Up to 800,000 cars would be scanned every day by cameras installed on the tunnels and bridges that connect the city’s five boroughs.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in October that the program would be part of an initiative to "Reimagine New York’s bridges and tunnels for the 21st century" – an effort to reduce congestion, monitor security threats and promote public art and energy conservation.
"By investing in New York's transportation network today and equipping it to meet the challenges of tomorrow," the announcement read, "we are cementing our state's position as a national leader in 21st century infrastructure and cutting-edge innovation … From speeding up commutes and reducing emissions on key roadways with automatic tolling to bolstering resiliency on our bridges and tunnels and increasing security at key checkpoints, this transformational project will revolutionize transportation in New York and ensure that our state is built to lead for generations to come."
Though Cuomo and the NYPD tout the state-of-the-art technology as a positive step for the city, many are skeptical. Alvaro Bedoya, executive director of the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy and Technology, and associate Claire Garvie say the programs lacks oversight.
"[Governor] Cuomo … should not impose real-time face scanning on New Yorkers unless appropriate regulations are in place to safeguard privacy and civil liberties," they said in an op-ed for the New York Daily News. "New Yorkers also have a right to be informed about, and to weigh in on, how the technology will be used. After all, they’re the ones bearing the risks, and footing the bill."
"Use of the technology will provide real public safety benefits," they continued. "It may allow the police to catch terrorists or dangerous criminals. But without appropriate oversight, its use by police also poses real threats to the privacy, civil rights and civil liberties of millions of innocent New Yorkers. And right now, no real oversight is in place."
The NYPD is already using certain forms of FRT and has been since 2011. Former officer Roger Rodriguez, who helped established the unit, claimed that last year, “more than 8,500 facial recognition investigations, with over 3,000 possible matches, and approximately 2,000 arrests” were conducted with the technology.
Last week, a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform found that the FBI’s FRT, called the Next Generation Identification program, not only posed privacy issues but was also more likely to misidentify women and African-Americans as suspects.