ALBANY, N.Y. (Feb. 28, 2022) – A bill introduced in the New York Senate would ban police from using weaponized robots or robots for surveillance. The enactment of this legislation would not only protect life and privacy in New York; it will also hinder the ever-expanding national surveillance state.
Sen. Jabari Brisport (D) and Sen. Juia Salazar (D) introduced Senate Bill 6418 (S6418) last April and it carried over to the 2022 legislative session. The proposed law would prohibit police use of weaponized robots, non-weaponized robots that could potentially cause injury and the use of robots for surveillance purposes.
S6418 defines a robot as “an artificial object or system that senses, processes and acts, to at least some degree, and is operated either autonomously by computers or by an individual remotely.” Surveillance is defined as any observation or monitoring of civilians.
IMPACT ON FEDERAL SURVEILLANCE
The federal government encourages and funds a giant nationwide surveillance net and then taps into the information via fusion centers and the Information Sharing Environment (ISE). Limiting data collection at the state and local levels minimizes the data that can flow into this national system.
Fusion centers were sold as a tool to combat terrorism, but that is not how they are being used. The ACLU pointed to a bipartisan congressional report to demonstrate the true nature of government fusion centers: “They haven’t contributed anything meaningful to counterterrorism efforts. Instead, they have largely served as police surveillance and information sharing nodes for law enforcement efforts targeting the frequent subjects of police attention: Black and brown people, immigrants, dissidents, and the poor.”
Fusion centers operate within the broader ISE. According to its website, the ISE “provides analysts, operators, and investigators with information needed to enhance national security. These analysts, operators, and investigators…have mission needs to collaborate and share information with each other and with private sector partners and our foreign allies.” In other words, ISE serves as a conduit for the sharing of information gathered without a warrant. Known ISE partners include the Office of Director of National Intelligence which oversees 17 federal agencies and organizations, including the NSA. ISE utilizes these partnerships to collect and share data on the millions of unwitting people they track.
Reports that the Berkeley Police Department in cooperation with a federal fusion center deployed cameras equipped to surveil a “free speech” rally and Antifa counterprotests provided the first solid link between the federal government and local authorities in facial recognition surveillance.
In a nutshell, without state and local cooperation, the feds have a much more difficult time gathering information. Passage of state laws limiting the collection of surveillance data hinders the federal surveillance state. If there is no data gathered, it can’t be stored in federal databases.
S6418 was referred to the Senate Codes Committee where it must get a hearing and pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.
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