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Libertas Institute calls for audit of state’s contract with surveillance system

Banjo CEO Damien Patton speaking at the Silicon Slopes conference. Banjo has faced an onslaught of controversy since reports of Patton's earlier ties to the KKK surfaced. (PHOTO: Team Banjo Instagram)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The saga surrounding a Park City tech start-up continues as more groups call for an audit of Banjo’s contract with state agencies. 

The Utah Attorney General’s Office has announced they are suspending their $21 million contract with “Banjo.” It comes after the company’s founder, Damien Patton, admitted to having past ties to the Ku Klux Klan as a teenager. Patton also is confirming earlier reports that he took part in a drive-by shooting of a synagogue in Tennessee in 1990.

In an earlier statement, the Attorney General’s Office said it is, “shocked and dismayed at reports that Banjo’s founder had any affiliation with any hate group or groups in his youth. Neither the Attorney General nor anyone in the Attorney General’s Office were aware of these affiliations or actions. They are indefensible.”

Audit request

Now, some groups are calling for a full audit of the state’s contract with the data collection company. 

Connor Boyack with the Libertas Institute says he’s less concerned about the founder’s past history, but more worried about the technology.

“When it comes to privacy [and] surveillance, we need to be extremely careful,” says Boyack.

According to Boyack, he met with the Banjo team last year and was given a tour of their offices. Following that meeting, he came away with some concerns regarding their practices.

“We were very concerned about all of their social media scraping and the validity of it,” he explains. “I care less about his (Patton’s) past than I do about the implications of this technology being used without oversight. With so many unanswered questions.”

Response from the AG’s Office

In light of Boyack’s claims and requests, the Office of the Attorney General provided a statement to KSL Newsradio.

It reads:

“Attorney General Reyes has already called for an independent 3rd party forensic audit of Banjo technology. Especially after this week’s revelations, this is crucial in order to verify that the underlying algorithms contain no racial or religious bias and that their assertions about protecting citizen privacy are accurate. A similar audit was already scheduled in June. But this new information is accelerating that schedule. While we are still hopeful that the Banjo system will help law enforcement save lives, it is essential that we have satisfactory answers before we proceed.”