On this it has been incredibly successful. Banjo has installed its own servers in the headquarters of the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), a civilian agency, and has direct, real-time access to the thousands of traffic cameras the state operates. It has jacked into 911 systems of emergency operations centers all over the state, according to contracts, emails, and other government documents obtained by Motherboard using public record requests, as well as video and audio recordings of city council meetings around the state that we reviewed.Its contract with the state says that Banjo’s technology will be deployed or is in the process of being deployed in all 29 of Utah’s counties, in the state's 13 largest cities, and in 10 other cities with “significant relevance” as well as for “campus security” for the University of Utah. A representative for Banjo told the city of Springville, Utah in January that a total of roughly 70 other cities and counties within Utah had agreed to give Banjo their data. It is also working with the Utah Department of Public Safety and the Utah Highway Patrol, according to public records.
"We essentially do most of what Palantir does, we just do it live"
At the meeting, Smith aimed to get Banjo access to 911 call information, which the company has since received, according to emails with local police. He said that "we strip out all personally identifiable information. We're not trying to ID a suspect at all. What we're trying to do is point you guys to a problem. We're telling you where the needle in a haystack is, not who that problem is."What remains unclear is how a company that proposes to tell police of "anomalies" as they happen could protect people's privacy, or operate without serious biases, two largely intractable problems with surveillance and AI.
"We don't have enough eyes to watch all the cameras, we don't have enough people to understand all of the different signals, so what we use the system to understand those signals"
"This rise of video analytics, of being able to not just monitor but analyze everything that’s going on in overwhelming streams of data is a game-changing power for police," Andrew Ferguson, author of The Rise of Big Data Policing: Surveillance, Race, and the Future of Law Enforcement, told Motherboard. "The ability to see and categorize and understand everything is something we’ve never had before. AI-infused eyesight is a superpower that we haven’t seen before in policing, and is something we really should have rules about and discuss whether that’s OK."
Do you work at Banjo or know anything else about the company’s work? We’d love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Jason Koebler securely on Signal on +1 202 505 1702, or Joseph Cox on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on josephcox, OTR chat on email@example.com , or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The emails also confirm that Banjo has installed its own server infrastructure behind UDOT's firewall. Before Banjo, the UDOT never saved video from its cameras and instead relied on them to give real-time traffic updates. Banjo is now recording the footage and making it available for 24 hours, after which it will be deleted, according to the contract, emails, and presentations Smith has given.Cantrell, of the Utah Attorney General's Office, said that his office and state police are primarily focused on the possible use of Banjo in a child abduction case, but noted that Banjo has never been used for that purpose and that there has not been a "major kidnapping event" in Utah in the last two years.
"If they are drawing inferences based on information collected from, say, security cameras, then they are going to be more likely to notice events that happen where security cameras have been placed"