Facial recognition to catch terrorists in New York

New York governor Andrew Cuomo has unveiled a series of hi-tech projects for the city, including facial-recognition technology to identify drivers as they cross bridges and tunnels.

Facial recognition to catch terrorists in New York

The cameras are to be trialled as an anti-terrorism measure, with the idea being that they recognise faces from a database of known suspects.  

“At each crossing, and at structurally sensitive points on bridges and tunnels, advanced cameras and sensors will be installed to read licence plates and test emerging facial-recognition software and equipment,” said Cuomo during a press conference.

Facial-recognition technology is already used by New York’s DMV, and an upgrade to the system in January has led to more than 100 arrests and 900 open investigations.

Not much in the way of specific details was given about how the cameras would work, where they would be positioned, and who would have access to the information. Since the announcement of the trial, privacy groups have raised concerns about the technology’s potential infringement on civil liberties.   

“It’s troubling that we’re one step closer to the world of Minority Report without any discussion of the serious privacy concerns that are implicated by this plan,” Mariko Hirose, a senior staff attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union, told 


Facial recognition is only one part of the $100 billion investment into state infrastructure outlined by Cuomo. Given much more focus during the speech was the plan to fit New York’s bridges and tunnels with LED lights, and the introduction of an auto-tolling system.

Cuomo characterised the overhaul to New York’s infrastructure as a way to adapt to contemporary threats. “In this age of terrorist activity and lone wolves, if you look at points of vulnerability you’ll go to our tunnels and to our bridges. So really they have to be reimagined for a new reality,” he said.

Outside of security, facial recognition is increasingly being used in our cities. The commercial sector has been introducing the technology for in-store targeted advertising.

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