Big Governor is watching you.
Facial-recognition cameras at bridge and tunnel toll plazas across the city are already scanning drivers’ visages and feeding them into databases to catch suspected criminals, Gov. Andrew Cuomo revealed Friday.
“When it reads that license plate, it reads it for scofflaws . . . [but] the toll is almost the least significant contribution that this electronic equipment can actually perform,” Cuomo said at a press conference outside the Queens Midtown Tunnel.
“We are now moving to facial-recognition technology, which takes it to a whole new level, where it can see the face of the person in the car and run that technology against databases.
“Because many times a person will turn their head when they see a security camera, so they are now experimenting with technology that just identifies a person by their ear, believe it or not,” he continued.
The tech is being tested at the RFK/Triborough Bridge and was switched on at Queens Midtown Tunnel and Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel Friday, according to the Governor’s Office.
It will also eventually come to at least two of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s six other spans — the Throgs Neck and Whitestone bridges — and down the road will be added at all area airports, Cuomo’s office confirmed.
A request for proposals from contractors previously published by the online news outlet Vocativ says the tech is slated for all seven of the city’s toll bridges in addition to the two tunnels.
Citing security-related issues, the Governor’s Office refused to say when the forthcoming cameras will be activated, what databases they are comparing the photos against and who will have access to the data.
But Cuomo said on Friday that license plates scanned at the toll plazas, at least, are already being checked “for warrants, suspected felons, parole violators, terrorist suspects” — and that the intel is passed within five seconds on to cop cars stationed at the crossings.
“It’s a phenomenal security device,” he said.
Not everyone agrees.
The New York Civil Liberties Union slammed the surveillance operation after the governor’s press conference, saying the tech is unreliable and could wind up targeting innocent people.
“Facial-recognition software is notoriously inaccurate when it comes to identifying people of color, women and children, leading to the possibility of people being mistakenly arrested or erroneously monitored,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement.
“Government should not be casting a dragnet to track everyone going about their day through the state’s bridges and tunnels, especially not when that data could be shared with other law-enforcement agencies, including immigration authorities.”
The state Department of Motor Vehicles already uses facial-recognition software to catch people committing identity theft and fraud and has some 16 million photos in its databases, according to an August 2017 release from the Governor’s Office.
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