Earlier this year New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a $100 billion investment into NY State infrastructure that will focus on the NY metro area. The plan included promises like a renovated Penn Station, called Penn-Farley, a direct train from there to LaGuardia Airport, the completion of the long-awaited Second Avenue Line, and even facial recognition cameras around the city. These facial recognition cameras will now be implemented in high traffic areas, such as Penn Station and some bridges and tunnels.
“At each crossing, and at structurally sensitive points on bridges and tunnels, advanced cameras and sensors will be installed to read license plates and test emerging facial recognition software and equipment,” Cuomo announced “We’re going to be using this in Penn-Farley and we also want to be testing it in bridges and crossings system.”
Facial recognition technologies have been used by other law enforcement agencies in the U.S. but it is unclear how the collected data in New York will be used. The number of cameras being deployed, the agencies that will have access to them, how photos of citizens will be stored, and the databases being used to compare data gathered from the cameras is still unclear. However, it should be noted that all seven of the MTA’s bridges and both tunnels are named within the proposal.
Many civil rights advocates and citizens have opposed use of the technology. Mariko Hirose, a senior staff attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union has questioned the program based on a lack of transparency between Cuomo and the public.
“It’s troubling that we’re one step closer to the world of ‘Minority Report’ without any discussion of the serious privacy concerns that are implicated by this plan,” he said.
Cuomo and his supporters have argued that the cameras are a necessity.
“In this age of terrorist activity and lone wolves, if you look at points of vulnerability you’ll go to our tunnels and to our bridges. So really they have to be reimagined for a new reality,” Cuomo stated during a demonstration.