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Articles by Carlo Difundo

FBI’s Bias for Keywords

by Carlos Difundo

In September of 2021, then-Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Jill Sanborn told the Senate that the FBI did not monitor publicly available social media conversations. “It’s not within our authorities,” she told them, adding that the First Amendment barred them from doing so. It turns out that statement ...

The Problem with Some Non-Carceral Punishments

by Carlos Difundo

By 2007, the incarceration rate in the U.S. had skyrocketed to about 767 per 100,000 people. That statistic leads the free world and compares unfavorably with Russia’s 450 to 600 per 100,000 people. Many people see the problem with incarcerating nearly 1% of the population at a ...

American Bar Association’s 2023 Plea Bargain Task Force Report

by Carlos DiFundo

Trial by jury is thought by some to be a pivotal part of democracy, yet it is disappearing. For example, Texas, New York, and Pennsylvania have trial rates below 3%. Similarly, in the federal courts in 2018, some 2% went to trial while 90% pled out, and ...

The Two Faces of the FBI and DOD Facial Recognition Program

by Carlos Difundo

It is a trope of the modern spy thriller. A drone flies overhead and captures a fleeting glimpse of some person of interest. The image begins as a pixelated blur from far above. Someone yells, “Enhance the image,” and it resolves into a high-quality profile that is run through a facial recognition program, which identifies the suspect every time. In the spy thriller, civil rights, accuracy, and verisimilitude are rarely top considerations. Despite being aware of the technical and legal limitations, the FBI and Department of Defense have joined forces in an effort to make that trope a reality.

Their wish list includes the ability to identify people captured by low-level street cameras to high-flying drones while also being able to follow people from camera to camera even as the angle of cameras differ. It seems the tool also needs to be capable of working in real-time while being indexable for future searches.

It is not clear how successful they have been in light of the significant technical challenges. Even using the high-resolution images found in jail bookings where suspects face the camera in strong lighting, extant best-in-class facial recognition systems, like those developed by Microsoft and ...

Police Sketch Bot Arrives

by Carlos Difundo

It is one of those things that seems to be a great idea at first. Once in place though, it becomes something very different. That happened when two coders created Forensic Sketch AI-rtist. The tool was simple enough given the skills of OpenAI’s DALL-E2 image generation model. All they needed to do was collect a list of facial features from a witness, just as sketch artists have done for ages, and pass them on to the AI that would convert them into an image in moments rather than hours. It would save the police time and would provide “hyper-realistic” images at the crime scene.

As it turns out, the project is rife with problems. The first revolves around AI biases. Ask DALL-E2 to draw a CEO, and more often than not, the CEO is white. Biases such as that are not always easy to discover, yet they clearly exist and remain an important problem in AI research. It may take thousands of iterations for a researcher to notice that certain combinations of facial features are typically drawn with a frown, increasing the sense of menace.

No doubt, the perpetrator of a violent crime is menacing. Researchers have ...

Corporations Voice Support for Black and Brown People as They Found Cop City

by Carlo Difundo

In the wake of the George Floyd murders, large corporations publicly expressed solidarity with the oppressed even as they privately funded massive police projects. America spends up to $100 billion each year to police its residents. Nevertheless, police foundations funnel even more money into the cops’ engorged ...



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