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In New Program, New York City Police Scan Eyes To Track Suspects

NYPD uses a handheld device to scan the iris. This is a picture of an iris recognition scanner featured in a biometrics exhibition. (Getty Images)

It sounds like a scene from Minority Report: The New York City Police Department is now tracking suspects by scanning their irises. The new $500,000 program, which the department hopes to deploy to all of New York's boroughs by December, was enacted after two suspects walked out of court posing as people who were accused of committing a less serious crime, reported the New York Post.

In the past, the Post reports, the police department used more time intensive finger printing technology. Now, the New York Times reports:

The authorities are using a hand-held scanning device that can check a prisoner’s identity in seconds when the suspect is presented in court, said Paul J. Browne, the department’s chief spokesman.

Officials began photographing the irises of suspects arrested for any reason on Monday at Manhattan Central Booking...

Police told The New York Daily News that shots of the irises will be destroyed if a suspect's case is "dismissed or if the case is sealed."

Still, civil rights advocates expressed concern that NYPD is collecting new, biometrical data of citizens without first having a public discourse. Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, told the Times:

We don’t know the reason for it, whether this is a necessary program, whether it’s effective to address the concerns that it’s designed to address, and whether in this day and age it’s even cost-effective, not to mention whether there are any protections in place against the misuse of the data that’s collected.

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