Eye in the sky: the billionaires funding a surveillance project above Baltimore

“What I like about their philanthropy is that they are bold and they are more willing to take risks and be controversial than your typical foundation,” said Aaron Dorfman, president and CEO of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, a research and advocacy group. “That said,” he added, citing their pensions work and the surveillance scheme, “some of the things that they are trying to make happen in the world are of dubious merit.

“The problem here is that policing is a public good and decisions about how to do policing ought to be made by the public and in the sunshine with full transparency. In this case you had none of that – you had donors who thought it would be a good idea to test this new technology and a police force that was willing to take their money and try this out and the community had no idea this was going on. To me that’s a big problem.”
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The Arnolds, who for the Baltimore project gave money personally rather than through their foundation, turned down an interview request, via a representative. “We invest in a wide array of criminal justice issues and policies, including strategies for improving the clearance rate of criminal cases,” they said in a statement.

“One such strategy is to use technology to assist police in early-stage investigations. To that end, we personally provided financial support for the aerial surveillance tool being piloted in Baltimore. As a society, we should seek to understand whether these technologies yield significant benefits, while carefully weighing any such benefits against corresponding tradeoffs to privacy.”

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