Dear Members and Advocates,

 

The Washington Post, today, reports that the House Oversight and Reform Committee is convening for a third hearing on the topic of facial recognition technology. While some legislators are gung ho about the use of the artificial intelligence software, others are very skeptical. We are scared!

 

According to the Post article, “Just this week: A group seeking to ban facial recognition technology in Denver found it falsely matched Denver City Council members to people in the sex offender registry, in some instances with a confidence rating of 92 percent.” Undoubtedly, that snafu caused a lot of embarrassment to the members of the city council who were implicated and to the software provider, but that was just a controlled demonstration. Can you imagine the consequences if that were a real-world scenario? An image of a suspect gets run through the facial recognition software, which matched them to someone on the registry (with 92% accuracy nonetheless)! That innocent person would be immediately picked up and held in custody for months and months while pre-trial conferences and continuances passed, only to ultimately accept a plea deal to something they never did just get themselves out of jail. If that doesn’t sound possible, think of all the people who were released from death row after exculpatory DNA evidence was tested, or worse… think of all the people who ran out of time!

 

Being on a list of “likely results” in a flawed technology is scary. As things stand, people on the registry are automatically the first to be suspected, even though they are statistically unlikely to be the perpetrator. A few years ago, we wrote about the danger of going after the “usual suspect” and just last month we saw the results in action, when two Jacksonville children, Braxton and Bri’ya Williams, went missing. Immediately the news shined a spotlight on the 30 registrants living within 2 miles of their home. Ultimately, none of them (nor anyone on the registry) had anything to do with the missing children and it turned out they wandered off on their own and were found safely. That didn’t prevent the cloud of suspicion and intrusion that hung over the innocent men until they were found. Can you imagine how intense that would have been if one individual was “flagged” by facial recognition technology?

 

Thankfully, enough critics are speaking out against facial recognition technology. Not because of the potential for wrongful conviction of registered persons, but for privacy rights and other ethical concerns. That notwithstanding, when it comes to any legislation, lawmakers should not jump blindly into an idea that sounds good in theory or makes them look like they are “doing something”, unless that idea has been thoroughly vetted and there is enough empirical research done on the effectiveness of the concept or technology to demonstrate that it works. The consequences can be catastrophic.

 

In other news, this past week in the “Ex Post Facto Plus” challenge the Court upheld the findings of the Magistrate Judge in allowing the John (and Jane) Doe plaintiffs to remain anonymous. The State appealed/objected to the Magistrate Judge’s decision but the Court denied the State’s objection. Next up in that case is the Plaintiff’s response to the State’s Motion to Dismiss, which is due on or before January 30.

 

And finally, we are less than 2 weeks away from our Public Event in Broward County, “A Courageous Conversation About Sex Offenders in Our Communities.” We already have more than 100 attendees expected, including several commissioners, members of law enforcement, faculty at several local universities and members of the general public. Please help us promote this event by inviting people you know (and people you don’t know) in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties to attend. The event information and RSVP link can be found here: https://floridaactioncommittee.org/event/ . If this event is successful, we are hoping to host similar events in other parts of the State.

 

Sincerely,

 

The Florida Action Committee


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Reminders:

Mon Jan 27, 2020 – Central Broward County – 6-9pm.  Community Event “A Courageous Conversation on Sexual Offense Issues”. Includes a public viewing of “Untouchable” documentary followed by a discussion of expert panelists.  For reservations, use https://floridaactioncommittee.org/event

Free Registrant Peer Support group (no therapist) meets in Pinellas Park area on 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month at 5:30 pm.

Free therapist-led Family Support session (no registrants) meets monthly in Central Broward County.Next session is Sat Feb 1st from 11am-1pm.

Feb 20th – Local Meet-and-Greet in Lakeland (Polk County).

Seating is limited for all events. For more information, or to RSVP email [email protected] or call 904-452-8322.  No children please.


SOME HEADLINES FROM THE WEEK

 

G H-S for The Appeal: Why Keeping People With Sex Offense Convictions Off Social Media Sites Does Little To Make Those Sites Safer

Although Cuomo’s proposal purports to take sexual violence seriously, it aggressively ignores reality in favor of lazy solutions. Data from the U.S. Department of Justice indicates that most people who are held accountable for a sex offense aren’t rearrested for another sex offense. Research indicates that more than 95 percent of all arrests for sex crimes involve someone without a prior sex crime conviction…

Epidemic of Government Employees Watching Porn on Taxpayer Time

An epidemic of federal employees watching porn on taxpayer time has reached a new low at one agency where a veteran staffer “viewed child pornography on a government computer on multiple occasions,” according to an audit. The unidentified employee worked at the Bureau…

WAR: When a sex offender calls, she’s there to listen

Vicki Henry sits at the desk in her two-bedroom duplex on a recent Sunday morning and adjusts her phone headset, which she has nestled on hair with a deep magenta tinge, a rare bit of pizazz for the 72-year-old grandmother of three. Everyone else in Henry’s…

Non-Registrant Collateral Consequences in Action

Woman and 6 children attacked and vandalized because of registrant family member. What’s equally disgusting is the reporter’s suggestion that somehow the man’s children are in danger because of HIM!…

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