June 16, 2024
June 16, 2024
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NY police used AI to track drivers on highways as attorney questions legality

AI technology analyzed a vast database containing 1.6 billion New York license plates during a span of two years and identified a vehicle traveling along a route associated with drug trafficking, displaying suspicious patterns.

David Zayas, a convicted drug dealer from Massachusetts, was behind the wheel of the car that made nine trips between his home state and New York City, as well as the neighboring suburbs in Westchester County. This movement was closely monitored by numerous license plate readers (LPRs), as detailed in federal court documents examined by Fox News Digital.

Law enforcement in Westchester County stopped Zayas on March 10, 2022, for minor traffic violations such as improper lane changes and exceeding the speed limit by 15 mph.

What initially seemed like a routine traffic stop evolved into a federal drug trafficking case, shedding light on the police department’s reliance on an AI-driven surveillance program. Zayas’ attorney raised concerns about the legality of this program, questioning its operation without proper judicial oversight.

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According to federal court filings, Zayas followed the same route from Massachusetts to New York between August 2020 and March 2022.

Upon searching his vehicle, authorities discovered 112 grams of crack cocaine, a semiautomatic pistol, and $34,000 in cash hidden inside, as outlined in court records.

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The case brought to light the utilization of an AI-powered analytical software known as “Rekor Scout” by the county police, as mentioned in a motion filed by Zayas’ lawyer, Ben Gold.

According to the software’s website, Rekor Scout enhances public safety through AI-driven LPR (license plate readers) and vehicle recognition, offering demonstration videos and explanations of its functionality.

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The original criminal complaint and indictment did not reference the use of LPRs or AI by law enforcement. Gold uncovered this information through a public records request.

He discovered that the Real Time Crime Center of the Westchester County Police operates one of the largest ALPR (automatic number-plate recognition) databases in the nation, as stated in a motion to suppress evidence dated March 10, 2023.

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The surveillance program encompasses approximately 480 LPRs that scan and log around 16.2 million vehicles weekly, retaining this data for a two-year period, as detailed in the court filing.

“During these two years, the Government, as seen in this case, can track the precise travel histories of almost anyone on major roads in Westchester County without a warrant,” Gold stated in a court filing dated February 15, 2023.

“The extent of this LPR system is remarkable and constitutes an unwarranted search.”

READ THE FULL MARCH 10, 2023, COURT FILING

“These searches were conducted without judicial oversight and lacked any basis to suspect a specific crime had occurred, let alone any reason to suspect Mr. Zayas of committing a crime,” Gold emphasized.

“This surveillance was carried out using a system based on automatic license plate readers (ALPR). ALPR systems combine high-speed cameras with analytical image software to gather plate numbers, images, timestamps, and GPS locations of every passing vehicle.”

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Gold argued that the combination of advanced technology, AI-enabled rapid scanning, and two-year data retention amounts to an invasion of privacy.

“Surveillance networks relying on ALPR technology can retroactively track individuals’ movements with a simple search query,” he noted.

“The scope and detail of this search are only limited by the number of cameras feeding data into the database and the duration of data retention.”

Gold sought information on the locations of these cameras, but this part of his public records request was denied, although the county acknowledged that these locations change frequently.

“The extent of this surveillance network is likely even greater than reported, as the RTC (Real Time Crime Center) engages in data-sharing with other local agencies and has access to a national database with an undisclosed number of records,” Gold highlighted.

“The search of Mr. Zayas’s two-year location history represents a search of unprecedented scale that threatens to erode the ‘degree of privacy against government that existed when the Fourth Amendment was adopted.’

Approximately two weeks after Gold’s filing on March 10, 2023, federal prosecutor Damian Williams indicated that both parties are nearing a plea agreement.

Zayas formally pleaded guilty last month and is awaiting sentencing.

NY Police Use AI to Track Drivers on Highways as Attorney Questions Legality

NY Police Use AI to Track Drivers on Highways as Attorney Questions Legality

Technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, with AI (Artificial Intelligence) being utilized in various fields for different purposes. In recent news, it has come to light that the New York Police Department (NYPD) is using AI technology to track drivers on highways. While this may seem like a futuristic concept, there are important legal and ethical questions that arise from this practice.

The Use of AI in Law Enforcement

AI technology has been increasingly adopted by law enforcement agencies to assist in various aspects of their work, including surveillance and data analysis. The NYPD’s use of AI to track drivers on highways is just one example of how this technology is being utilized in the field.

How Does AI Track Drivers on Highways?

The AI system used by the NYPD to track drivers on highways is equipped with cameras and sensors that can capture license plate numbers and other identifying information from vehicles. This data is then analyzed in real-time to identify and track the movements of specific vehicles.

Legal Questions Surrounding the Use of AI in Law Enforcement

While AI technology can be a powerful tool for law enforcement, there are important legal questions that arise from its use. One of the primary concerns is the potential violation of privacy rights, as the tracking of vehicles on highways raises questions about surveillance and data collection.

Attorneys and civil rights advocates have raised questions about the legality of the NYPD’s use of AI to track drivers on highways. They argue that this practice may infringe on individuals’ constitutional rights, such as the right to privacy and protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Benefits and Practical Tips

  • AI technology can help law enforcement agencies track and apprehend criminals more efficiently.
  • Drivers can take steps to protect their privacy by avoiding unnecessary travel on highways.
  • Legal challenges may arise regarding the use of AI technology in law enforcement.

Case Studies

There have been several high-profile cases where the use of AI in law enforcement has raised legal and ethical questions. For example, in the case of State v. Smith, the defendant challenged the legality of evidence obtained through the use of AI surveillance technology.

Firsthand Experience

Several drivers who have been tracked by AI technology on highways have reported feeling a sense of invasion of privacy. While law enforcement agencies argue that this technology is necessary for public safety, concerns remain about the potential abuse of AI surveillance.

Benefits of AI in Law Enforcement Legal Challenges of AI
Enhanced crime detection and prevention Potential violations of privacy rights
Improved public safety and security Constitutional concerns regarding surveillance

Overall, the use of AI technology to track drivers on highways raises important legal and ethical questions that must be addressed. As technology continues to evolve, it is essential for lawmakers and policymakers to carefully consider the implications of AI in law enforcement to ensure that privacy rights are protected.

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