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NYPD Anti-Terrorism Cameras Used For Much More 400

Posted by Soulskill
from the donut-location-devices dept.
An anonymous reader writes with an excerpt from the NY Times: "The Police Department's growing web of license-plate-reading cameras has been transforming investigative work. Though the imaging technology was conceived primarily as a counterterrorism tool, the cameras' presence — all those sets of watchful eyes that never seem to blink — has aided in all sorts of traditional criminal investigations. ... 'We knew going into it that they would have other obvious benefits,' Mr. Browne said about the use of the readers in the initiative. 'Obviously, conventional crime is far more common than terrorism, so it is not surprising that they would have benefits, more frequently, in conventional crime fighting than in terrorism.'"
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NYPD Anti-Terrorism Cameras Used For Much More

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  • really?! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hazel Bergeron (2015538) on Monday April 11, 2011 @01:52PM (#35783690) Journal

    Also every piece of information any corporation or state has or can collect on you will end up being used for more than you expected.

    If you don't like it, stop developing the tech. Because if it exists, it will be used against you.

    • Re:really?! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Monday April 11, 2011 @02:16PM (#35783976) Homepage Journal

      "If a link is found, a small alarm sounds, Mr. Browne said."

      I enjoy Mr. Browne's rhetorical use of a diminutive conditional adjective. A "small alarm" really isn't such an obstacle to the path of civil liberty? No?

      The whole matter is hardly one over which to raise a concern. In fact, I'm surprised that the topic is newsworthy - really. Why such subtle psyops in the pages of the New York Times?

      • Re:raise a concern (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Monday April 11, 2011 @02:27PM (#35784122) Journal

        Dang Internets and the lack of voice nuance...
        I can't tell if you're doing satire or if you believe your last line.

        Meanwhile, this is newsworthy because we've seen part 1 of this charade for a decade now ... "We need a Billion Dollars to fight one Afghani guy and his ten friends!"

        This time they're actually admitting "Hey look, our billion dollar toys are fun! And so is power."

    • by lxs (131946)

      On the contrary. The tech is here. All you can do is develop counter tech. Make sure they can't trace you, like that guy in Gattaca.

      • When I got back home I found a message on the door
        Sweet Regina's gone to China crosslegged on the floor
        Of a burning jet that's smoothly flying:
        Burning airlines give you so much more.

        How does she intend to live when she's in far Cathay?
        I somehow can't imagine her just planting rice all day.
        Maybe she will do a bit of spying
        With microcameras hidden in her hair.

        I guess Regina's on the plane, a Newsweek on her knees
        While miles below her the curlews call from strangely stunted trees.
        The painted sage sits just as

      • Spray paint is very effective "counter-tech", and it's cheap.
  • by Itesh (1901146) on Monday April 11, 2011 @01:54PM (#35783704)
    I'm all for it. Here, why don't you take my blood and semen samples along with my fingerprints, you know, just in case...
  • Records retention? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by identity0 (77976) on Monday April 11, 2011 @01:55PM (#35783726) Journal

    FTA:
    >The license plate readers are different from other security cameras in the city: they are aimed low, designed to focus on a small area, unlike traditional surveillance cameras which look at broader sections like a toll plaza or the entrance of a building, Mr. Browne said. The information collected is immediately checked against databases storing information on stolen cars, stolen license plates, wanted persons and unregistered vehicles.

    Well, the cameras themselves doesn't seem so bad, but does anyone know how long data is retained? I don't want to be leaving records of where I've been for years...

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      FTA: >The license plate readers are different from other security cameras in the city: they are aimed low, designed to focus on a small area,

      Well, the cameras themselves doesn't seem so bad, but does anyone know how long data is retained? I don't want to be leaving records of where I've been for years...

      Then the single thing I can suggest you: place you license plate higher than the level the cameras are aimed. Because you don't have anything to say (that will still be listened) in regards with how long the recordings are retained.

    • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Monday April 11, 2011 @02:08PM (#35783886) Homepage Journal

      I don't want to be leaving records of where I've been for years...

      Why? Isn't there a statute of limitations? :-)

      Seriously, the right to conduct oneself privately is the foundation of all civil liberties. This is is why the 4th amendment to the US Constitution specifically prohibits unreasonable search and seizure.

      "Unreasonable" has become the elastic operative through which the courts and executive have made impotent, the entire function of that amendment.

      The role of the ubiquitous camera in conjunction with the compulsory license plate is just an abstraction of "Show me your papers, please" internal checkpointing - beloved of Inspector Jabert and Heinrich Himmler.

      So, yes. The cameras themselves are indeed bad - the fact that you fail to perceive them as such? Just a sign of how irredeemable the loss of basic rights has become in your country.

    • by gstoddart (321705) on Monday April 11, 2011 @02:12PM (#35783942) Homepage

      Well, the cameras themselves doesn't seem so bad, but does anyone know how long data is retained? I don't want to be leaving records of where I've been for years...

      Already happening, already too late, complete and utter surprise? Not so much.

      A surveillance society takes an exceedingly short period of time to decide that the initial justifications for these things has so many other handy uses. Governments are completely interested in monitoring and recording everything so that eventually when they need something against you, they have it on file. Even the governments who pretend to be protecting "freedom" and the like.

      There's a reason why all of this stuff has been rich fodder for sci-fi for decades ... because you can see it coming, and pretty much anticipate the results.

      Terrorism was the stated reason, but they're not going to miss out on using a treasure trove of such information. Give it time, and there won't be a single free society on the planet ... least of all, the Western democracies who still pretend to be.

      I may sound like my tin-foil hat is cutting off the blood supply, but it's hard not to see all of the dystopian stuff unfolding before us. Stuff that has happened in my life time was a work of fiction 50 years ago.

      • by Jason Earl (1894) on Monday April 11, 2011 @02:38PM (#35784272) Homepage Journal

        Personally, I think that the dangers to "freedom" are somewhat overblown. What is legal and what is not has not changed. The difference is that our society has become a great deal better at actually monitoring individuals.

        In some ways, however, it is really only a step backward in time. I grew up in a small town, and I became used to the idea that everyone around me knew who I was (and who to contact if I should step out of line). You worry about the government watching you, but from personal experience I think that you would be much better off to worry about your immediate neighbors. They are the ones that actually care about what you are up to, and it is your reputation with them that is actually most likely to effect your behavior. Yes, it is possible that the government might compile evidence of impropriety, but the worst they will realistically be able to do is tell your neighbors.

        Unless, of course, you are talking about actual illegal activity, in which case you *should* be arrested. That's why we have laws.

        For most of human existence it has been very difficult to hide improper behavior from your neighbors. Historically, we have lived in relatively small, very tight-knit communities, and your business was your neighbors business. The idea that you could go out in public and be anonymous is a relatively new idea. Apparently it is likely to be a short-lived idea as well.

        If your definition of "freedom" includes being able to hide improper behavior from your neighbors, then yes, your freedom is in jeopardy. On the other hand, you only have to log on to facebook for a minute to realize that most people are more than happy to share the details of their life with whoever happens to be on the Internet. Most people seem to be willing to share details about their personal lives than even folks like me, that grew up knowing our neighbors' business, find uncomfortable. You can't blame government for that though.

        • by DM9290 (797337) on Monday April 11, 2011 @03:44PM (#35785020) Journal

          Your neighbors and yourself generally were presented to one another as equals, and thus they gave you a certain degree of respect and expected the same in return. You both had a shared interested in the type of lifestyle that is possible in the community. On the other hand the new government watchers are invisible. They see you from a great distance and you don't see them at all. They have nothing to fear from you so they have no reason to treat you with respect. They are not your neighbors, they are strangers.

          I don't need to have my actions monitored just in case 20 years from now I can be prosecuted for things I do now which are legal.

          What guarantee do I have that no future government will ever decide to punish people retroactively for acts they committed before the act was illegal?
          i.e. blasphemy against private healthcare, saying bad things about the meat industry, about the church?

          my neighbors aren't part of some vast system of control designed to outlast any individual human. they just want to live their lives in peace, and some day die. and thats all.

          Government are self perpetuating systems. we should not simply assume government wont turn bad.

        • What is legal and what is not has not changed.

          Bullshit. It's not that long ago that it used to be illegal for men to have sex with other men. Alan turing and Oscar Wilde were both convicted of it. Also, it's not until recently that it became illegal to grow cannabis. People used to make canvas out of the stuff, and other things besides. Laws change, and not always for the better.

          Yes, it is possible that the government might compile evidence of impropriety, but the worst they will realistically be able to do

        • by Hatta (162192)

          If your definition of "freedom" includes being able to hide improper behavior from your neighbors, then yes, your freedom is in jeopardy

          My definition of freedom includes being able to hide proper behavior from nosy, overly judgmental neighbors. Why are you so willing to let the neighbors determine what is proper and improper behavior?

        • > If your definition of "freedom" includes being able to hide improper behavior from your neighbors, then yes, your freedom is in jeopardy.

          If by improper you mean "anything your neighbors would disapprove of" then no, I don't think the dangers to freedom (not in quotes) is overblown.

          Conspiring to overthrow the city council next election? Having wild rabbit sex before 9pm? Dress in overalls and then NOT go weeding your lawn?

          >but the worst they will realistically be able to do is tell your neighbors.

    • by gbjbaanb (229885)

      who cares how long its retained for? I don't really mind if someone wants to know where I was on Tuesday the 8th 1986. No, its them knowing where I am today that worries me more.

    • Any policy with regards to retention of information is easily changed in the future. No matter what duration they state they will find/create justification to increase it at some point in the future.
  • by ElMiguel (117685) on Monday April 11, 2011 @01:58PM (#35783768)

    Obviously, conventional crime is far more common than terrorism, so it is not surprising that they would have benefits, more frequently, in conventional crime fighting than in terrorism.

    So obviously, calling them 'anti-terrorism cameras' is a lie.

  • by jimmerz28 (1928616) on Monday April 11, 2011 @01:59PM (#35783784)

    I can't wait til this becomes a nationwide practice so that all civilians can feel safe knowing that the terrorists and criminals are being actively monitored and will never ever harm us again.

  • by Tackhead (54550) on Monday April 11, 2011 @02:00PM (#35783798)
    "'We knew going into it that they would have other obvious benefits,'"

    Whenever a controversial law is proposed, and its supporters, when confronted with an egregious abuse it would permit, use a phrase along the lines of 'Perhaps in theory, but the law would never be applied in that way' - they're *lying*. They intend to use the law that way as early and as often as possible.

    - Meringuinoid, on Slashdot, ca. 2005 [slashdot.org].

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Monday April 11, 2011 @02:24PM (#35784076) Homepage

      A slight quibble here: They (in general, or the guy giving the answer) may or may not *intend* to use the law that way, but it's quite safe to say that the law *will* get used that way if passed.

      If an agency director goes to Congress asking for new power XYZ, he may genuinely believe that the intent is to do something totally different from what the civil libertarians are worried about. Now, he may have been misled by his subordinates, or his successor might decide "hey, look at what I can do!" Alternately, of course, he may be the nefarious bastard who knows better but pretends otherwise. Since the basic rule of investigation is that every government official will say exactly what they need to say in order to save themselves, we'll never really know for sure.

      • by Hatta (162192) on Monday April 11, 2011 @03:07PM (#35784628) Journal

        A slight quibble here: They (in general, or the guy giving the answer) may or may not *intend* to use the law that way, but it's quite safe to say that the law *will* get used that way if passed.

        You're too generous. If they don't intend for the law to be abused, they will put in safeguards against it. If there's not a clause in the law saying "no section of this law shall be construed to allow X" coupled with appropriate penalties should X occur, then the author of the law fully intends for X to happen. Any claims otherwise are blatant lies.

      • Exactly. Even if Director #1's intentions are completely honorable, he won't be in charge forever. Director #2 might abuse it or Director #3 might or Director #4. Or they all might just slightly alter the project's aim bit by bit so that you don't notice at all when it has been changed completely.

        Years ago, when the Bush administration was claiming massive Executive Branch power, I'd always ask how people would feel about a Democrat using that power. At the time, I used Hillary Clinton since she seemed

  • Urbanization (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Monday April 11, 2011 @02:01PM (#35783808)

    And people wonder why my desires run counter to the reverse diaspora toward increased urbanization.

    Just build the giant, sealed arcologies already, let the social engineering wonks have them, and let the rest of us live in more rural setting in peace.

    • Re:Urbanization (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jason Earl (1894) on Monday April 11, 2011 @02:41PM (#35784322) Homepage Journal

      I grew up in a small town. In small communities everyone tends to know your business in a way that people from the cities (or even the suburbs) would find very disconcerting. If you are worried about people watching your every move then a rural setting is not a Utopia.

      • by keytoe (91531)

        This is always something I like to bring up whenever I'm in a discussion about privacy. Invariably, someone claims that the fact that we're losing privacy is some new development, when in fact the idea of having privacy is a new development in our civilization. It takes anonymity in order to have privacy, and you can't have anonymity unless you have a large enough population to be lost in the noise. In the villages of yore, everyone knew who the whore was.

        I think more accurately the privacy discussion of to

  • I'm shocked, I tell you, shocked!

  • NYT = fail (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Monday April 11, 2011 @02:03PM (#35783844)

    please, STOP posting links to this horrible site!

    I get a login screen. is that what you wanted me to read? ok, I read it. it said 'login'. I did not play its game. I saw no article.

    didn't we all agree to start ignoring NYT? what happened subby? no other source?

    poor showing. just poor showing, man.

    and no, I will not 'login'. this is NOT what the web was supposed to be about.

    PLEASE STOP SUPPORTING NYT.

    thanks.

    • by billcopc (196330)

      Son, if you're looking for news, you need to find a new teat to suckle. Slashdot is dead, has been for a very long time.

    • Re:NYT = fail (Score:4, Insightful)

      by maxdread (1769548) on Monday April 11, 2011 @02:27PM (#35784128)
      So the internet was supposed to be about a slave labor force working for nothing? Because we see the numerous examples of great journalism (not that every article/newspaper/writer is an example of this) coming from the random blogs that pop up around the internet? Free does not always equal better and if there is anything we should support with our money, its probably a free and independent press.
  • by Broofa (541944) on Monday April 11, 2011 @02:09PM (#35783898) Homepage

    The Law of Unintended Consequences [wikipedia.org] will probably come into play here. As camera systems - especially ones mounted on cop cars - get better at reading license plates, law enforcement officers will probably come to rely on them more. I.e. they'll pay less attention to your plates. So one conclusion that might be draw from this is that if you hide/obfuscate your plates, you're more likely to get away with it.

    /me grabs a handful of mud and slings it at his plates to hide the expired registration tags.

    • by Zcar (756484)

      And these cameras won't flag on vehicles where they can't find a registration tag?

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      The Law of Unintended Consequences will probably come into play here.

      Well, except I will cynically say that at the very least, this could be seen coming a mile away and was pointed out by people as having this very likely outcome. At very worst, the people who were planning this very much knew and intended that this would happen. They just either convinced us to the contrary, or picked the most naive spokesperson they could find who loudly said "Oh, they'd never do that".

      By the time people clue in, it's t

    • by Jason Earl (1894)

      Actually, the unintended consequence at some point will likely be that you'll get pulled over because the computer could not read your license plate automatically, even if it is NOT expired. The computer will handle all of the plates that it can handle automatically, and the human operator will be signaled when the computer fails. Personally, I would rather get the automated response (even if it is a ticket) than have to deal with a police officer.

      And I like *like* police officers.

    • Having been hauled into court because my car's license plate "was obscured" (equipment failure) by road grime and exhaust residue, I urge you to reconsider.

      I have also heard reports that some of those license plate covers - that incidentally make it difficult for red light cameras to capture your license plate - have been outlawed.

      http://www.phantomplate.com/print_delaware.html [phantomplate.com]
      http://www.banoggle.com/products/ontrack/photo-blur.aspx [banoggle.com]

      Both pages offer such products, both pages acknowledge that some jurisdictio

  • Sounds expensive. Good thing we're rich!

  • How many? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xelios (822510) on Monday April 11, 2011 @02:28PM (#35784132)
    So how many terrorists have these cameras caught?
  • by snspdaarf (1314399) on Monday April 11, 2011 @02:41PM (#35784318)
    I've seen this movie. Blue Thunder, right?
  • by FudRucker (866063) on Monday April 11, 2011 @06:08PM (#35786604)
    After 9/11, the fear of another attack on U.S. soil cleanly supplanted the fear of having one`s penis chopped off by a vengeful lover in the pantheon of irrational American fears.

    While we`re constantly being told that another attack is imminent and that radical Islamic fundamentalists are two steps away from establishing a caliphate in Branson, Missouri, just how close are they? How do the odds of dying in a terrorist attack stack up against the odds of dying in other unfortunate situations?

    The following ratios were compiled using data from 2004 National Safety Council Estimates, a report based on data from The National Center for Health Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau. In addition, 2003 mortality data from the Center for Disease Control was used.

    You are 17,600 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack

    You are 12,571 times more likely to die from cancer than from a terrorist attack

    You are 11,000 times more likely to die from a misdiagnosed medical condition or botched surgery by an incompetent doctor or misuse of perscription drugs than a terrorist attack

    You are 1048 times more likely to die from a car accident than from a terrorist attack

    You are 404 times more likely to die in a fall than from a terrorist attack

    You are 87 times more likely to drown than die in a terrorist attack

    You are 13 times more likely to die in a railway accident than from a terrorist attack

    You are 12 times more likely to die from accidental suffocation in bed than from a terrorist attack

    You are 9 times more likely to choke to death on your own vomit than die in a terrorist attack

    You are 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist

    You are 8 times more likely to die from accidental electrocution than from a terrorist attack

    You are 6 times more likely to die from hot weather than from a terrorist attack

The universe does not have laws -- it has habits, and habits can be broken.

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