So long as you’ve walked in front of an NYPD camera, had your license plate scanned, or even had a complaint filed in the six months, that is. The lovechild of Microsoft and the NYPD–a data analysis system that feeds the NYPD relevant information–has been in use under our noses for half a year, says NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly. The Domain Awareness System, as it’s called, uses existing technology and surveillance equipment, the NYPD insists: thousands of cameras, hundreds of license plate readers, and the recently-deployed radiation detectors for patrolling officers. The system simply takes that information and decides (instantly!) what’s relevant and related, crossreferencing seemingly isolated incidents with important footnotes–like addresses or license plates or arrest reports or calls or complaints, all digitized and geotagged, which is a colossal amount of data in a city of 8 million people.

Before you get (justifiably) worried at the NYPD’s looming omnipresence, note the limitations reported by MSNBC: no facial recognition (for now–it hasn’t been implemented, but could be later), social media is “not monitored closely,” and any video captured will be deleted in 30 days unless manually archived. Though Microsoft designed the system, the NYPD decided which data was of higher and lower priority, so when Microsoft licenses the tech to other cities, NYC gets a 30% cut. The city hopes to recoup the $40 million investment it made in the project (and hopefully make a buck or two on top of it).

Mayor Bloomberg was quick to point out that this was a tool, not the first step toward automated drone/Robocop enforcement: “Cameras are not a replacement for a good cop on the street using his eyes and ears, or her eyes and ears, and judgment.”

(Photo: nycmayorsoffice/Flickr)