After all, large crowds of people often gather together to lawfully protest something like, say, police brutality. Or, as the NYPD specifically notes as a drone-appropriate example (according to the NYCLU), the Women’s March.
“The NYPD’s drones are outfitted with cameras equipped with sophisticated technology and 4K resolution,” notes the NYCLU. “The mere presence of these police cameras can create a chilling effect on people exercising their rights to free speech, protest, and other lawful activities.”
Notably, the NYPD insists that the policy governing the use of its drones prohibits it from equipping the devices with facial recognition tech. However, as the NYCLU correctly points out, the carved out exception that allows police to use facial recognition tech on drone footage in the poorly defined case of a “public safety concern” is just begging to be abused.
“One of our biggest fears is that these devices could be used to spy on protesters legally exercising their constitutional rights,” notes the NYCLU. “The NYPD’s policy does little to quell our concerns.”
And it’s not like the NYPD has an unblemished record when it comes to surveilling those its members swore to protect and serve.
According to the New York Times, the drones are a mix of Mavic Pro quadcopters, M210 RTK quadcopters, and a DJI Inspire quadcopter. And, if the NYCLU is right, you may soon need to get used to these things following you and your fellow citizens around.
“[The] NYPD’s drone policy places no meaningful restrictions on police deployment of drones in New York City,” notes the group, adding “and opens the door to the police department building a permanent archive of drone footage of political activity and intimate private behavior visible only from the sky.”