The computerized “Domain Awareness System” is a joint $30 million venture with Microsoft Corp. that will be a be a one-stop shop for police officials, comprised of data from 3,000 cameras and over 2,000 radiation detectors throughout the city. With this computer system, investigators will have access to real-time video footage and public safety data that is aggregated into one database. The Bloomberg administration and NYPD have characterized the technological advancement as a sophisticated tool to combat city crime and prevent future terrorist acts.
“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,” Bloomberg said in a press statement.
But like most steps taken by the Police Department to combat city crime, civil rights advocates are expressing their concerns with the new computer system, which they argue could impede the privacy of the millions who live in New York City.
“The NYPD and Microsoft appear to be teaming up to collect massive amounts of information about New Yorkers and yet the public has next to no details. There have been no hearings and no one has even mentioned privacy,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
National Action Network Executive Vice President and General Counsel Michael Hardy echoed those same concerns. “Any advance in being able to protect citizens against crime is welcomed, but nevertheless it also raises privacy concerns,” Hardy told the AmNews. “You’re putting the innocent movement of people in a databank.”
“No one wants to interfere or slow down the ability of the police to protect the citizens of this city and also protect us against potential future acts of terrorism, but at the same time, you cannot do that in a total tradeoff for your rights,” he said.
Ultimately, Hardy said, citizens are unfortunately under the lens of the camera more often than not. “Many of us unfortunately know that pretty much wherever you are in public that you’re under the view of someone’s camera, whether it’s a government camera or a private camera. We have cameras on most commercial buildings now and most stores. No matter where you are, you’re pretty much under the gaze of someone’s camera.”