New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Gizmodo NYC Considers Surveillance Law That Would Fine Drivers With Loud Cars by Lucas Ropek

NYC Considers Surveillance Law That Would Fine Drivers With Loud Cars

A New York City legislator has introduced a bill that would let the police department use radar and artificial intelligence to surveil noise levels related to traffic in the city. If you got caught making a ruckus in violation of city code under the new law, the NYPD could use the tech to identify your car and send you a nice, fat $500 fine.

The bill, which was introduced by City Councilor Ben Kallos, would allow the government to deploy sound recording and analysis devices at various points throughout the city, the likes of which would be paired with cameras. Together, the surveillance gear would be used to help police identify and fine vehicles that violate city noise ordinances.

Kallos recently told Gothamist that the surveillance would only be targeted at “vehicles” and that it wouldn’t stop “a person from walking down the street in the classic ‘80s way of having a boombox over their shoulder.”

He further stressed just how disastrous a loud person in a car can be, telling the outlet that the surveillance would be aimed at “everything from somebody leaning into a car horn in anger, as people all over the world might be aware of, to something more unique like people driving down a city street with their windows open, blasting music so loud that your windows start shaking.”

The bill text doesn’t designate a specific device that would be utilized for the program. Instead, the NYPD would be allowed to try out a number of different sound detection technologies, including acoustic monitoring (which, historically, has been used to study wildlife) and “beamforming,” a form of sensor-based sound analysis, as well as other AI-driven tech options. The device—whatever it ends up being—would undergo an annual “calibration check,” ostensibly to make sure it’s working properly.

The bill also claims that the data that is collected by the program would not be available for use in other criminal investigations. The data will also be destroyed after you’ve paid a fine, allegedly. Fines would apparently run between $125 and $525 for the first violation, while a second violation could net you as much as $1,050, the Gothamist reports.

In a phone call with Gizmodo, Kallos said that he was not a fan of surveillance and that the program was aimed at holding noise-makers accountable, not infringing upon privacy rights. Kallos further stated local complaints related to noise levels had risen precipitously since the pandemic began and that similar programs had already been instituted in other countries.

“New York already has a speed camera enforcement program,” said Kallos, noting that this program wouldn’t be much different from the camera-led, traffic monitoring effort.

On the one hand, privacy in New York City is already pretty much a lost cause—considering it’s one of the most surveilled places on Earth. If you step out of your apartment, you’re going to be recorded. Period. On the other hand, the idea that you’re going to make the city not loud somehow is also pretty dubious. Sure, maybe you’ll be able to fine some folks but, overall, it seems doubtful that more spy gear is really going to help.

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