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The Utah Attorney General’s Office suspends contract with Banjo over its founder’s past ties to the KKK

(File photo: Getty Images)

PARK CITY, Utah – The Utah Attorney General’s Office is suspending its $21 million contract with Park City-based Banjo after the surveillance system company’s founder admitted to having past ties to the Ku Klux Klan as a teenager.

Damien Patten also confirmed an earlier report from OneZero that he took part in a drive-by shooting of a synagogue in Tennessee in 1990.

In a statement, the Attorney General’s Office said it was, “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.”

The AG’s statement also addressed Patten’s apology for his past actions, while vowing to have a third-party audit.

“While we believe Mr. Patton’s remorse is sincere and believe people can change, we feel it’s best to suspend use of Banjo technology by the Utah Attorney General’s Office while we implement a third-party audit and advisory committee to address issues like data privacy and possible bias. We recommend other state agencies do the same,” the statement continued.

Banjo has been a controversial surveillance system. It claims it can scan social media messages, 9-1-1 calls, and traffic cameras to help law enforcement find suspects in minutes.

It has even been credited with alerting authorities and the media about the shooting at the Mandalay Bay resort in Las Vegas in 2017.

But others have called it “Big Brother”, claiming it can violate innocent people’s privacy. For that reason, Utah lawmakers have discussed whether to put more regulations on the technology.