POST Act Background from The Brennan Center For Justice

PUBLIC OVERSIGHT OF SURVEILLANCE TECHNOLOGY (POST) ACT
 
The Need for Local Transparency
There is deep concern about how the Trump administration will use the powerful surveillance tools at its disposal, whether to target historically marginalized communities under the guise of national security, to bluntly enforce immigration laws, or to wage “war” on the news media. But in New York City, there should be no confusion about the NYPD’s role in Trump’s agenda, the types of surveillance tools being used on New Yorkers, or the information that the NYPD collects and share with state and federal agencies.
 
Secret Surveillance Equipment
The NYPD has quietly amassed a broad array of new surveillance technologies without public notice,
debate, or oversight, including:
  • Stingrays (cell phone locators) that can track an individual’s location as well as capture data from or disrupt service of all nearby devices;
  • Military-grade X-ray vans that use radiation to see through walls and vehicles;
  • Automatic license plate readers installed on public roads and patrol cars that can track andpredict an individual’s location;
  • ShotSpotter, a gunshot detection system with sensitive microphones capable of recording nearby conversations;
  • A Domain Awareness System that integrates data from thousands of security cameras,license plate readers, E-ZPass readers, and MetroCard swipes to track New Yorkers’ travels.
Information Sharing Networks
The NYPD shares data with regional and state “fusion centers” as well as the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), which includes representatives from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Yet little is known about what information the NYPD shares, with whom, or whether it may be used by federal agencies to unfairly target immigrants and Muslims.
 
Lack of Notice, Debate, & Oversight
The NYPD has acquired new surveillance technologies and joined information sharing networks with little if any input from the City Council. Funding comes from federal grants, private donors, or through loopholes in procurement rules. As a result, the City Council and the public have been left in the dark on important decisions about police surveillance, what happens to the data, and how public funds are used.
 
The POST Act
The POST Act establishes transparency and reporting requirements for the NYPD’s use of potent surveillance technologies and its participation in information sharing networks. It is similar to bills recently passed or introduced in other progressive cities, such as Seattle, San Francisco, Santa Clara, and Oakland, and it follows the recommendation of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The POST Act would provide big picture information about new technologies and their permissible uses. It would not disclose operational details to compromise the NYPD’s investigatory duties, but it would provide lawmakers and the public with the information necessary to conduct effective oversight and help restore public confidence in local policing.