If your police department could track your movements using drones, robots, and GPS locators, wouldn’t you want to know? The New York City Police Department (NYPD) has the ability to do all these things and more, but it has failed to comply with a law designed to promote transparency in its surveillance technology practices.
The Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology (POST) Act was enacted to ensure that the NYPD informed the public about its use of surveillance technologies. However, the department has repeatedly fallen short of the law’s requirements. Rather than providing detailed information about its existing technologies, the NYPD has offered vague categories that fail to shed light on its practices. Furthermore, the department has exploited a loophole by labeling new acquisitions as “enhancements” of existing technologies, thereby avoiding early communication and scrutiny.
The lack of transparency in the NYPD’s surveillance technology use extends beyond reporting. The department has neglected to prepare impact and use policies that effectively address racial biases or acknowledge the disproportionate targeting of Black and Latinx communities. It has even violated the POST Act by deploying surveillance drones without providing an addendum to their policies, highlighting its disregard for oversight measures.
In response to the NYPD’s non-compliance, we advocate for stricter oversight of its technology-related activities. We propose that all technology purchases and contract renewals be subject to City Council approval, as has been implemented in other jurisdictions. This external check on the NYPD’s unilateral decision-making regarding surveillance technology would promote transparency, privacy, and freedom from oppressive surveillance.
It is clear that relying on the NYPD to self-report its technology and capabilities has not been effective. Stricter oversight mechanisms are necessary to hold the department accountable and protect the rights of New Yorkers. By empowering the City Council with approval authority over technology acquisitions, we can ensure that surveillance practices are not carried out without public knowledge and consent.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What is the POST Act?
The Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology (POST) Act is a law that requires the New York City Police Department (NYPD) to inform the public about its use of surveillance technologies and provide impact and use policies.
2. Why is stricter oversight needed?
Stricter oversight is necessary because the NYPD has failed to comply with the POST Act, resulting in a lack of transparency and accountability in its surveillance technology practices.
3. How can stricter oversight be implemented?
We propose that all technology purchases and contract renewals by the NYPD be subject to City Council approval, similar to other jurisdictions that have implemented acquisition approval for new technologies.
4. What are the potential benefits of stricter oversight?
Stricter oversight would promote transparency, privacy, and freedom from oppressive surveillance. It would also ensure that surveillance practices are not carried out without public knowledge and consent.