Stephen C. Webster – “NYC police propose massive public snooping system”

NYC police propose massive public snooping system

Stephen C. Webster | August 12, 2008

With mass surveillance systems now prevalent in London, the burial place of George Orwell, America’s ‘Big Apple’ is mulling its own ‘Big Brother’ network.

In a proposal by Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, ‘Operation Sentinel’ would create a technological surveillance veil that scans license plates and photographs vehicles as they cross bridges and enter or exit tunnels. Radiological detectors would also be installed to sniff out potential terrorism threats.

Data collected by the snooping would be stored for one month at a command center in Lower Manhattan. In all, some 3,000 public and private security cameras would be deployed.

“‘This is just a planning document,'” said Paul J. Browne, a police spokesman, to the New York Times. “It’s a vision of how it will work if all the components come together.”

The public snooping technology is inspired by a system installed by the British government in London, which has blanketed the city in the view of cameras, range of microphones, and earshot of government minders who can actually speak to pedestrians through a massive PA system.

The British government also had radio frequency identification chips installed in every vehicle’s license plates, the identifying signals from which are capable of being read over 300 feet away.

“We definitely have an interest in testing an RFID-tagged license plate,” claimed Jerry Dike, chairman of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, in a 2005 report by Wired Magazine. No such measure has been proposed for New York City, however.

While the 3,000 cameras the New York proposal suggests are a far cry from the UK’s estimated 4.2 million, ‘Operations Sentinel’ features a few additional nuances not found in London.

In related security initiatives, ground zero would be enclosed in a security zone which only pre-screened vehicles may enter. Additionally, dozens of security booths would be built on high traffic corners to monitor pedestrians and passing vehicles. Movable roadblocks in the financial district would also block traffic as authorities deem necessary, with some streets exclusively reserved for emergency personnel.

The plan has caused some consternation among area business owners, who fear the measures would create an environment unfriendly to workers.

Should police have no use for the data collected by ‘Operation Sentinel,’ it would be deleted within 30 days, a spokesman said.

No estimate as to when ‘Operation Sentinel’ may be in place has been provided, though police expect related security measures, centered on protecting ground zero and the financial district, to be running by 2010.

Published in: on August 12, 2008 at 8:47 PM  Comments (1)  

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