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Surveillance: New York police will use drones to monitor backyard parties this weekend, spurring privacy concerns

NEW YORK: These attending outside events or barbecues in New York Metropolis this weekend could discover an uninvited visitor looming over their festivities: a police surveillance drone.
The New York Metropolis police division plans to pilot the unmanned aircrafts in response to complaints about massive gatherings, together with non-public occasions, over Labor Day weekend, officers introduced Thursday.
“If a caller states there’s a big crowd, a big social gathering in a yard, we will be using our belongings to go up and go examine on the social gathering,” Kaz Daughtry, the assistant NYPD Commissioner, stated at a press convention.
The plan drew instant backlash from privateness and civil liberties advocates, elevating questions on whether or not such drone use violated current legal guidelines for police surveillance
“It is a troubling announcement and it flies within the face of the POST Act,” stated Daniel Schwarz, a privateness and expertise strategist on the New York Civil Liberties Union, referring to a 2020 metropolis legislation that requires the NYPD to reveal its surveillance techniques. “Deploying drones on this method is a sci-fi impressed situation.”
The transfer was introduced throughout a safety briefing targeted on J’ouvert, an annual Caribbean pageant marking the tip of slavery that brings hundreds of revelers and a heavy police presence to the streets of Brooklyn. Daughtry stated the drones would reply to “non-priority and precedence calls” past the parade route.
Like many cities, New York is more and more counting on drones for policing functions. Information maintained by the town reveals the police division has used drones for public security or emergency functions 124 instances this yr, up from simply 4 instances in all of 2022. They have been noticed within the skies after a parking storage collapse earlier this yr and when a giveaway occasion devolved into teenage mayhem.
Mayor Eric Adams, a former police captain, has stated he needs to see police additional embrace the “countless” potential of drones, citing Israel’s use of the expertise as a blueprint after visiting the nation final week.
However because the expertise proliferates, privateness advocates say laws haven’t saved up, opening the door to intrusive surveillance that might be unlawful if carried out by a human police officer.
“One of many greatest issues with the frenzy to roll out new types of aerial surveillance is how few protections we now have in opposition to seeing these cameras geared toward our backyards and even our bedrooms,” stated Albert Fox Cahn, the manager director of the Surveillance Know-how Oversight Undertaking (STOP).
The NYPD didn’t reply to an e-mail searching for additional details about its drone insurance policies.
In response to a request for remark, a spokesperson for Mayor Adams shared a hyperlink to new tips that make it simpler for personal drone operators to fly within the metropolis, however which don’t tackle whether or not the NYPD has any insurance policies for drone surveillance.
Round 1,400 police departments throughout the nation are presently utilizing drones in some kind, in line with a latest report from the American Civil Liberty Union. Underneath federal guidelines, they’re typically restricted to flying throughout the operator’s line of sight, although many departments have requested exemptions. The report predicted the usage of drones was “poised to blow up” amongst police departments.
Cahn, the privateness advocate, stated metropolis officers ought to be extra clear with the general public about how police are presently utilizing drones, with clear guardrails that forestall surveillance overreach sooner or later.
“Clearly, flying a drone over a yard barbecue is a step too far for a lot of New Yorkers,” Cahn stated.

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