurança Urbana] informs that it suppressed the terms vagrancy and color, which appeared in the first version of the public notice, as they were part of the camera’s functional parameters. Without any technical impediment, the inappropriate terms, which gave rise to misinterpretations, were removed from the text”, said the city hall in a note.

Translated to english by RJ983

From Brazil, by EBC News

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