Inside the NYPD’s Surveillance Machine

Amnesty International,

Your face is being tracked. Find out where. Help ban the scan. The New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) surveillance machinery disproportionally threatens the rights of non-white New Yorkers.

The expansive reach of facial recognition leaves entire neighbourhoods and protest sites across the city exposed to surveillance via facial recognition, supercharging existing racial discrimination.

This cannot continue. We must ban the scan.

The NYPD used facial recognition technology in 22,000 cases between 2016 and 2019 – half of which were in 2019. Despite mounting evidence that facial recognition technology violates human rights, in most cases, we do not know where, when or why. When Amnesty International and others filed a Freedom of Information Law request, the NYPD refused to provide information.

To help bring about a ban on police use of facial recognition technology, in mid-2021 Amnesty International launched an ambitious effort, Decode Surveillance NYC. The effort mobilised thousands of digital volunteers to find and categorise CCTV cameras throughout the city. We then worked with data scientists, geographers, and 3D modellers to analyse the crowdsourced data.

Our analysis of the Decode Surveillance NYC data reveals an expansive, invasive and discriminatory surveillance machine at the core of the NYPD’s policing tactics.