Los Angeles is the third largest metropolitan economy in the world and rates better than many other U.S. cities on scales of segregation and opportunity. Yet the annual count of people who are homeless saw a 25% increase in 2017. And the wealth pouring into downtown is pushing out these residents, as gentrification replaces single residence occupancy (SRO) units with live/work lofts. A recent study found just 9 usable toilets at night for a street-based population of almost 2,000, far below United Nations’ mandates for human rights and cleanliness.
As marginalized communities push back—such as a drive for Skid Row to have its own elected neighborhood council—our work in Los Angeles considers resistance to surveillance, whether by police or other state actors such as the Department of Social Services. The Los Angeles Police Department’s history of misconduct and abuse gives pause as the agency has developed some of the most sophisticated and secretive surveillance systems in the country. This includes a partnership with a CIA-backed company on the forefront of predictive policing and deployment of facial recognition software on parts of its vast CCTV network to search for “matches” to a closely guarded and problematic gang database.
Data mining on such an unprecedented scale is now being utilized in the name of fraud detection and benefits management for government services. With the increasing integration among government data systems, the questions and perspectives of the subjects of this data are more critical than ever.