Microsoft, NYPD Unveil $40 Million Counterterrorism Database System

Microsoft has partnered with the New York Police Department (NYPD) to develop a crime prevention and counterterrorism solution called Domain Awareness System (DAS).

The Microsoft-developed DAS, estimated to have cost $40 million to develop, was finalized by Microsoft last October and unveiled Wednesday at a press conference in New York City. The city eventually plans to sell the DAS technology to other U.S. cities and allied countries, with Microsoft receiving 30 percent of all sale revenues. Microsoft officials said this is the first time that Microsoft is sharing overall revenue from a public-sector venture.

DAS is designed to alert law enforcement when a suspicious package or vehicle is located in the city. 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 Rahul Merchant, commissioner of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, in a prepared statement.

DAS aggregates and analyzes 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.

According to New York City public security guidelines, DAS can be used only 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, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, in a statement. "The NYPD's massive surveillance systems should have strict privacy protections and independent oversight."

Addressing such claims, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at 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.

"Microsoft is honored to partner with the NYPD to provide these important public safety capabilities to other jurisdictions," said Kathleen Hogan, corporate vice president of Microsoft Services. "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."

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