The NYPD had a Secret Fund for Surveillance Tools


New York City police bought a number of surveillance tools – including face recognition software, police prediction software, vans equipped with X-ray weapons detection devices and “stingray” cell simulators – without public oversight, according to documents released Tuesday.

Overall, documents show that New York City police have spent at least $ 159 million since 2007 through a little-known “Special Expenses Fund” that did not require approval from city councils or other municipal officials. The documents were made public by two civil rights groups, the Legal Aid Society and the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP), which say the practice was a “drug oversight fund.”

Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of STOP, says police continue to block other records “needed by the public to understand the way our city is monitored.”

Contracts are heavily redacted, so it’s hard to understand how any single tool works, let alone how they can work together to create a network to monitor people in New York City. Secrecy also hampers a fuller understanding of the relationship between the NYPD, its vendors, and the public.

In 2018, the NYPD awarded $ 6.8 million to Idemia Solutions, which provides biometric tools, including face recognition. Details have been redacted, but the company years was under fire 2019 after it was discovered that the NYPD was introducing children under the age of 18 into company-run face recognition databases. The 2018 contract expired in 2020, but gave the NYPD the option to extend it for two years.

In 2014, the NYPD signed a five-year, $ 800,000 contract with Elbit Systems, The largest Israeli contractor of defense affairs, to upgrade and maintain devices throughout the city. Certain devices have been redacted in the contract, but Elbit Systems provides that wide range surveillance tools used by U.S. customs and border patrols at the southern border, including cameras and sensors that make up the “virtual border wall”.

In 2016, the NYPD entered into a three-year, $ 750,000 contract with U.S. Science and Engineering, which was offered mobile x-ray vans. Originally developed to detect improvised explosive devices in war zones, vans can scanning vehicles for weapons distances up to 1,500 feet. Health officials have warned that these are devices risk of cancer because they can expose passers-by to unhealthy amounts of radiation. The NYPD has used vans from u at least 2012, but it is successfully fought trying to find out where and how often they are used, invoking national security.

The documents also include contracts with KeyW Corporation, which provided the NYPD cell location simulators, known as “skewers”. These devices mimic cell phone towers, recording the identification of any phone that connects to them, allowing police to track people over the phone.

“Armed with skewers, law enforcement agencies can – without any help or consent from mobile phone operators – locate a person in a house, place of worship or doctor’s office, or conduct mass surveillance of people gathered in an area, be it a protest, lecture or party.” says Daniel Schwarz, privacy and technology strategist at the New York Union Liberties Union.

2017. NYCLU sued NYPD for more information on the use of barbecue devices after protesters claimed police interrupted their phones during a protest in honor of Eric Garner, who was killed by a 2014 NYPD police officer who are not suspected of any crime, simply by engaging in an activity protected by the First Amendment. Schwarz says the city should, at the very least, get orders before using the sting.

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