NYC, Microsoft Team On Huge Surveillance System - InformationWeek

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Government // Open Government

NYC, Microsoft Team On Huge Surveillance System

With an eye to fighting crime and terrorism, Domain Awareness System will cull data from closed-circuit TV cameras, radiation detectors, and license plate readers around the city.

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New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled Wednesday a new surveillance system, developed in partnership with Microsoft, that incorporates information from license plate readers, street cameras, and other sensors distributed around the city.

The new Domain Awareness System will pull in data from some 3,000 closed-circuit television cameras in lower and midtown Manhattan, 2,600 radiation detectors distributed to New York Police Department (NYPD) officers on patrol, and 100 license plate readers on bridges, tunnels, streets, and city police cars.

The system, which will support crime prevention and counterterrorism, will relay information "so it can be analyzed and acted upon" by the NYPD, Bloomberg said. The technology has a role "in fighting everyday crime," he said.

According to a joint statement by city officials and Microsoft, the system was developed "by police officers for police officers." Its capabilities include real-time alerts and the ability to display data on maps of the city. Cameras can be programmed to sound an alarm if they spot suspicious activity, such as an unattended package or vehicle parked in front of a building.

New York police commissioner Ray Kelly said the system "allows us to connect the dots" by providing access to crime records, 911 calls, license-plate registration, video, and other data sources.

[ Learn about proposed legislation to bring privacy laws up to speed with law enforcement requests in the age of mobile and cloud. Cloud Privacy Update Tackled By Lawmakers. ]

Microsoft worked with the NYPD's Intelligence Division and Counter-Terrorism Bureau over several years to develop the Domain Awareness System. Depending on how it performs, the system may be offered to other municipalities.

In a unique business relationship, Microsoft will pay New York 30% of revenue on sales of the system to other cities. That could potentially let New York recoup its expenses and "maybe even make a few bucks," Bloomberg said.

Contributing writer Dan Taylor is managing editor of Inside the Navy.

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User Rank: Apprentice
8/15/2012 | 1:23:45 PM
re: NYC, Microsoft Team On Huge Surveillance System
A similar capability is already working at the Lowell Police Department in MA. See the link Called PolicePad, it was developed by Zco Corporation working with the Lowell Police Department and runs on the Apple iPad. There is a version for the fire service as well, called FireTab. Both PolicePad and FireTab will be demonstrated at the International Association of Chiefs of Police show in San Diego on September 30th, booth 2004. Check it out at Also, Zco will be unveiling "Time Patrol" for crime analysis at the show.
Andrew Hornback
Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/9/2012 | 9:39:19 PM
re: NYC, Microsoft Team On Huge Surveillance System
Have to wonder how long it'll be before NYPD enters into a deal with Simon Cowell to produce a TV series based on the crazy stuff that happens in this city on a daily basis. I can see it now... coming soon on (insert basc cable channel here) "New York's Got Crazy"

Joking aside - I've seen systems like this before, getting installed to protect businesses (casinos) or government institutions. I know that London has a system with a similar theory in place. However, I'd have to wonder if there is any kind of disclaimer or waiver that people would have to sign in order to show that they're under surveillence when they come into Manhattan?

And speaking of signs... how long before you see "Welcome to Manhattan - Smile, you're being watched" or "Welcome to Brooklyn - Cameras? We don't need no stinkin' cameras!"

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
User Rank: Apprentice
8/9/2012 | 6:11:42 PM
re: NYC, Microsoft Team On Huge Surveillance System
I don't know what Bloomberg is thinking. I would assume that this will end up costing New Yorkers millions in legal fees. This is just another of his wild ideas. I am so glad I do not live in NY. Mistaken identities can destroy your life.
User Rank: Ninja
8/9/2012 | 4:45:11 PM
re: NYC, Microsoft Team On Huge Surveillance System
Too true. Next generation of car diagnostics will track you. Drones will track you. So many more examples.

And as far as future generations go, keep in mind most of them go to schools where they have to pass through metal detectors every day, have no expectation of privacy, can be searched anytime for no reason, and are around armed guards in the halls at all times.

A whole generation is being trained and conditioned to accept these conditions as normal, and, indeed, 'safe.' When large numbers of this generation start to vote I worry deeply about what they will see as 'not a problem,' and what type of society we'll have then. We might long for the days we have now, which is pretty depressing.
[email protected],
User Rank: Apprentice
8/9/2012 | 2:46:27 PM
re: NYC, Microsoft Team On Huge Surveillance System
BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING! George Orwell's novel "1984" has finally come to pass albeit a few years late. Why don't we have massive demonstrations or at the least some expression of concern? Do we no longer live in America?

Every day our privacy is eroded as companies and well-meaning politicians take our private information and our daily commute and use it for their own purposes, generally "for OUR protection!' And we allow it! All of us!

We have become a nation of zombies, unless something directly affects something we have undertaken we ACCEPT whatever we are told that we MUST do to access some website or travel to some place we have gone for generations without our presence being detected and tracked.

Children can be forgiven such oversights due to their lack of knowledge and experience on what this means but for the rest of the adult population has it become the norm to turn a blind, foolish eye to these things? What kind of a country are we allowing to exist for future generations?
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