Saturday, May 24, 2008
No more rooftop sunbathing in New York City, the cops are watching you
Some people were upset that Google Earth might snap some fuzzy pictures of people sunbathing in their own backyards. Imagine if the pictures weren't fuzzy.
New York City cops have a new spy toy—an unmarked helicopter with high-powered cameras that can zoom in through the sunroof of a car, or see into your bedroom window, for example. They promise they won't do that, but just you wait. And they can do it simply by punching in some coordinates. Just like using Google Earth, the helicopter looks where it is told and begins spying. It can, of course, read license plates and identify faces, all from 'way up in the air.
"It looks like just another helicopter in the sky," said Assistant Police Chief Charles Kammerdener, who oversees the department's aviation unit.
The $10 million helicopter is just part of the department's efforts to adopt cutting-edge technology for its counterterrorism operations.
The NYPD also plans to spend tens of millions of dollars strengthening security in the lower Manhattan business district with a network of closed-circuit television cameras and license-plate readers posted at bridges, tunnels and other entry points.
Civil rights advocates are skeptical about the push for more surveillance, arguing it reflects the NYPD's evolution into ad hoc spy agency.
"From a privacy perspective, there's always a concern that 'New York's Finest' are spending millions of dollars to engage in peeping tom activities," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Police insist that law-abiding New Yorkers have nothing to fear.
The helicopter's powers of observation come from a high-powered robotic camera mounted on a turret projecting from its nose like a periscope. The camera has infrared night-vision capabilities and a satellite navigation system that allows police to automatically zoom in on a location by typing in the address on a computer keyboard.
The surveillance system can beam live footage to police command centers or even to wireless hand-held devices. [Unmarked chopper patrols New York City from above, wiredispatch.com (AP) 5/23/2008]
Big Brother is here and (if you live in New York CIty) may be watching you. When they tell you that you have "nothing to fear," it's time to be very concerned.
(hat tip to Viviane Lerner for forwarding this article)