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7 Oct, 2016 17:27

Facial recognition tech set for NY bridges & tunnels ‘to fight terrorism’ (VIDEOS)

Facial recognition tech set for NY bridges & tunnels ‘to fight terrorism’ (VIDEOS)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has revealed details of his high-tech plans for the state, including ‘all seeing’ bridges and tunnels equipped with cameras and facial recognition technology.

The futuristic proposals could be straight out of a science fiction thriller but are, in fact, part of the ambitious New York Crossings Project which outlines plans to revolutionise the transport network and fortify anti-terror efforts.

Governor Cuomo announced the transformational plan at a press conference this week, emphasizing the increased security measures were a response to terror threats which he said were increasing.

“Denial is not a life strategy,” he said. “There are security concerns about our tunnels and bridges in this age of terrorist activity and lonewolves; if you look at points of vulnerability you’ll go to our tunnels and our bridges.”

MTA (Metropolitan Transport Authority) facilities and crossings across the state will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology, including advanced cameras and sensors which will be able to read licence plates and test facial recognition software and equipment.

This also includes the new Penn Farley Complex as well as the state’s airports, with the view to creating a ‘one system-wide plan’, according to a statement from the Governor.

Under the plan, anti-terrorism teams will be combined with traffic enforcement, adding to an overall increase in law enforcement at crossings. Some 525 TBTA officers, 150 State troopers and 150 National Guardsmen will be employed and positioned at both ends of each of the two tunnels and seven MTA operated bridges.

The New York Civil Liberties Union said in a statement the move was ushering in a new era of surveillance.

“We are taking one step closer to the dystopian world of Minority Report without any discussion of the serious privacy concerns that are implicated,” Mariko Hirose, senior staff attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union said.

New York ramped up its security measures in the wake of the Nice Terror attacks this summer and again last month, deploying 1000 state police and National Guard after an explosion in Manhattan. The incident marked the first act of terror targeted at the city since the September 11 attacks 15 years ago.

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New York’s DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) already uses facial recognition technology and reported an increase in arrests and investigations since it was upgraded last January.

The New York Crossings project also includes automatic tolling which is expected to reduce congestion and is scheduled to be rolled out at both MTA tunnels in January and on all MTA-operated bridges by the end of next year.

Sensors and cameras will be suspended over the highway meaning vehicles will not have to stop as the owner’s identity will be detected via registration plate number. Vehicles with an E-ZPass will be automatically charged, and non-E-ZPass vehicle owners will receive a bill in the mail.

The new strategy also includes flood and earthquake protection measures and infrastructure enhancement such as LED installations, also set to begin at the start of 2017.

The project is being funded as part of the MTA's $27 billion capital plan.