Barry Friedman speaks on ethical questions of policing AI

Policing Project Director Barry Friedman

Policing Project Director Barry Friedman

Policing Project Director Barry Friedman recently spoke with MuckRock regarding the move by safety tech company Axon to shift its production focus from its Taser stun guns to providing increased artificial intelligence services for police departments around the country.

Axon’s AI services would include databases and streamlined analysis that would pull from data collected by many of the largest police departments in the U.S. The result is the potentially largest compilation of law enforcement data in the nation, a dataset with significant implication for its potential to inform and influence AI models for policing. Such models have led to questions about the potential for bias within AI algorithms, as well as infringement on civil liberties.

Friedman, who serves on the Axon AI and Policing Technology Ethics Board, noted that while many technology companies, including Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, have released statements in support of legislative regulations of AI, the collection and analysis of police department data presents additional questions.

“Regulating AI is one thing; regulating the aggregation and the sharing of databases is another,” Friedman said. “And that’s going to be a hugely critical issue to all of our lives in the future - what are the controls put on aggregation in terms of who has access and under what circumstances or even whether aggregation should happen at all.”

The Policing Project believes that there must be transparency and public debate around the adoption of new policing technologies. Visit this page for more on our work in Regulating Policing Technology.