New York City Council votes to force police to disclose all surveillance technologies they’re using 


New York City Council approves a new bill that will require police to disclose every surveillance technology and technique used to monitor civilians

  • Legislators in New York voted 44-6 to regulate police surveillance technology
  • The new bill will require yearly audits of all devices and techniques used
  • An NYPD spokesperson said the department will oppose the bill

The New York City Council has passed a new bill that will demand oversight of all the surveillance technology and policies used by the New York Police Department.

The bill, called Public Oversight Surveillance Technology (POST) Act, was approved by the City Council in a 44-6 vote, and Mayor Bill de Blasio indicated he would sign it into law.

The POST Act requires the police to disclose all forms of surveillance technology currently in use, list specific policies that limit its use, and submit to an annual audit to verify the police are following their own guidelines.

The New York City Council voted 44-6 to approve the Public Oversight Surveillance Technology (POST) Act, requiring the NYPD to disclose all surveillance technology currently used in the city

The POST Act was first introduced by Councilwoman Vanessa L. Gibson in 2017, according to a CNBC report, and gained renewed support in 2020 after protests against police violence swept across the city following the murder of George Floyd.

‘Across this nation there’s been a real crying call for more police accountability and transparency and this legislation, to me, is really a foundation,’ Gibson said in a statement.

‘It means it’s the beginning, family, and not the end of the NYPD to be honest with the public, with New Yorkers.’

The NYPD currently uses a wide range of surveillance devices and technology, perhaps none more expansive than the Domain Awareness System (DAS), an AI-driven network controlling more than 18,000 security cameras across the city.

The DAS was developed in the years following 9/11 as a counterterrorism tool but it has steadily expanded into other forms of law enforcement.

The NYPD has also developed a  facial recognition system – called facial identification section (FIS) – that can access footage collected by the DAS to identify and track individuals.

Vanessa L. Gibson (pictured above) first introduced the POST Act in 2017.  'Across this nation there’s been a real crying call for more police accountability and transparency and this legislation, to me, is really a foundation,' Gibson said in a statement

Vanessa L. Gibson (pictured above) first introduced the POST Act in 2017.  ‘Across this nation there’s been a real crying call for more police accountability and transparency and this legislation, to me, is really a foundation,’ Gibson said in a statement

Police in New York also use of stingrays, portable devices that mimic cell phone towers, to log data from phones, something that’s been periodically deployed against protestors for years.

Surveillance drones have also been used to track protests and capture footage of criminal suspects.

Legal advocates have worried that the lack of transparency about how and when the police use surveillance has made it difficult to defend their clients, or identify abuses of surveillance, including warrantless phone tracking, which was banned in 2017. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio has indicated he will sign the bill into law, while an NYPD spokesperson said the department would oppose the bill because it lacked a provision to protect undercover officers

Mayor Bill de Blasio has indicated he will sign the bill into law, while an NYPD spokesperson said the department would oppose the bill because it lacked a provision to protect undercover officers

Legal advocates have worried about the lack of transparency surround police surveillance, which has made it difficult to defend clients in court

Legal advocates have worried about the lack of transparency surround police surveillance, which has made it difficult to defend clients in court

‘Our ability to represent our clients, overwhelmingly people of color, is hindered by the clandestine use of surveillance against them, their families and their communities,’ Legal Aid Society’s Jerome Greco told CNBC.

‘We cannot wage a zealous fight in court on their behalf if we do not even know there is something to fight over.’

An NYPD spokesperson said that the department will oppose the bill, though it would have been open to supporting it if it included a provision to specifically protect undercover officers. 

‘The NYPD cannot support a law that seems to be designed to help criminals and terrorists thwart efforts to stop them and endanger brave officers,’ the spokesperson said.

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