A Common Council member in Albany does not take our civil liberties lightly, she wants to hold government officials accountable for their access to our personal information.

According to CBS Albany Common Council member Sonia Frederick is backing an ordinance that would regulate the government’s access to surveillance technology. She said, “This is not saying that you can’t use the technology. It’s adding a layer of transparency to the legislative body and to residents.”

If the ordinance passes, it would make it more difficult for city departments to access technology containing individual citizens' personal information. The ordinance would restrict the city's access to social media monitoring software, police body cameras, surveillance cameras, facial recognition software, and technology to gain unauthorized access to a computer or a computer network.

The city would be required to create and maintain protocols that would not allow technology to violate civil rights. They would also have to submit a report to the Common Council annually.

Council members who are in favor of the ordinance believe that the technology would disproportionately affect minority residents and would possibly misidentify them. They also expressed their concern about racial profiling.

Members of the Albany Police Department disagree with some aspects of the proposed ordinance. They indicate that body cameras do not have facial recognition capability and that the ordinance would hamper their ability to investigate crimes in a thorough and accurate way. Officers indicate that they use footage from cameras as screenshots to make identifications.

One commander with the Albany Police Department says, “It goes far beyond facial recognition technology. It would seriously hamper our ability to investigate crimes.”

We all want members of our police department to be able to investigate crimes in an efficient and timely manner. With more than 100 shootings this year, I believe that everyone wants to see a resolution. What cost are we willing to pay to keep our streets safe?

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