NY Legislators Introduce Bill That Would Seriously Curb Law Enforcement's Surveillance Collections

from the take-what-you-want-but-only-keep-what-you-need dept

A bipartisan group of New York assembly members has introduced a bill that doesn't appear to have much of a chance at becoming an actual law. But what a bill it is. If it does receive the governor's signature, it would drastically revamp how the NYPD (and other agencies) handle the massive amount of video and data they collect daily.

A bill introduced in the New York Assembly would prohibit the state from creating any database containing aggregate surveillance data including ALPR, audio, video and facial recognition records. Passage would not only protect privacy in New York; it would also put major roadblocks in front of federal surveillance programs.

Assm.Tom Abinanti (D-Greenburgh/Mt. Pleasant), along with a bipartisan coalition of six assembly members, introduced Assembly Bill 11332 (A11332) on Sept. 19. The proposed law would bar state agencies and departments, and contractors engaged in business with the state, from using any database as a repository of, a storage system for, or a means of sharing facial recognition functionality. I would also prohibit the creation of any permanent repository or storage system for aggregate license plate reader data records, aggregate audio surveillance recordings, aggregate video surveillance images, or aggregate driver license photographs.

In effect, A11332 would prohibit the creation of any comprehensive database storing surveillance data.

It's an anti-haystack bill. And law enforcement loves its haystacks. The NYPD -- believing itself to be a globetrotting intelligence agency -- loves them more than most. Law enforcement agencies have obtained massive boosts in collection power over the years, thanks to omnipresent surveillance cameras, automatic license plate readers, and cheap digital storage. Biometric data has recently been added to the mix, promising to turn dumb cameras into suspect-spotting field agents.

The tech has advanced ahead of best practices or privacy impact assessments. The new hardware is presumed legal until proven otherwise and is often obtained and deployed with minimal oversight and zero public input.

This bill doesn't outlaw the continued hoovering of data points/camera footage but it does ensure the massive amount collected will have to be quickly sorted into hay and needles by restricting stored collections to stuff pertinent to ongoing investigations.

The immediate local impact would be immense. But expect the feds to start inserting themselves into local legislating. This bill would make it impossible for federal agencies to accomplish their dream of connected, nationwide databases of license plate photos and biometric data.

Because the federal government relies heavily on partnerships and information sharing with state and local law enforcement agencies, passage of A11332 would hinder the creation of federal surveillance databases. Information that is never retained by the state cannot be shared with the feds.

If the bill passes unamended, law enforcement may be able to retain more than it should by making broad claims about everything in its collections being somehow relevant to investigations. If these legislators are serious about making this law do what it says it does, they will need to tack on some reporting requirements that will force agencies to go on the record about their data retention practices.

While it's true law enforcement agencies can't possibly know what data/footage will prove useful in future investigations, that shouldn't be used as an argument for retaining everything collected. Legitimate privacy concerns should not be subordinated to New York law enforcement's fear of missing out.

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  • icon
    ECA (profile), 11 Oct 2018 @ 2:34pm


    There is good/bad about this..

    If you are one of those that think the RICH are totally corrupt and doing things in the background that remains hidden..
    This would be a great thing as LONG as it works..

    The Bad part is for those poor, Hungry, and so forth. There will be NO SEPARATION of Private and public.

    Keeping records of Who/what went where and Why??
    Cops already EDIT, their own videos daily.
    Do you THINK this will be kept PRIVATE?? NOT FOR LONG..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      stderric (profile), 11 Oct 2018 @ 5:58pm

      Re: Ok...

      If you are one of those that think the RICH are totally corrupt and doing things in the background that remains hidden.. This would be a great thing as LONG as it works..

      I'm pretty sure the rich can afford to buy some pretty ugly T-shirts.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    discordian_eris (profile), 11 Oct 2018 @ 2:46pm

    Snowballs chance in Hell.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 11 Oct 2018 @ 5:56pm

    Until we let you have it, which we won't

    The issue, I think, is how are the various agencies going to get around this bill. I can see the ALPR and other providing companies retaining their own databases and outside agencies writing code that interfaces with those sources. The have not violated this act, and still get what they want, as opposed to need.

    What they want is total surveillance and total control. What they will get is more of this kind of legislation, more animosity, and less control.

    When they will learn is another question entirely.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2018 @ 6:45pm

    Police shouldn't have unions

    The police unions have enhanced the power of the police at the expense of our rights. They are now trying to collect a bucket of evidence to use for current and future crime hunts at anyone they decide needs jail time. Once law enforcement is automated, they just need to go around and arrest everyone who has the property that they wish to seize. It is already becoming a profit-driven industry, with proper enhancement, it can really squeeze the pleebs of their extra funds.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 11 Oct 2018 @ 7:16pm

      Police unions.

      I think it is possible for police unions to exist and serve to keep the wages and labor conditions of law enforcement officers reasonable without them pushing for excessive legal powers and protections from accountability.

      That said, our current labor unions for law enforcement are not this.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2018 @ 9:05am

      Re: Police shouldn't have unions

      I get the feeling that police unions are not like other unions.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 14 Oct 2018 @ 1:03pm

    Police Union are unlike other unions

    Maybe we should stop calling them unions in favor of something more descriptive. Say organized crime syndicate or protection racketeering mob

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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