Daily Archives: July 11, 2007

NYC Surveillance Plan Raises Privacy Concerns

News Factor | Jul 11, 2007

As video surveillance technology grows increasingly sophisticated, it is not difficult to imagine a time when protection effectively wipes out privacy

By Frederick Lane

New York City’s proposed surveillance system, which already is raising concern among privacy and security experts, would be the first in the United States to feed images from networked cameras to a central surveillance facility. The first 115 surveillance cameras are scheduled to be in place in lower Manhattan by the end of 2007. The announcement by New York City officials that they are planning a camera surveillance system for lower Manhattan modeled on London’s so-called “Ring of Steel” is raising concerns among security Relevant Products/Services and privacy experts. Many argue that the proposed network of up to 3,000 closed-circuit cameras will do little to prevent suicide bombers and will pose broad, perhaps unforeseen, threats to personal liberty.

In addition to detailing the networked cameras, the proposal suggests installing movable roadblocks that could be controlled from a central location and used to trap suspicious vehicles. “That idea reminds me of the 1960s movie ‘The Italian Job,'” said Lauren Weinstein, cofounder of People For Internet Responsibility. “It was a remarkably forward-looking movie; thieves get access to a traffic control system and create a traffic jam to cover their escape. I can imagine some hacker creating massive gridlock in New York by tapping into the police roadblocks.”

Given the track record of computer security over the past two decades, it’s hard to argue with Weinstein’s scenario, but it might be a while before the tempting target of playing electronic traffic cop is dangled in front of hackers.

Video on Demand

Although the first 115 cameras are scheduled to be in place by the end of 2007, installation of the entire system is slated to cost New York more than $90 million and it would not be operational until 2010.

The New York system would be the first in the United States to feed images from networked cameras to a central surveillance facility. Although there are currently hundreds of thousands of surveillance cameras already installed in this country, most are operated by private companies as part of their individual security apparatus, and any potentially relevant video must be collected and analyzed individually by authorities.

The proposed system in New York would eliminate a lot of the legwork by having all of the video collected, stored, and analyzed in one location.

The ease and speed with which surveillance video can be analyzed is credited by London police with helping them track down the individuals who bombed the Glasgow Airport on June 30 and attempted to set off car bombs in London the day before. Authorities said the surveillance system in London helped them track both the individuals and the vehicles involved in those attacks.

Say Cheese!

The average European is photographed or videotaped far more frequently than the average American, thanks largely to the different legal systems in the two regions (a fact that is somewhat ironic, given Europe’s much stronger support for electronic privacy for individuals).

However, public surveillance systems have slowly been gaining ground in the United States, and the proposal in New York is the strongest indication that this country might be moving closer to Europe in the trade-off between protection and privacy.

Wildcards in this debate are the phenomenal advances occurring in surveillance technology. As cameras grow increasingly sharp-eyed and the software used to analyze and mine the video grows increasingly sophisticated, it is not difficult to imagine a time when protection effectively wipes out privacy.

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Thousands of new police cameras and license plate readers to monitor and track New Yorkers

ABC News | Jul 9, 2007

Eye on the City: Do Cameras Reduce Crime?

By MARCUS BARAM

NYPD Readies 3,000 Surveillance Cameras; Have They Worked in Other Cities?

nypd_big_brother

The New York Police Department is creating a web of surveillance in lower Manhattan that will eventually include 3,000 public and private security cameras to track terrorists. By the end of this year, 116 license plate readers will monitor cars moving through the area, which is the city’s financial district.  (AP Photo)

The New York Police Department announced Monday that it was creating a web of surveillance in lower Manhattan that will eventually include 3,000 public and private security cameras to track terrorists. By the end of this year, 116 license plate readers will monitor cars moving through the area, which is the city’s financial district.

A spokesman for the department told ABCNEWS.com that footage collected by the NYPD’s cameras would be kept for a 30-day period before it is discarded or recorded over. “It would be used to intercept a threat coming our way but not to collect data indiscriminately on individuals,” NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told The New York Times.

The new initiative adds to the extensive network of cameras that already watch New Yorkers. Nearly 4,200 public and private surveillance cameras are currently located in downtown Manhattan, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Other cities, including Chicago and Los Angeles, have expanded their use of public surveillance cameras and tout the effectiveness of the technology. Some of these cameras, which can cost up to $60,000 each, have night-vision capabilities and can be remotely controlled to pan, tilt, zoom and rotate.

Over the last few years, the Chicago Police Department has set up more than 500 cameras throughout the city. And the CPD claims that the web of surveillance has been an important crime-fighting tool, resulting in more than 1,200 arrests since February 2006.

“Our preliminary research shows that they are effective, especially left in places for over 180 days,” said Jonathan Lewin, the CPD’s commander of information services. “Once it’s in, it’s hard to move because the community loves it. If they don’t see the camera there one day, we get calls.”

The cameras have provided valuable forensic evidence in crime and terror investigations, such as the recent blundered car bombings and the July 7, 2005, terror attacks in London where British officials were able to track the movements of the perpetrators and make arrests.

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