NYPD, Microsoft collude on city-wide surveillance network

Microsoft has partnered with the New York Police Department to develop a city-wide surveillance network, which will be offered to police departments further afield.

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg yesterday heralded the introduction of a cutting-edge surveillance system that can analyse a range of data input such as smart cameras, licence plate readers and even radiation detectors, to deliver a real time security overview.

Microsoft and the NYPD claim the Domain Awareness System (DAS) will be helping to fight real crime on New York streets. The system, which combines a variety of advanced surveillance methods, is able to alert investigators when, for example, suspect packages or vehicles could present a ‘security threat’.

Bloomberg said that the system will utilise existing surveillance technologies, unifying them through the DAS.  

“This new system capitalises on new powerful policing software that allows police officers and other personnel to more quickly access relevant information gathered from existing technology, and help them respond even more efficiently,” Bloomberg said at a conference. 

Although the Mayor claimed that the system was predominantly for preventing terrorism, he elaborated that it could be used more widely.

“The technology being used here can also play an important role in fighting everyday crime,” Bloomberg said.

While New York City has largely resolved its problems with street crime since the beginning of former mayor Rudy Giuliani’s time in office, more recently the city’s law enforcement has been reacting to enormous social protests from the Occupy movement – including mass arrests.

Republicans and Democrats responded in a rare show of agreement by passing through the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act, which this Washington Times article claims is an anti-Occupy law that “ends America’s right to protest”. While New York is seen as a prime terrorist target, a pervasive real-time security system could also be a response to America’s largest social movement in decades.

The unification and intelligent assesment of a variety of data would help police respond to the challenges that face the city, Bloomberg said, allowing police officers to prevent crime and respond more quickly in future.

Microsoft said the joint development would be sold to other police departments. New York appears to be an experiment for the system – if Redmond and the NYPD generate any further sales, New York gets a 30 percent cut of the profit.

Bloomberg said that the NYPD and Microsoft will now be looking to expand the system “across the city and around the world”, presumably, on the whim of local governments – and not necessarily with the consent of already heavily surveillanced people across the world.