Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Pictured: A slide on facial recognition technology from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's "Reimagining New York's Crossings" presentation.

When Minority Report Becomes New Yorkers' Reality

Simon McCormack

 by Speak Freely / ACLU

Tucked into Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s presentation on his $100 billion plan to invest in the state’s infrastructure last week was an initiative that will put New Yorkers’ privacy in peril.

Part of Cuomo’s plan to “reimagine New York’s crossings for the 21st century” calls for installing controversial advanced cameras, license plate readers, and facial recognition technology in New York’s airports and other transportation hubs. The plan also will install sensors and cameras at “structurally sensitive” points on bridges and tunnels.

This is a transformative surveillance system — one that has the potential to put thousands and thousands of people's images and data in a massive database that could be easily misused by the government in ways we haven’t even imagined yet. It’s also not yet clear how the information will be stored and who will have access to it. What is clear is that there is an enormous risk that innocent people will be misidentified as terrorists, especially people of color. That’s because facial recognition technology, while certainly not error proof generally, is much more likely to misidentify minorities. A 2012 study, highlighted by the Atlantic, for example, found that a facial recognition algorithm failed to identify the right person nearly twice as often when the photo was of a Black person.

The other technologies touted by Cuomo are far from harmless as well. Just ask Robert Harte how police use of license plate readers can go awry. A SWAT team in Kansas raided Harte’s house where his wife, 7-year-old daughter, and 13-year-old son lived based in part on the mass monitoring of cars parked at a gardening store. Harte was held at gunpoint for two hours while cops combed through his home. The police were looking for a marijuana growing operation. They did not find that or any other evidence of criminal activity in Harte’s house.

It’s also important to understand that these technologies have a way of creeping towards ubiquity. It starts with a camera here or a license plate reader there, but soon they are everywhere. And just as important, Gov. Cuomo’s plan sets a disturbing precedent that could be followed by other states.

We are taking one step closer to the dystopian world of Minority Report without any discussion of the serious privacy concerns that are implicated.


© 2021 ACLU

Simon McCormack

 

Simon McCormack is a communications officer at the New York Civil Liberties Union

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.

 

Right-Wing Justices Should Be Impeached for Lying Under Oath, Says Ocasio-Cortez

"We have a responsibility to protect our democracy," said the New York Democrat. "That includes holding those in power who violate the law accountable."

Kenny Stancil ·


'Infuriating': Biden Rebuked for Continued Opposition to Supreme Court Expansion

"What does Biden 'agree' with doing?" Mehdi Hasan asked. "What does the leader of this country want to do to stop the increasingly fascistic assault on our democratic institutions and basic rights?"

Kenny Stancil ·


'We Need Action': Biden, Democrats Urged to Protect Abortion Access in Post-Roe US

"The Supreme Court doesn't get the final say on abortion," Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Tina Smith wrote in a new op-ed.

Kenny Stancil ·


Motorist 'Tried to Murder' Abortion Rights Advocates at Iowa Protest, Witnesses Say

Although one witness said the driver went "out of his way" to hit pro-choice protestors in the street, Cedar Rapids police declined to make an arrest.

Kenny Stancil ·


'A Hate Crime': Oslo Pride Parade Canceled After Deadly Shooting at Gay Bar

A 42-year-old gunman has been charged with terrorism following what Norway's prime minister called a "terrible and deeply shocking attack on innocent people."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo