Rebuffed by NYPD, Amnesty sues to learn biometric surveillance details
Demonstrating how not to create trust in AI, the New York Police Department have refused to make public face biometrics tools records.
As a result, Amnesty International and the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project are suing the department for access to information about surveillance of Black Lives Matter protests last March through August.
The organizations want police documents covering face and gait biometric system procurement, cost, functionality and use. Specifically, they also want access to data about the NYPD’s use of drones, cell-site simulators and ambient sound recording devices.
They also have asked for information about donations to the department from the New York Police Foundation for spending on facial recognition and relevant surveillance systems.
Amnesty, according to the lawsuit, filed a freedom-of-information petition that has twice been denied by the department.
Department officials objected, saying “release of the information sought would ‘reveal non-routine techniques and procedures,’ ‘interfere with law enforcement investigations or judicial proceedings,’ ‘identify confidential source or disclose confidential information relating to a criminal investigation,’ and reveal ‘inter-agency or intra-agency materials,’ ” states the document.
The Oversight Project and Amnesty say blanket autonomous surveillance of any gathering infringes on Americans’ First Amendment rights to assemble and speak. Losing the anonymity of the crowd could be enough to deter some people from voicing demands of their government, according to Amnesty.
Pressure to get legislation passed that would curb biometric surveillance throughout the state is growing.
Amnesty volunteers this year counted 15,280 NYPD surveillance camera in three of New York’s five boroughs — at intersections in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx. Brooklyn, not Manhattan as might be suspected given traffic patterns and prominence as a target for terrorism, had more cameras than the other boroughs combined.
East New York, in Brooklyn had the highest number of surveillance cameras, according to Amnesty. A little more than half of its residents are Black and 30 percent are Hispanic. Eight percent are White.