New York Governor Andrew Cuomo revealed on Friday that facial recognition cameras installed at bridge and tunnel toll plazas across New York City are scanning every driver’s face and feeding them into a massive database designed to catch suspected criminals.
“When it reads that license plate, it reads it for scofflaws . . . [but] the toll is almost the least significant contribution that this electronic equipment can actually perform,” Cuomo said at a press conference outside the Queens Midtown Tunnel.
“We are now moving to facial-recognition technology, which takes it to a whole new level, where it can see the face of the person in the car and run that technology against databases… Because many times a person will turn their head when they see a security camera, so they are now experimenting with technology that just identifies a person by their ear, believe it or not,” he continued.
The technology is currently in use at the RFK/Triborough Bridge, and was switched on at the Queens Midtown and Brooklyn-Battery tunnels on Friday, according to the Governor’s office.
It will also eventually come to at least two of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s six other spans — the Throgs Neck and Whitestone bridges — and down the road will be added at all area airports, Cuomo’s office confirmed.
A request for proposals from contractors previously published by the online news outlet Vocativ says the tech is slated for all seven of the city’s toll bridges in addition to the two tunnels. –NY Post
The Governor’s office wouldn’t say when forthcoming cameras will be activated, which databases will be used to compare photos, or who will have access to the data, however Cuomo said that license plates which are already scanned at the plazas are currently checked “for warrants, suspected felons, parole violators, terrorist suspects.”
he data is then fed to NYPD cars stationed at crossings within five seconds.
“It’s a phenomenal security device,” he said.
Rights group steps in
Not everyone is a fan of the Orwellian system – most notably New York Civil Liberties Union, which criticized the new system as unreliable and full of potential abuse after the governor’s press conference.
“Facial-recognition software is notoriously inaccurate when it comes to identifying people of color, women and children, leading to the possibility of people being mistakenly arrested or erroneously monitored,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman.
“Government should not be casting a dragnet to track everyone going about their day through the state’s bridges and tunnels, especially not when that data could be shared with other law-enforcement agencies, including immigration authorities.”
New York’s DMV already uses facial-recognition software to catch criminals committing fraud and identity theft, and has some 16 million photos in its databases according to a 2017 Governor’s office release.
Are we becoming China?
In March, we reported on China’s “SkyNet” (actual name) facial recognition system, which “is able to identify 40 facial features, regardless of angles and lighting, at an accuracy rate of 99.8 percent,” reports People’s Daily. “It can also scan faces and compare them with its database of criminal suspects at large at a speed of 3 billion times a second, indicating that all Chinese people can be compared in the system within only one second.”