This week’s FOIA round-up: Amazon pitches facial recognition software to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and widespread sexual abuse of students by Chicago Public Schools employees

This week’s FOIA round-up: Amazon pitches facial recognition software to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and widespread sexual abuse of students by Chicago Public Schools employees

Plus, NASA loses “a significant amount” of space artifacts

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Edited by JPat Brown

In this week’s FOIA round-up, emails show correspondence between Amazon and Immigration and Customs Enforcement representatives regarding the tech giant’s facial recognition software, public and confidential data from Chicago revealed a decade of sexual abuse of students throughout public schools, and a significant amount of National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s historical artifacts have gone missing or been taken in the agency’s lifetime, highlighting flawed storage and tracking procedures.

See a great use of public records we missed? Send over your favorite FOIA stories via email, on Twitter, or on Facebook, and maybe we’ll include them in the next round-up. And if you’d like even more inspiration, read past round-ups.

Amazon and ICE discuss facial recognition

The Daily Beast reported from emails made public that Amazon met with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement over the summer to recommend its facial recognition system. The software, called “Rekognition,” can identify people from real-time video in a second.

The emails between ICE and Amazon representatives were originally released by the Project on Government Oversight. The emails include a follow-up to the meeting in which an Amazon Web Services federal sales principal followed up on the meeting’s action items. Those action items included: a workshop to address “a big HSI problem” and an AWS artificial intelligence/machine learning technology briefing focused on several of the company’s technologies, including Rekognition.

With Amazon’s facial recognition technology, ICE could automate surveillance of public spaces for undocumented immigrants. The Daily Beast reported that surveillance in “sensitive locations” like medical facilities, places of worship, and schools could discourage people from seeking out vital services for fear of being identified and detained.

Read the full story here.

NASA artifacts lost in the void

Motherboard documented NASA’s failed logging procedures that have allowed “a significant amount of historic personal property” to be lost or taken from its facilities.

Based on an audit by the NASA Office of Inspector General, Motherboard reported that NASA’s artifact losses included a bag of lunar material collected by the Apollo 11 astronauts, three Apollo 11 command module handles, and a prototype of NASA’s Lunar Roving Vehicle. Motherboard had previously filed a FOIA request that revealed a U.S. Air Force historian had spotted the rover and reported it to NASA, but the agency didn’t retrieve the artifact before it was sold to a junkyard.

Though NASA’s storage and identification procedures have improved, the agency still does not ensure loan agreements for its equipment are signed by all parties.

Read the full story here.

Chicago Public Schools fail to protect students from sexual abuse

In an investigation that included police data, public records, and confidential records, the Chicago Tribune revealed widespread sexual abuse within the city’s public school district accompanied by administrative failures to keep students safe.

The Tribune identified 72 school employees as alleged perpetrators in the last decade through its analysis, which included numbers, investigative reports, and disciplinary actions from the district. The Tribune also analyzed police data, state licensure hearings, and court documents pertaining to criminal charges, prosecutions, and civil lawsuits filed by victims.

When students summoned the courage to disclose abuse, teachers and principals failed to alert child welfare investigators or police despite the state’s mandated reporter law.

Ineffective background checks exposed students to educators with criminal convictions and arrests for sex crimes against children. And Chicago Public Schools failed to disclose to other districts that past employees had resigned after investigators found credible evidence of abuse and harassment.

Whether the sexual attacks were brutal rapes, frightening verbal come-ons or “creepy,” groping touches, the students often felt betrayed by school officials and wounded for years.

Read the full story here.

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Image by Randallbritten via Wikimedia Commons and is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0