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The Mystery of AI Gunshot-Detection Accuracy Is Finally Unraveling

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Wired, June 2024

Liz González’s neighborhood in East San Jose can be loud. Some of her neighbors apparently want the whole block to hear their cars, others like to light fireworks for every occasion, and occasionally there are gunshots. In February 2023, San Jose began piloting AI-powered gunshot detection technology from the company Flock Safety in several sections of the city, including Gonzalez’s neighborhood. During the first four months of the pilot, Flock’s gunshot detection system alerted police to 123 shooting incidents. But new data released by San Jose’s Digital Privacy Office shows that only 50 percent of those alerts were actually confirmed to be gunfire, while 34 percent of them were confirmed false positives, meaning the Flock Safety system incorrectly identified other sounds—such as fireworks, construction, or cars backfiring—as shooting incidents. After Flock recalibrated its sensors in July 2023, 81 percent of alerts were confirmed gunshots, 7 percent were false alarms, and 12 percent could not be determined one way or the other.

For two decades, cities around the country have used automated gunshot detection systems to quickly dispatch police to the scenes of suspected shootings. But reliable data about the accuracy of the systems and how frequently they raise false alarms has been difficult, if not impossible, for the public to find. San Jose, which has taken a leading role in defining responsible government use of AI systems, appears to be the only city that requires its police department to disclose accuracy data for its gunshot detection system. The report it released on May 31 marks the first time it has published that information.

Continue reading at Wired.

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