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NYPD’s $159M ‘surveillance slush fund’ used to buy facial recognition software, x-ray vans

NYPD’s $159M ‘surveillance slush fund’ used to buy facial recognition software, x-ray vans

Facial recognition and predictive policing software, ‘stingray’ cell tower simulators and vans equipped with x-ray machines to detect weapons were all bought by New York City Police with no public oversight, reports Wired. A 2018 contract with Idemia is listed as being worth almost $7 million.

The details are from documents made public by two civil rights groups, the Legal Aid Society and the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP), who say the heavily redacted nature of the documents obtained via a Freedom of Information Law request flouts the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology Act, which the City Council passed last year, reports The Daily News.

Since 2007, the NYPD spent at least $159 million on surveillance through a “Special Expenses Fund” which did not require city council approval. The rights groups have dubbed the mechanism a “surveillance slush fund.”

In early June 2021, Amnesty International released an investigation into NYPD’s facial recognition surveillance network revealing its access to 15,000 cameras.

After the police department failed to make public the details of their face biometrics tools, Amnesty and STOP sued the department for information about the surveillance of Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 and details of the procurement of biometric systems, cell-site simulators and drones.

A 2018 biometrics contract with Idemia is listed as being worth $6.8 million. The contract was for biometric tools but the specifics are redacted so heavily that entire pages are blacked out. An August 2019 New York Times investigation revealed that photos of children were being entered into the NYPD facial recognition databases. Later that month Idemia claimed its system helped quickly identify a man allegedly setting fake bombs in the city.

The 2018 Idemia contract was set to end in 2020 but gave the NYPD the option to renew for two years, reports Wired.

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