Privacy and Technology

Have you ever attended a protest? Seen a therapist? Had a private meeting with a friend? Many of those details about our private lives – what we say, where we go, who we are with – are now recorded by one device or another, sometimes without our consent and often without our knowledge. Though one piece of information may not reveal much about you, when all that data is collected over time, a detailed portrait can emerge that reveals private information about all of our lives – our political beliefs, religious affiliations, medical issues, everyday habits, even who are friends and romantic partners are.

When it is our government that is collecting all that data on us, it strikes at the core of our rights to free speech, association and privacy. This is why we should demand to know when local governments acquire new surveillance technology and what they’re doing with it. Even when new surveillance technology is put to positive uses – like solving traffic problems or identifying stolen cars – government collection of information about our lives can turn awry without strong privacy protections.

Surveillance technology often sweeps up information on innocent New Yorkers. This data can be used or shared in ways that stray from the original purpose, often without a person knowing. Moreover, without protections in place, this kind of information is an identity thief’s dream or can be abused if it falls into the wrong hands.

The NYCLU has been filing Freedom of Information Law requests across New York State to better understand local governments’ acquisition and use of new surveillance technology. In the pages below, you will find a summary of why we pursued these requests, what we found and a library of the documents we obtained.

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