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Policing

We envision a society where systems of policing and incarceration are obsolete.

We seek to expose and constrain how law enforcement uses technology to expand its reach and to drive mass incarceration. We oppose police surveillance tools and reject the idea that technology can fix the problems in policing or keep communities safe. We have resisted body-worn cameras, face recognition, predictive policing, and other surveillance tools and techniques. Among our current initiatives, we seek to limit how local law enforcement agencies use forensic tools to search people’s cellphones. We also frequently work with defense attorneys on impact litigation and with local advocates to curb police surveillance, including in our own community in DC.

Latest work in this issue area

All work in this issue area
DC Council Testimony on the Police Budget and Surveillance Technologies

Consistent with the calls to defund the police by Black-led DC-based organizers, we testified that the District needs a new approach to public safety, including a significant reduction in taxpayer spending on police surveillance technologies.

Harlan Yu

Upturn, Inc. v. New York City Police Department

We are suing the NYPD for records concerning the department’s use of mobile device forensic technology. Upturn is represented on a pro-bono basis by Shearman & Sterling, LLP and the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (S.T.O.P.).

Logan Koepke, Emma Weil, Harlan Yu, and Urmila Janardan

In Support of Public Access to Legal Decisions Regarding Government Surveillance

Together with computer security experts, we filed an amicus brief in support of the unsealing of a judicial opinion regarding the federal government’s attempt to wiretap Facebook Messenger voice calls, which are end-to-end encrypted.

Harlan Yu and Logan Koepke

Letter to Axon's AI Ethics Board on Face Recognition and Body-Worn Cameras

We wrote a letter to Axon’s AI Ethics Board to express serious concerns about the direction of Axon’s product development, including the possible integration of real-time face recognition with body-worn camera systems.

Upturn, Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law, and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Selected press and events

WIRED How Police Can Crack Locked Phones—and Extract Information

WIRED covers “Mass Extraction,” Upturn’s report on mobile device forensic tools.

New York Times The Police Can Probably Break Into Your Phone

“They’re getting a window into your soul,” said Logan Koepke. “We are placing in the hands of law enforcement something that I think is a dangerous expansion of their investigatory power.”

WIRED Body Cameras Haven't Stopped Police Brutality. Here's Why

Body-worn cameras simply haven’t served the interests of communities in most places, and primarily should be seen as a policing and surveillance tool.

Global Encryption Coalition Panel: Government Hacking

Harlan joins experts from across the field to discuss government hacking and its consequences for security and privacy.