NYC Councilman Ritchie Torres Working On Legislation That Would Require People Be Told When They Are Being Watched

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A new wave of technology means store security cameras aren’t just tracking crooks, they’re also tracking you.

A city councilman wants New Yorkers to know if and when a camera is watching.

Meyer Tawil knows the drill. If you’re in public, you’re probably on camera.

“That’s just creepy,” Tawil told CBS2’s Jessica Moore on Wednesday. “But honestly, that’s the world we’re living in and that’s where the world is going.”

FILE – A facial recognition program (Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images)

What you may not know is facial recognition technology is being tested at airports and even some arenas and businesses, usually without your knowledge.

“There should be a sign somewhere that says I’m being watched,” said Joe Benhain of Gravesend, Brooklyn.

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Enter Councilman Ritchie Torres, who is introducing new legislation that would require just that.

“No one has a right to invade your privacy without your permission or your consent or your knowledge,” Torres said. “What we’re requiring is transparency. There would have to be a conspicuous sign at every entrance of the business, informing customers that we are subjecting you to face-scanning technology.

“There are companies like Madison Square Garden that are harnessing the power of facial recognition technology to collect vast quantities of information about individuals.”

A spokesperson for MSG said it does use facial recognition, “to make it the safest place possible.”

Torres said without transparency, there’s no way to know the number of businesses and just how they are using the technology.

“What could begin as a security tool can become a marketing tool and therein lies the danger,” Torres said.

Torres said the facial scans can easily be cross-referenced against things like your social media profiles, where marketers would find a treasure trove of information to exploit.

Torres said he’s prepared for backlash from the business community, adding “How do you argue against transparency?”

“People have to know what they’re walking into,” Tawil added.

Torres said with the proper signage, customers will also have the option to walk away.

The councilman said the legislative process will likely take about a year, after which he hopes to have signs posted across the city.


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