ACLU-NJ: Newark Needs to End Disturbing Livestreaming Mass Surveillance Program Now

Newark is crowdsourcing its policing when it should be focused on fulfilling federal consent decree, ACLU-NJ says

Affiliate: ACLU of New Jersey
April 27, 2018 9:15 am

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This morning, the City of Newark unexpectedly unveiled a disturbing, real-time video feed online with footage from about 60 cameras at various places in the city. In its announcement, Newark encouraged the public to patrol Newark’s sidewalks, streets, and neighborhoods virtually.

The ACLU-NJ calls on the City of Newark to weigh the consequences and end the mass livestreaming of its surveillance feeds, especially when it needs to focus resources on the federal consent decree (PDF) regarding the department’s civil rights violations. According to a Department of Justice investigation, 75 percent of the stops in the city did not have a unconstitutional basis.

The new platform features high-resolution real-time video of spots throughout New Jersey’s largest city. Newark plans to expand the number of cameras in the live feed to approximately 125.

Other cities have instituted similar real-time surveillance systems for police to monitor. However, Newark would be among the first jurisdictions in the United States to broadcast real-time high-resolution video feeds aimed at encouraging people to point the finger at community members.

The following statement can be attributed to ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha:

“Newark is crowdsourcing its police force when it should be focusing on how its police department can work within the bounds of the Constitution and fulfill its obligations under the consent decree with the Justice Department. Newark should consider the consequences of communal, livestreaming mass surveillance and end it before more people are put at risk.

“Especially in a city that has come under federal monitoring because of unlawful searches, thefts committed by police, and other egregious abuses, Newark should not be looking to untrained civilians on the internet to assume the role of protecting public safety. The role of government isn’t to transmit a 24-7 camera feed of your block to allow the world to see when you leave your home, when you come back, and who comes to visit, and it certainly isn’t where our tax dollars should go.

“Calling on civilians to patrol the video streams and call in any suspicions of criminal activity from their living room amounts to outsourcing policing to people who most likely haven’t been trained in recognizing criminal activity or in the contours of the law.

“We have so many concerns about this: the invasion of privacy, the risks it opens up for vulnerable people like domestic violence survivors or potential victims of crimes like burglary and sexual assault, the ease with which anyone – no matter their motivation – could point the finger and initiate a police investigation, the potential for abuse of collected data. We know next to nothing about this program, and now anyone who comes to Newark is an unwitting subject of surveillance, potentially by anyone in the world.”

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