BOISE — Facial recognition software at City Hall does not sit well with mayoral candidate and City Council President Lauren McLean.
On Thursday, McLean sent a press release slamming Mayor Dave Bieter for a recent decision by city officials to spend $53,000 on facial recognition software from Merdian-based CompuNet at City Hall and City Hall West. She called it a step backward for transparency in the city and expressed frustration that the City Council was not more involved in the decision of whether to pursue the project.
“The administration’s decision to invest in and deploy surveillance technology without a full discussion of the impacts and rules around its use, or at minimum a conversation with City Council about the decision, isn’t acceptable to me,” McLean said in her release.
McLean is one of three candidates vying to take the helm of Boise’s government from longtime incumbent Bieter.
City purchases less than $100,000 are not voted on by City Council and are instead completed internally by city staff, which is why McLean said she was not aware of it until the Idaho Press first broke the news Saturday.
City spokesman Mike Journee said the goal of the software to alert security if someone is picked up by one of the five cameras who has been given a legal order not to enter either of the buildings or be near one of city employees. It would not be connected to any police databases and any faces entered into the system would be purged after a year and reentered, if they are still valid.
The system has not yet been installed, while an internal city committee is working on the protocol for how it would be used, but McLean said she would prefer that to be a public conversation at City Council meeting.
“There are best practices in place all over the country in dealing with surveillance technology issues. Let’s have a full study of those and ensure we’re doing right by the people of Boise. It’s unfortunate that this conversation with the community didn’t happen before the contract was signed,” McLean said in the release.
Journee said he was unfamiliar with McLean’s release Thursday night and could not comment on whether the issue would be discussed during a council meeting at that time.