Utah buys, then abandons, Banjo AI system
The state of Utah gave the AI company Banjo real time access to state traffic cameras, CCTV, and public safety cameras, 911 emergency systems, location data for state-owned vehicles, and other data that the company says it's combining with information collected from social media, satellites, and various apps in order to detect anomalies in the real world and alert law enforcement to crimes as they are happening. The company claims its algorithm can do all this while stripping all personal data and avoiding all risk to individual privacy. In July 2019 Banjo signed a five-year contract worth $20.7 million with Utah, and began trying to get as many state and local agencies as possible to agree to turn over their data. Despite some success in signing up data feeds, eight months later neither the Utah Attorney General's office nor signed-up police departments were able to provide a real-life case in which Banjo has been used. The company claims it can do most of what Palantir does - but in real time. At the end of April 2020, the Utah Attorney General's office suspended the use of Banjo's AI surveillance system after discovering that company founder Damien Patton was formerly part of a Ku Klux Klan group and joined a group leader in a drive-by shooting of a synagogue in a Nashville suburb. The University of Utah and numerous cities followed suit. A draft three-month $6,000 contract between Banjo and Intermountain Healthcare for a test run to track data about the pandemic and coronavirus-infected patients was also cancelled.
Writers: Jason Koebler, Emanuel Mailberg, and Joseph Cox; Thomas Burr; Leia Larsen
Publication: Motherboard; The Salt Lake Tribune