LPL Press


FBI Provides Chicago Police With Fake Online Identities for “Social Media Exploitation” Team The Intercept May 2022 Lucy Parsons Labs took part in an interview about the Chicago Police Department’s use of fake identities online, including using the accounts of informants.

ShotSpotter’s deafening impact Chicago Reader, May 2022 To build a map of ShotSpotter locations, the Reader and the independent research organization Lucy Parsons Labs compared work permits filed by Motorola Solutions—which installs surveillance devices for the city—and the Office of Emergency Management and Communications with data from the Department of Transportation. Our analysis located more than 750 apparent ShotSpotter devices spread throughout the city, including in districts the CPD has not publicly acknowledged as having them.

How Do I Prepare My Phone for a Protest Amsterdam News, May 2022 One thing demonstrators should be aware of before they head out is that their cellphones may subject them to surveillance tactics by law enforcement. If your cellphone is on and unsecured, not only can your location be tracked, but your messages and the content of your phone may also be retrieved by police either if they take custody of your phone or later by warrant or subpoena.

Abolitionists Are Fighting Against the Surveillance State in Their Neighborhoods Truthout, December 2021 Kelly Hayes: Welcome to “Movement Memos,” a Truthout podcast about things you should know if you want to change the world. I’m your host, writer and organizer, Kelly Hayes. We talk a lot on this show about building the relationships and analysis we need to create movements that can win. Today, we are talking about the surveillance state, and how a coalition of activists in Chicago is seeking to interrupt its work. The surveillance technology known as ShotSpotter sounds like something out of a modern dystopian novel: a sea of microphones, scattered across oppressed communities, supposedly to detect gunshots, for the purpose of community safety.

Beneath the Surface is a project that investigates gender-based violence at the hands of the police Invisible Institute, November 2021 Beneath the Surface uses machine learning and narrative justice to better understand how marginalized communities experience police violence. The Invisible Institute has worked to make police complaint data public for years, but even when complaint data is public, significant information remains inaccessible. We hope this investigative journalism will strengthen the testimonies of, and advocacy efforts for, people most affected by advancing public conversation about policing, safety, and gender, while holding data science research accountable to lived experience and increasing the accessibility of public data.

Private Eyes: CPD pays for access to private security cameras South Side Weekly, May 2021 Those cameras are part of a network the City has quietly expanded since at least 2009 by subsidizing security cameras for renters, homeowners, and businesses who connect them to the department’s surveillance centers.

Op-Ed: End the City’s ShotSpotter Contract South Side Weekly, April 2021 ShotSpotter is only a single part of the surveillance network CPD and the City have built under the guise of public safety. The City similarly claims its automatic license plate readers deter carjackings (carjackings are up); says its gang database is effective (it’s woefully unreliable); promised its Summer Operations Center’s network of cameras and gunshot detectors would deter shootings (gun murders exploded, and the SOC surveilled a school during last year’s protests).

“That’s Bogus as Hell!”: Getting Under the Hood of Surveillance Technologies in an Out of School STEM Learning Environment International Conferences of the Learning Sciences, June 2020 This study investigates how opportunities to learn about the ethics of advanced technologies emerged and were negotiated through interaction amongst students and instructors in YPRPT, an out of school STEM learning environment. We present a microethnographic analysis of a single pedagogical activity organized around GeoMedia, a tool we designed to mimic authentic surveillance technologies currently used by numerous law enforcement agencies. Our findings detail how the organization and unfolding of learning in the focal activity created opportunities for students to explore “under the hood” of advanced technologies, and to feel a sense of excitement and awe at the possibilities and perils of social media surveillance. Additionally, our findings show how opportunities to learn were not solely constructed through apriori pedagogical design, but also emerged through in-the-moment instructional decisions and sequences of activity. This study has implications for participatory design possibilities grounded in interdisciplinary collaboration between historically disparate disciplines like computer science and civics.

YPRPT: Documentary Film Screenings Block Museum Presents, June 2020 In partnership with the TREE Lab in Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy, the Block Museum presented a special online screening, on June 17, 2020, of three documentaries produced by students of the Young People’s Race, Power, and Technology (YPRPT) project. YPRPT is an afterschool program, developed in partnership with community partners including Evanston Township High School, Family Matters, Endangered Peace, and the Lucy Parsons Labs, that brings together NU undergraduate students with youth and community members to jointly investigate the ethical and social dimensions of specific law enforcement technologies such as facial recognition and gang databases.

Identifiers of Detained Children Have Implications for Data Security and Estimation Humans Rights Data Analysis Group, January 2020 This report details the dataset used for this analysis, the investigative steps taken to understand the relationship between alien numbers and dates of entry into detention facilities, possibilities for estimation, and the potential leakage of sensitive data. Read the full report here.

The Secretive Company That Might End Privacy as We Know It The New York Times, January 2020 Photos “could be covertly taken with telephoto lens and input into the software, without ‘burning’ the surveillance operation,” the detective wrote in the email, provided to The Times by two researchers, Beryl Lipton of MuckRock and Freddy Martinez of Open the Government. They discovered Clearview late last year while looking into how local police departments are using facial recognition.

Chicago Cops Use Social Media to Track Grieving Families of Gunshot Victims OneZero, December 2019 Hundreds of pages of internal documents obtained via FOIA requests by the ACLU of Illinois and the Lucy Parsons Labs, a Chicago-based police transparency and accountability nonprofit, reveals for the first time how the CPD surveils the social media accounts of victims of gun violence, as well as their friends and family members. Though the surveillance is conducted in an effort to gather further information about shootings, police officers also gather public social media content from individuals who apparently have little or nothing to do with the crime.

Chicago Police Executed More Than 11,000 Search Warrants in Mostly Poor Neighborhoods Over 5-Year Period Reason, July 2019 Data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Lucy Parson Labs, a police accountability and transparency nonprofit in Chicago, shows that Chicago police executed 11,247 search warrants between 2012 and 2017, most of them heavily concentrated in the South and West Side of the city.

This Predictive Policing Company Compares Its Software to ‘Broken Windows’ Policing Vice, June 2018 Police training documents from PredPol, a company that sells predictive policing software, shows that the company considers its software to be comparable to a “broken windows” policing strategy that has led to overpolicing of minority communities and is widely believed to be ineffective. The documents, obtained through a freedom of information request by digital rights group Lucy Parsons Labs from the Elgin, Illinois Police Department, include police training materials produced by PredPol and contracts between the city—a suburb of Chicago—and the company.

How Police Are Watching You on Social Media
City Lab from the Atlantic, December 2016
Lucy Parsons Labs obtained documents showing how police departments in Cook County monitor and shape social media—and how police create fake accounts to get nonpublic social media data.

How Chicago Police Convinced Courts to Let Them Track Cellphones Without a Warrant
The Intercept, October 2016
Lucy Parsons Labs released almost 300 pages of FOIA documents related to CPD use of Stingrays to journalists at The Intercept.

Inside the Chicago Police Department’s Secret Budget
Chicago Reader, September 2016
In collaboration with journalist Joel Handley and the Chicago Reader, Lucy Parsons Labs published an investigation into the use of civil asset forfeiture by Chicago Police. We show how Chicago Police seize millions from citizens and how they use this money to fund narcotics units and buy controversial surveillance equipment. You can view a full visualization of our investigations results.

Internal police records point to the identity of the officer who fatally shot Bettie Jones and Quintonio LeGrier
Chicago Reader, January 2016
Lucy Parsons Labs worked with a journalist to obtain public records that confirmed the identity of a Chicago police officer involved in the fatal shooting of an unarmed woman.

In the News

Youth as philosophers of technology Mind, Culture, and Activity, April 2022 We explore the idea of youth as philosophers of technology within a university-community partnership in the Chicago area. Youth as philosophers of technology decenters computing practices such as design, making, coding, and tinkering to instead foreground learning how to decode and unmake tech’s relationship with power through artistic, moral and humanistic inquiry. Our analysis explores the ethical, relational sense-making of two high school students who created a film that examines how technology is used to surveil immigrants an to resist such surveillance. This study has implications for conceptualizing technology learning and ethical youth sensemaking.

‘You Have to Laugh at the Ways Agencies Will Evade Giving You Information’ CounterSpin interview with Dave Maass on transparency and journalism Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, April 2022 Now, the only reason that we know Clearview AI exists is because a couple of researchers, named Freddy Martinez and Beryl Lipton, filed public records requests around the country related to it. And Freddy Martinez, specifically, works for an organization called Open the Government, and he also is involved with a local organization called Lucy Parsons Labs in Chicago. And he had found out about Clearview and started filing tons of requests.

The FOILies: recognizing the year’s worst in government transparency. Monterey County Weekly, March 2022 Clearview’s existence was initially revealed via public records requests filed by Open the Government and MuckRock. In September 2021, as it faced still-ongoing litigation in Illinois, Clearview made an unusual and worrying move against transparency and journalism: it served subpoenas on Open the Government, its researcher Freddy Martinez, and Chicago-based Lucy Parsons Labs (none of whom are involved in the lawsuit).

Rogers Park Alderwoman Opposes Controversial Crime Ordinance Loyola Phoenix, March 2022 Their letter cited a Lucy Parsons Lab Chicago which found that between 2009 and 2015 CPD focused their civil asset forfeiture efforts on the South and West sides of the city, targeting minority communities.

Push to Sue Gang Members Draws Criticism Chicago Justice Project, February 2022 A 2016 report by Lucy Parsons Labs and the Chicago Reader found that the Chicago Police Department was seizing millions of dollars in assets from city residents each year, with the funds forming an “off-the-books” revenue stream insulated from public scrutiny. The seizures, the report also found, disproportionately impacted poor and minority communities. In 2017, the Illinois legislature passed a law aimed at curtailing the practice of civil asset forfeiture through more robust protections for property owners and stiffer transparency requirements for law enforcement.

‘Rage Induced Policing’: Hacked Documents Reveal D.C. Police’s Aggressive Robbery Crackdowns The Appeal, December 2021 The documents were published in May by Distributed Denial of Secrets, the transparency collective behind BlueLeaks and other recent high-profile document dumps, and made searchable by Lucy Parsons Labs, a Chicago-based collaborative.

Lightfoot’s Plan to Go After Gangs’ Profits Stalls After Pushback WTTW, November 2021 Nearly two months ago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot touted her plan to fight crime by suing gang leaders in civil court as a “critical piece of legislation” that would “restore safety and peace” to Chicago neighborhoods “under siege” from gang violence. … ‘Representatives of the ACLU of Illinois and Lucy Parsons Labs, which supports transparency and police reform efforts, said the matter had fallen off their radar — but they were tracking the issue, in case the mayor breathed new life into the proposal’

A Year After Expansion Announced, Dallas Police’s Starlight Surveillance Is Back to Square One The Dallas Observer, September 2021 Freddy Martinez, executive director of digital surveillance watchdog group Lucy Parsons Labs, warned that since Starlight’s private partners enter into agreements with Safer Dallas Better Dallas — not DPD or the city of Dallas — its operations are shielded from public oversight.

Could Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Plan To Sue Gang Leaders Make Violence Worse? WBEZ, September 2021

Clearview AI drops subpoenas of its critics Politico, September 2021 Clearview AI drops subpoenas of its critics. The move comes after POLITICO reported Friday that Clearview had subpoenaed internal documents from watchdog group Open The Government, one of its top employees and the police accountability nonprofit Lucy Parsons Labs.

‘Chilling’: Facial recognition firm Clearview AI hits watchdog groups with subpoenas Politico, September 2021 The firm served subpoenas in August to civil society coalition Open The Government, its policy analyst Freddy Martinez and the police accountability nonprofit that he’d previously founded, Lucy Parsons Labs — demanding any correspondence they’d had with journalists about Clearview and its leaders, as well as information they’d uncovered about the company and its founders in public records requests, over the last four years.

In Chicago, Controversy Mounts Over the Use of Gunshot Detection Sensors The Trace, August 2021 In an internal performance overview obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the nonprofit transparency group Lucy Parsons Labs and shared exclusively with The Trace, ShotSpotter reported that during the first six months of 2021, its system successfully identified gunshots in Chicago more than 97 percent of the time. That rate was calculated based on details reported to ShotSpotter by the Chicago Police Department, but it included thousands of what the company called “probable” gunshots. There were no listed false positives — instances in which sounds identified as gunshots turned out to be something else.

Chicago cops are accused of fabricating evidence from ShotSpotter technology used by departments around the US that detects gunshots with artificial intelligence and led to fatal police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo The Daily Mail UK, July 2021 Freddy Martinez, director of the nonprofit the Lucy Parsons Lab, told WTTW, a PBS affiliate: ‘ShotSpotter is not found in any majority-white neighborhoods, obviously we know that it’s not the case that there’s no gun violence in those neighborhoods. So what happens is that you have police officers thinking there’s gunfire, racing to the scene where black and brown people are hanging out, and really just thinking that everyone is an armed suspect. It’s quite dangerous and leads to very harmful interactions, which is one of the things we saw with the Adam Toledo case. If it wasn’t for ShotSpotter, if it wasn’t for the high-risk foot chase, then maybe that child would still be alive today.’’

Massive hack exposes emails from top Lightfoot officials The Chicago Sun Times, June 2021

Lightfoot’s office was blindsided by CPD’s use of controversial facial recognition software — then raised serious concerns The Chicago Sun Times, May 2021 Hacked emails show that the Mayor and her staff were blindsided by CPD’s use of Clearview AI- then raised serious concerns over the use of the technology.

Jones Day documents, hacked in vendor breach, reveal Chicago drone program details ABA Journal, May 2021 Jones Day documents, hacked in vendor breach, reveal Chicago drone program details

Massive hack exposes emails from top Lightfoot officials The Chicago Sun Times, May 2021

Emails from Jones Day vendor breach have Chicago officials playing defense Reuters, May 2021 Transparency activists at Distributed Denial of Secrets and Lucy Parsons Labs over the past two weeks released hacked internal emails that were sent by current and former city of Chicago employees, including police officials.

Lightfoot Canceled Her Chicago Tribune Subscription Over Reporting She Didn’t Like, Leaked Emails Show Block Club Chicago, May 2021 The letter was revealed in an email the mayor sent to her staff. It’s one of tens of thousands of city emails exposed by Clop, a ransomware group, and made more readily available by whistleblower nonprofit Distributed Denial of Secrets and the local transparency group Lucy Parsons Labs, according to the Sun Times.

A disturbing outlook for dissent My Journal Carrier, October 2020 Established as counter-terrorism intelligence units after Sept. 11, 2001, to take in, analyze and share terrorist plots between federal, state and local police, dozens of fusion centers exist across the U.S. But far from an efficient network of intelligence sharing, they have become a sprawling national security apparatus dedicated to monitoring dissent far beyond their original statutory mission.

Feds are treating BlueLeaks organization as ‘a criminal hacker group,’ documents show The Verge, August 2020 “A criminal hacker group Distributed Denial of Secrets (DDS) on 19 June 2020 conducted a hack-and-leak operation targeting federal, state, and local law enforcement databases, probably in support of or in response to nationwide protests stemming from the death of George Floyd,” the bulletin reads. “DDS leaked ten years of data from 200 police departments, fusion centers, and other law enforcement training and support resources around the globe, according to initial media and DHS reporting. DDS previously conducted hack-and-leak activity against the Russian Government.” The document was obtained by Lucy Parsons Lab researcher Brian Waters through an Illinois Freedom of Information Act request with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.

Chicago police arrested more people for protesting than for looting in early days of unrest, contradicting original claims The Chicago Reporter June 2020 New data released by the Chicago Police Department from the weekend following the death of George Floyd shows that just 20% of arrests during the first few days of unrest were for looting-related crimes, contradicting earlier claims by CPD that looting made up the majority of arrests that weekend. Most of the 1,052 arrests were actually for protest-related charges.

It’s Time to Think Critically About the UChicago Crime Lab The Chicago Maroon, June 2020 Even more troubling is the lack of public transparency in the Crime Lab’s collaboration with the Chicago Police Department (CPD). Groups like the Lucy Parsons Lab have claimed that as a recipient of government contracts, the Crime Lab (like the CPD) ought to be subject to the Freedom of Information Act. After having their request for correspondence between the Crime Lab and the CPD declined, the Lucy Parsons Lab has filed suit and are awaiting summary judgement.

How do I prepare my phone for a protest? Fast Company, June 2020 “All protesting and all marches are a series of balancing acts of different priorities and acceptable risks,” says Mason Donahue, a member of Lucy Parsons Labs, a Chicago-based group of technologists and activists that run digital security training classes and have investigated the Chicago Police Department’s use of surveillance technology. “There is a lot of communication ability that goes away if you don’t bring a phone period,” he says. So if you’re going to take your phone, you might want to do some of the following things to minimize risk.

Open Justice Baltimore creates an openly searchable database of Baltimore’s cops Baltimore Fishbowl, May 2019 Co-organizer and developer Dan Staples said he was inspired to bring such a project to Baltimore after he met the chief technology officer of Lucy Parsons Labs, which created the OpenOversight platform, in 2017.

Victory! Illinois Supreme Court Protects Biometric Privacy Electronic Frontier Foundation, January 2019 Today the Illinois Supreme Court ruled unanimously that when companies collect biometric data like fingerprints or face prints without informed opt-in consent, they can be sued. Users don’t need to prove an injury like identity fraud or physical harm—just losing control of one’s biometric privacy is injury enough. The EFF, along with ACLU, CDT, the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, PIRG, and Lucy Parsons Labs, filed an amicus curiae brief urging the Illinois Supreme Court to adopt a robust interpretation of BIPA.

A New Database Seeks to Catalog—and Hold Accountable—Police Officers Across the U.S. Pacific Standard Magazine, December 2018 Pacific Standard spoke with Camille Fassett, a researcher with Lucy Parsons Labs, about the OpenOversight program—a public database indexing law enforcement officers by name, photo, incidents, and more.

PredPol manual offers a look into the world of policing pre-crime Muckrock, July 2018 An Illinois Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Chicago-based Lucy Parsons Labs has led to the release of a “Best Practices and Training Guide” for the PredPol predictive policing software.

This Predictive Policing Company Compares Its Software to ‘Broken Windows’ Policing
Vice, June 2018
Responsive records from a Lucy Parsons Labs public records request provide details of predictive policing software

Chicago Police Department coaches officers on how to avoid the same social media surveillance they themselves employ Muckrock, April 2018 How do police officers lockdown their online presence? A document recently released by the Chicago Police Department to Lucy Parsons Labs provides clues.The document, entitled “Protecting Yourself - Social Networking & Doxxing,” is marked “Law Enforcement Sensitive (LES) For Official Use Only (FOUO).” It details the steps recommended to CPD personnel for securing their social media accounts and more.

Public records shed little light on Chicago Police’s bizarre choice of profile picture Muckrock, April 2018 A public records request by Lucy Parsons Labs for more information on the “development, design, and creation” of this image resulted in a brief reply from the department.

Advocating for Change: How Lucy Parsons Labs Defends Transparency in Chicago
Electronic Frontier Foundation, March 2018
Spotlight on the work Lucy Parsons Labs does within Chicago - an interview with Freddy Martinez

Lucy Parsons Labs sues Chicago over refusal to release #AmazonHQ2 proposal
MuckRock, February 2018
Lucy Parsons Labs fights to release documents regarding the bidding for the Amazon HQ2 Headquarters by the City of Chicago

The Contradictions of Chicago Police’s Secretive List Chicago Mag, August 2017 Regardless, police have declined to release data on how many people are involved in the Custom Notifications program. A Freedom of Information request from Freddy Martinez, a data activist who runs the nonprofit Lucy Parsons Labs, revealed that in 2016, 1,024 notifications were attempted, 558 were completed, and only 26 people attended a call-in, where police officers, social workers, and others offer support services. (Each of the notification attempts, says Mallette, could involve a visit to someone’s house. A completed notification, meanwhile, would include a face-to-face meeting.) The department makes it clear that for those who have interacted with the Custom Notifications program and are later charged with a crime, “the highest possible charges will be pursued.”

Chicago civil asset forfeiture hits poor people the hardest The Washington Post, June 2017 Reason magazine and Lucy Parsons Labs — a police oversight nonprofit — obtained the location of thousands of forfeitures in Chicago and plotted them on a map. The results are pretty striking.

Chicago Police can’t find records of cellphone extraction tech it had previously released Muckrock, April 2017 Privacy activist Freddy Martinez had already received Cellebrite documents CPD now claims do not exist

New website helps public identify Chicago police officers in misconduct complaints
Washington Times, October 2016
Freddy Martinez on OpenOversight

Anonymously Leaking Documents to Journalists in Chicago Just Got Easier
Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV, March 2016
Coverage of the Lucy Parsons Labs SecureDrop

David vs. Goliath: Baby-faced millennial takes on Chicago Police Department
WGN-TV Chicago, May 2015
Freddy Martinez on Chicago police cellphone tracking

Tales from the Crypto Party
Featured on the Chicago Reader front cover, April 2015
Freddy Martinez and Jennifer Helsby discuss CryptoParties hosted by Lucy Parsons Labs, events designed to pass on knowledge about how to protect yourself in the digital space.

Chicago owes lawyers over $120,000 for defense against two stingray cases
Ars Technica, April 2015
Freddy Martinez discusses his FOIA lawsuits against the Chicago Police

Freddy Martinez Is Exposing Chicago Cops’ NSA-Style Surveillance Gear
VICE, March 2015
Coverage of Freddy Martinez’s second suit against the Chicago police department to uncover how they’ve used Stingray technology.

Twitter Facebook