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New York is adding facial recognition and license plate readers to its river crossings

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NY Governor Andrew Cuomo Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

In a press conference this week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an ambitious plan to revamp New York City’s bridges and tunnels, dubbed the New York Crossings Project. But while the focus of the Crossings project is revamping infrastructure and improving traffic flow, the plan also includes a number of troubling surveillance efforts. Under the current version of the plan, 10 bridges and tunnels leading into the city will be equipped with facial recognition and license plate reading technology, giving police a comprehensive record of every car making the crossing.

The proposal is already drawing fire from civil liberties groups. "Governor Cuomo’s plan has the potential to put thousands and thousands of people's images and data in a massive database that could be used by the government for who knows what," said the New York Civil Liberties Union in a statement. "There is also an enormous risk that innocent people will be misidentified as terrorists, especially people of color who are more likely to be inaccurately identified by the technology."

The Crossings Project does not include a number of New Jersey crossings, including the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, so the proposed systems would not be sufficient to create a full record of all cars entering and leaving Manhattan. Still, it would give law enforcement a powerful tool for spotting flagged license plates or faces as they traverse the city.