Stay up to Date
Our daily roundup of San Diego’s most important stories (Monday-Friday)
In 2017, the main investigative arm of the U.S. House of Representatives reached out to San Diego with a request for documents. Congress was doing research on the spread of facial recognition and wanted to know how the city was pioneering a controversial form of technology capable of unmasking individuals.
The picture it got was less than complete.
Jesse Marx compared the documents in the committee’s possession against a larger set he compiled from local sources. He found the city’s response was overwhelmingly positive in its scope, downplaying and even omitting internal concerns while giving a stunted view of how prevalent the program really was before the state shut it down.
Crucially, Congress never received a pair of privacy impact assessments that warned of the inherent racial bias embedded in the technology and its potential for abuse. Also missing was a testimonial from an ICE agent who’d gone into local jails to ID undocumented people.
There’s still some mystery over how the response went down because most of the records originated with ARJIS, a regional law enforcement agency. But the initial complaint over the city’s response to Congress stems from a wrongful termination suit filed last year by a former San Diego employee. Her attorney alleges that she lost her job for trying to blow the whistle and that the city took steps to avoid creating a paper trail.
Indeed, the city never kept a copy of the documents that it gathered up and ultimately sent to Congress.
The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.