Quietly and with little fanfare, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) has been spying on New Yorkers using an advanced network of cameras that are capable of identifying people based on their unique physical features. And we now know that the NYPD procured this highly-advanced, post-9/11 “anti-terrorism” technology in all of its Big Brother glory from tech giant IBM, the very same company that once built computing machines to help Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich process concentration camp prisoners.
An in-depth investigatory report by The Intercept reveals how IBM has been secretly accessing NYPD camera footage, with the NYPD’s blessing, and using it to ramp up facial recognition technologies that have the capacity to identify individuals based on unique characteristics like hair color, facial hair, and even skin tone.
While IBM declined to comment about its use of NYPD footage to develop this technology, it did reportedly tell The Intercept that video footage was provided “from time to time” that allowed IBM “to ensure that the product they were developing would work in the crowded urban NYC environment and help us protect the City.”
“There is nothing in the NYPD’s agreement with IBM that prohibits sharing data with IBM for system development purposes,” the company added, failing to address the fact that New Yorkers never consented to being recorded by the NYPD in the first place, let alone to having their persons analyzed by a private, multi-national corporation for tracking and spying purposes.
“While facial recognition technology, which measures individual faces at over 16,000 points for fine-grained comparisons with other facial images, has attracted significant legal scrutiny and media attention, this object identification software has largely evaded attention,” explain George Joseph and Kenneth Lipp, writing for The Intercept.
“How exactly this technology came to be developed and which particular features the software was built to catalog have never been revealed publicly by the NYPD.”
IBM refuses to explain why it didn’t make its collaboration with the NYPD public
Though the NYPD ultimately decided not to integrate the analytics program that IBM developed from the footage into its “larger surveillance structure,” the fact of the matter is that all of this spying and surveillance by the NYPD, and the sharing of it with IBM, was never discussed publicly. Further, New Yorkers were never asked to give consent for such a collaboration, which represents the epitome of fascism.
When pressed for answers, IBM refused to comment other than to state that “various elected leaders and stakeholders” were briefed in advance about the NYPD’s efforts “to keep this city safe” – “safe” being a code word for government violations of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Various civil liberties advocates say that New Yorkers should have been made privy to what was going on, especially since video footage of them was being secretly shared with a private corporation for profit-generating purposes.
The New York City Council recently put forth a bill that would require increased NYPD transparency when it comes to these types of surveillance efforts, regardless of whether or not they’re being marketed as mere tools to “fight terrorism.” But entrenched deep state operatives like Mayor Bill de Blasio are, of course, opposed to them, arguing that increased transparency will “only make our enemies stronger.”
“If we start to lay out everything we do to gather information to fight crime and fight terrorism, if we lay that out too publicly and in too much detail, unfortunately, it provides a roadmap for the bad guys,” argues de Blasio.
“And I am not ever going to be comfortable with that.”