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NYCLU Expresses Grave Concerns About The Growing Use Of Police Surveillance Cameras

The New York Civil Liberties Union strongly opposes the NYPD’s plans to increase the number of surveillance cameras until police come up with a plan to safeguard the use of these cameras and the images they capture on videotape. Our concerns extend to the announced increase in surveillance cameras for subway stations. The proposals to increase surveillance cameras are another step towards establishing a surveillance society with intrusions upon the privacy rights and anonymity of New Yorkers.

Surveillance cameras do not stop crimes nor do they come to the aid of a person or persons in need. These cameras do not replace the need for having a police presence in so-called high crime or high-traffic areas. The danger with the growing use of police surveillance cameras is that it gives the government a permanent dossier on whoever passes under their gaze.

The NYCLU is concerned about what will happen with the images gathered by police and whether these images ultimately might become part of a database on individuals not charged with any crime. It is not clear how the NYPD will protect against abuse of these images and the use of these cameras by police personnel.

Such abuse came to light last April when police surveillance video that captured the suicide of a young man at a Bronx housing project ended up on a Web site dedicated to pornography. And a television report depicted the NYPD using one of its surveillance cameras in a helicopter monitoring protests last summer at the Republican National Convention to spy on a couple involved in a private, intimate exchange on their rooftop.

Until the NYPD can make clear how it will monitor the use of these cameras it is requesting and how it will keep the video it captures from being abused, this plan to add more surveillance cameras should be approached with restraint and skepticism.

As bold as the spirit of New York, we are the NYCLU.
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