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New York Surveillance City: 15K cameras can feed facial recognition systems

(Frank Hersey | Biometric Update) – Amnesty International has released the results of a crowdsourced investigation into surveillance in New York City which found that the police department has the ability to track people across Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx via 15,280 surveillance cameras using facial recognition. Civil rights groups are calling for bans on some of the surveillance practices which they allege discriminate against certain groups.

More than 5,500 digital volunteers from around the world worked together to tag the 15,000 cameras at intersections in Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn, which together contain almost half of all NYC’s intersections. The New York City Police Department (NYPD) can track people through these cameras by using biometric software.

The software is powered by comparisons with millions of images held in databases. Amnesty states that many of these are scraped from sources such as social media without users’ knowledge or consent. The report also states that this technological approach is recognized as “amplifying racially discriminatory policing and can threaten the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and privacy.”

The most surveilled neighborhood of the three boroughs is East New York in Brooklyn, where the population is 54.4 percent Black, 30 percent Hispanic and 8.4 percent white according to census data. Crime figures are not included in the report.

The report also suggests that facial recognition was used to identify and track a participant in a Black Lives Matter protest in the summer of 2020. It states that the NYPD has used facial recognition in 22,000 cases since 2017, half of which were in 2019.

Calls to pass three bills

Civil rights campaigners are currently urging New York State legislators to pass three bills to curb the use of surveillance in the state. In an op ed in the Daily News, Aly Panjwani, the policy and advocacy manager at the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (S.T.O.P.), and Jose Chapa, the senior policy associate at the Immigrant Defense Project, demand urgent action before the current legislative session comes to an end. Read Full Article >

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