The powers of Microsoft and New York City have combined to watch over the urban jungle like a superhero might, surveying the city with a vigilant, omnipotent eye. On Wednesday, the “Domain Awareness System”, which aggregates data from a multitude of the city’s pre-existing public safety feeds, was unveiled by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. “Domain Awareness”, the formidable product of a joint venture with Microsoft, cost between $30 to $40 million dollars to make and is comprised of 3,000 cameras and 2,600 radiation detectors. The police department hopes the “all-seeing” system will be a preemptive strike in any terrorist activities, and also a way to reduce incident response times. CBS reports that the system has several primary functions, including:
- Identifying whether a radiation alarm was set off by actual radiation, a weapon, or a harmless medical isotope
- Track where a suspect’s car is located, and where it has been in the past few months
- Instantly see a suspect’s arrest record, and 911 calls related to the crime
By partnering with Microsoft, the city hopes to sell the technology to other police departments around the country, also looking to “recoup” all expenses over a period of time and “maybe even make a few bucks.” The move doesn’t inspire much faith in for a police force that has already come under fire for drastic and sometimes misappropriated security measures such as “stop-and-frisk”. It remains to be seen whether this system is going to provide for precision in security or spur on more unrest in what’s becoming a highly regulated police state. New York City will be receiving a 30% cut of any sales Microsoft brings in on the system in the future, so rest assured that they’ll be pitching this to other cities and townships in the near future.
“This new system capitalizes on new powerful policing software that allows police officers and other personnel to more quickly access relevant information gathered from existing cameras, 911 calls, previous crime reports and other existing tools and technology,” said Mayor Bloomberg of the system. “It will help the NYPD do more to prevent crimes from occurring and help them respond to crimes even more effectively.” Mayor Bloomberg was also quick to dismiss “Domain Awareness” as a move to obtain “Big Brother” omniscience, stating, ” “What you’re seeing is what the private sector has used for a long time. If you walk around with a cell phone, the cell phone company knows where you are…We’re not your mom and pop’s police department anymore. We are in the next century. We are leading the pack. That’s exactly what you expect us to do.”
That might be so, and it seems the thumbs up is affirmative on the projects as the real-time security and analysis system is finding its was to high and discreet points all over ‘Gotham’. Data collected by the system is going to be used “for a legitimate law enforcement or public safety purpose,” per the city’s guidelines. Monitoring of the city streets will occur 24 hours a day in some parts of lower Manhattan, video will be held for 30 days unless archived, and license plate information will be saved for five years. The combination of the two is going to undoubtedly result in severe blowback from privacy groups, with many citizens feeling this is an invasive violation of citizen’s privacy. Can integrating connected data systems and data streams help to protect this major city from a potential terrorist attack? Does the tool seem to be “created by police officers for police officers”, as stated by Police Commissioner Kelly, or created by Microsoft and latched onto by New York City to generate revenue? Share your thoughts in the comments.