New Yorks Smart IDs Are the Latest Mass Surveillance Nightmare

More than a million New Yorkers could soon willingly is in favour of carry a government-issued tracking device, whether they realize it or not.

That’s the proposal from Mayor Bill de Blasio, who having recently returned from the cornfield-dotted campaign trail in Iowa, is setting his batches on altering New York City into something out of a dystopian sci-fi novel. But some commentators are urging caution about the move.

The fuss is about a insignificant RFID chip that the mayor wants to embed into each and every borough ID card for New York residents as part of the ” IDNYC ” program.

The latest proposal might seem modest, but the reality is that it potentially employs hundreds of thousands of us at greater danger of identity crime, stalking, and( for undocumented New Yorkers) removal. And sadly it’s part of the worldwide trend towards so-called ” smart municipalities “– a series of high-tech tackles that claim to improve municipal productivity at the meagre expenditure of depriving us of our privacy and independence.

It’d be a questionable trade-off if these new technologies delivered, but increasingly we see that these systems take more than we feared while extradite far less than we were promised.

Smart metropolitans proponents claim that by integrating the internet of things, neural networks, and systems of sensors that we are unable to acquire our children smarter, our commutes faster, and even save lives. The outlandish allegations don’t objective there. Smart-alecky municipalities are acclaimed as the solution to everything from the opioid crisis to de facto school segregation . Perhaps the most outlandish allegation yet is that knock-off RoboCops will even prevent crimes before they even happen.

The movement is only in its infancy, but smart-alecky municipal platforms already include every borough service from schools, to hospitals, to sanitation, to law enforcement. And areas outside major cities aren’t exempt either. Increasingly, towns large and small are being taken in by the promise of a data-driven society.


The privacy risk is hard to overstate. Government authorities will have increasing extents of extremely sensitive data about our state, our children’s institution rendition, and where we spend our free time. Go to the bar? The smart-alecky municipality knows. Go to a protest? It probably knows that extremely. And so will anyone who hackers in.

Hacking isn’t some theoretical threat, it’s already happened. As early as 2014, security investigates starting promoting the alarm that critical metropoli structures were unencrypted and absolutely vulnerable to attack. That same year, the Department of Homeland Security admitted that intruders had broken into a public utility by simply predicting the password.

More recently, we’ve seen entire cities held hostage by hackers. Both Baltimore and Atlanta verified gigantic swaths of their governments grind to a halt when attackers squandered ransomware to encrypt government computer systems, necessitating a large payment in exchange for the key. Tenants lost access to everything from online money remittances, to deed conveys and even law scheduling. In the incidents of Baltimore , is not simply was the city out of action for weeks by the attack, but crucial data was permanently lost .~ ATAGEND

Disturbingly for those whose health and financial data is held in these systems, hackers can just as easily announced what they find in public. As The Wall street Journal recently mentioned:” The more connected a city is, the more vulnerable it is to cyberattacks .” Even with the best security armours, municipals can’t eliminate the threat–not as long as we continue to collect the data.

Sadly, for countless smart municipal activities, privacy protections are not just an unwanted outlay, but an existential threat. After all, even though these systems are sold with the promise of promoting government efficiency, the true product is often the public itself and all our data. Ventures like Firefly and LinkNYC give populace location data to do what so many tech enterprises have done: better target their ads. Smart municipals create a captive, most segmented audience ready to be told what they need to buy.

But the perils don’t finish with the exploitation of surveillance capitalism. As these systems are increasingly integrated into city business, we are in danger of automating age-old biases and further discriminating against marginalized societies. Some of the most visible lessons to date have stemmed from the use of racially-biased facial acknowledgment in law enforcement agencies and racially or socioeconomically biased algorithms in child risk assessments. The gambles likely go even further than what we can imagine now.

Rather than approving the New York’s brand-new chip project, advocates are speaking out, and now the New York City Council is considering a proposal that they are able to veto this type of feature. If the invoice delivers, it will be a milestone in the backlash against smart-alecky municipalities and a clear signal we need to slow down and think more clearly about implementation before inadvertently hastening into a dystopian future we can’t come back from.

Albert Fox Cahn is the executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project at the Urban Justice Center, a New York-based civil and privacy company.

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