Microsoft Develops Surveillance and Counterterrorism Database System for New York City

Microsoft has announced it has partnered with the New York Police Department (NYPD) to develop a crime prevention and counterterrorism system called Domain Awareness System (DAS) that can alert law enforcement when a suspicious package or vehicle is located in the city.

The announcement was made yesterday during a press conference held by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg , Kathleen Hogan, corporate vice president of Microsoft Services, and city officials.  

The Microsoft-developed crime prevention system can aggregate and analyze public safety data using information from law enforcement databases, cameras, license-plate readers and sensors. For New York City, the system will tap data collected from an estimated 3,000 closed-circuit video cameras, plus 911 calls and police records.

Any collected information on a suspect, suspicious package or vehicle will be instantly available to law enforcement, along with the geographic and chronological context, according to New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly.

"By providing real-time analytics and improved situational awareness for the men and women on the front lines of counterterrorism and crime prevention, this new system can help further enhance public safety outcomes for New Yorkers," said Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Commissioner Merchant.

According to the public security guidelines of the city, the DAS can only be used in public areas and in instances where legal privacy protections don't apply. However, the always-on monitoring feature of the system is already coming under fire by critics.

"We fully support the police using technology to combat crime and terrorism, but law-abiding New Yorkers should not end up in a police database every time they walk their dog, go to the doctor or drive around Manhattan," said Christopher Dunn, New York Civil Liberties Union's associate legal director. "The NYPD's massive surveillance systems should have strict privacy protections and independent oversight."

Addressing such claims, Bloomberg said during the press conference that a goal of the system is to protect the civil liberties of the public, and said that any nonpertinent surveillance footage collected can only be held for 30 days before deletion.

The project, estimated to have cost $40 million to develop, was finalized by Microsoft last October. Moving forward, New York City plans on selling the technology to other U.S. cities and allied countries, with Microsoft receiving 30 percent of all sale revenues.

Microsoft officials said that this is the first time that Microsoft will be sharing overall revenue from a public-sector venture.

"Microsoft is honored to partner with the NYPD to provide these important public safety capabilities to other jurisdictions," Hogan said. "The NYPD is a respected leader and is continually innovating to help ensure the safety of New York's citizens. It is a privilege to support its work with our technology and professional services."


About the Author

Chris Paoli is the site producer for and


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