August 12, 2008 — The NYPD’s plan to photograph and track every vehicle entering Manhattan and then keep data on each vehicle in a database for an undisclosed period of time is an attack on New Yorkers’ right to privacy, said representatives from the New York Civil Liberties Union.
“The NYPD’s latest plan to track and monitor the movements of millions of law-abiding people is an assault on this country’s historical respect for the right to privacy and the freedom to be left alone,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “That this is happening without public debate, and that elected officials have had no opportunity to study this program is even more alarming.”
The NYCLU is currently pursuing a freedom of information request filed last fall with the NYPD and the Department of Homeland Security regarding a Ring of Steel-style program to set up thousands of surveillance cameras in lower Manhattan. Both government bodies have resisted transparency and have repeatedly refused to allow any information about the system to be reviewed.
News reports provide the only insight into the NYPD’s surveillance plan, and today confirm that that what was initially described as a monitoring system for the area below Canal Street will in fact be expanded to all of Manhattan – and beyond. The NYPD is planning to photograph and track every vehicle entering the island and even those that pass through the area on the George Washington Bridge.
“The NYPD has proposed the blanket, indiscriminate videotaping of millions of people,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn. “The NYPD should not be spending $100 million of public money to track law-abiding New Yorkers. And it’s troubling that members of the City Council are reading about that in the paper. There needs to be public discussion of this initiative and there must be privacy protections for New Yorkers who end up in this police database.”