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NYCLU Issues Harsh Critique Of Council’s Proposal To Require Videotaping At Night Clubs

In testimony presented before the New York City Council today the New York Civil Liberties Union issued a detailed and highly critical analysis of pending legislation that would require cabarets and dance clubs to install video surveillance cameras at entrances and exits.

The group was equally critical of a companion bill that would require that night club bouncers run patrons’ identification cards through scanners.

The NYCLU’s testimony focused on the absence of provisions in the legislation to address the ways in which video images of patrons or their personal identifiers — such as dates of birth, addresses and social security numbers — could be stored and disseminated virtually without legal constraint or consequence.

NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman charged that the lack of protections against the unauthorized or inappropriate use of video images and personal identification undermine the rights of speech, expression, association and due process. “While it’s highly questionable that this legislation would deter crime,” Lieberman said, “there is no question that the proposed law would compromise personal freedom.”

The NYCLU’s testimony documents examples of such abuses, such as the police department’s archiving of video surveillance recordings of demonstrators engaged in lawful political demonstrations at the Republican National Convention. The testimony also points to the lack of NYPD procedures to protect against the unauthorized or inappropriate use of video surveillance technology. This lack of oversight, the NYCLU contends, led to the police department’s VIPER unit engaging in “video voyeurism” — peering into the apartments of public housing residents and focusing cameras on women.

“In New York City we are witnessing the creation of a massive video surveillance infrastructure,” said Robert A. Perry, NYCLU Legislative Director. “Public officials have yet to consider the impact of this technology on basic rights and liberties. Those who contend there is no significant impact are either naïve or ill informed.”

Click here to read the NYCLU’s testimony.

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