NYC unveils new surveillance tactics
By Brent Daggett
Contributing writer for End the Lie
Besides banning soda larger than 16 ounces from restaurants, movie theaters, and sports arenas as well as banning food donations from homeless shelters and calling for police to strike until the government acts on gun control, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is now flexing even more authoritarian muscle by creating a surveillance state.
On August 8, Bloomberg revealed in a press conference a new big brother style monitoring method called Domain Awareness System (DAS), which will be used to prevent crime and include counterterrorism technology capabilities.
The real kicker is not only how the system will be used, but also the company that helped establish the technology.
If any guessed Microsoft, you guessed correctly.
According to the agreement, Microsoft will pay the city 30 percent of the gross revenue of system sales to other customers worldwide.
“Microsoft is honored to partner with the NYPD to provide these important public safety capabilities to other jurisdictions,” said Kathleen Hogan, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Services. “The NYPD is a respected leader and continuously innovating to ensure the safety of their citizens. It is a privilege to support their work with our technology and professional services.”
Microsoft is not the only one heralding the innovation of what DAS allows.
“Part of the reason we have been able to continue driving down crime to record lows while devoting considerable resources counter-terrorism is our heavy investment in technology and our willingness to develop new, cutting-edge solutions to keep New Yorkers safe,” said Mayor Bloomberg.
“This new system capitalizes on new powerful policing software that allows police officers and other personnel to more quickly access relevant information gathered from existing cameras, 911 calls, previous crime reports and other existing tools and technology,” explained Bloomberg. “It will help the NYPD do more to prevent crimes from occurring and help them respond to crimes even more effectively. And because the NYPD built the system in partnership with Microsoft, the sale of the product will generate revenue for the City that will fund more new crime-prevention and counter-terrorism programs.”
Besides all the individuals who will profit from the system, let’s now focus on the means in which the DAS will be implemented.
According to the press release, which can be viewed on NYC.gov, DAS involves these measures:
- Investigators will have immediate access to information through live video feeds, and instantly see suspect arrest records, 911 calls associated with the suspect, related crimes occurring in the area and more;
- Investigators can map criminal history to geospatially and chronologically reveal crime patterns;
- Investigators can track where a car associated with a suspect is located, and where it has been in past days, weeks or months;
- Police commanders can query databases to map, review and correlate crime information with the deployment of resources…
Despite the massive scope of DAS, there are some limitations.
Devin Coldewey, a contributing writer for the MSNBC technology blog reported in his article, NYC and Microsoft announce citywide monitoring system, DAS does not use facial recognition, but could later on.
Coldewey also pointed out social media will not be monitored closely and any video captured would be deleted in 30 days unless the video is archived.
[Editor’s note: while they might claim that social media will not be closely monitored, I find this assertion highly dubious given that the NYPD has already created a social media unit.]
Not only does DAS seem Orwellian, it also seems reminiscent of the show Person of Interest, but at least the main characters use the concept for good.
While I’m not opposed to equipping police officers with the necessary equipment and resources to sufficiently carry out their duty in a dignified and responsible manner, I’m objecting to the possibility of the technology being manipulated into spying on every minutia of an individual’s daily live.
Cameras do not prevent crimes, as Bloomberg is likely to believe. If cameras prevented crimes then there would be no need for authority.
However, what cameras do illustrate is what is happening in a commission of a crime or perhaps even providing evidence highlighting a person’s innocence.
With the increase in technology in order to “prevent crime,” we must not forget there is a Fourth Amendment for a reason, even though there is very little left of it.
If these trends continue in other states or worldwide, we are nothing more than a number on a grid where innocent people can be profiled as criminals.
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