Human rights activists sound the alarm: American citizens suffer from total surveillance using AI
The police and even private corporations do not hesitate to collect gigabytes of data on the movement of people, where will this lead us?
In March 2022, American David Zayas was driving on a highway in Scarsdale, New York. His car, a gray Chevrolet, was completely unremarkable, as was its speed. But for the Westchester County Police Department, the car was a concern and Zayas a potential criminal.
The fact is that a new powerful tool based on artificial intelligence identified the behavior of the car as suspicious. Looking through a database of over 1.5 billion license plate records collected over the past two years across New York State, the AI determined that Zayas’ car was making a typical drug-dealing trip.
Between October 2020 and August 2021, the man made nine trips from Massachusetts to different parts of New York City, following routes known to be used by drug traffickers, according to a statement from the Attorney’s Office of the Department of Justice.
On March 10 last year, Westchester police stopped Zayas and searched his car, finding inside 112 grams of crack, a semi-automatic pistol, and $34,000 in cash. A year later, Zayas pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges.
The police have long used automatic license plate recognition (ALPR), but previously it was used only to search for specific vehicles associated with specific crimes. In the case described above, the system analyzed the movement of all cars passing by any of the district’s 480 cameras, and this data was “fed” to artificial intelligence.
The Westchester Police License Plate Tracking System was reportedly built by a private company. rekorwhich specializes in artificial intelligence. Government data shows that Rekor has sold its ALPR technology to at least 23 police departments and local governments across America. This is not counting the over 40 police departments across New York State that can use the Westchester County police system.
Now that so many agencies are collecting license plate records and using them in conjunction with artificial intelligence technologies, human rights activists are sounding the alarm: in their eyes, such technologies violate the basic rights of average Americans, grossly violating their privacy.
“Without judicial oversight, this type of system operates at the whim of every officer with access to it,” said Ben Gold, lawyer for the aforementioned David Zayas.
“The scale of this kind of surveillance is just unbelievably large,” Brett Max Kaufman, senior lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, expressed his concerns.
In pursuit of this elusive profit, the “AI espionage” market is looking beyond law enforcement to retail and fast food. So, McDonald’s And white castle have already started using technologies like ALPR to optimize deliveries, identify returning customers, and leverage past order experiences from specific customers for flexible, personalized recommendations.
As such smart systems become more widespread, it becomes increasingly difficult to escape the vigilant scrutiny of governments and corporations. Let’s hope that the American practice will not be introduced everywhere over time, otherwise very soon we will be able to see the plots of numerous dystopian films in real life.