Digidog, a Robotic Dog Used by the Police, Stirs Privacy Concerns — newsvevo

Two males have been being held hostage in a Bronx condo. They had been threatened at gunpoint, tied up and tortured for hours by two different males who pretended to be plumbers to get inside, the police mentioned.

One of the victims managed to flee and referred to as the police, who confirmed up early Tuesday morning at the condo on East 227th Street, uncertain if the armed males have been nonetheless inside.

The police determined it was time to deploy Digidog, a 70-pound robotic canine with a loping gait, cameras and lights affixed to its body, and a two-way communication system that enables the officer maneuvering it remotely to see and listen to what is occurring.

The police said the robot can see in the darkish and assess how protected it’s for officers to enter an condo or constructing the place there could also be a menace.

In the case of the Bronx residence invasion, the police mentioned that Digidog helped the officers decide that there was nobody inside. The police mentioned they have been nonetheless trying to find the two males, who stole a cellphone and $2,000 in money and used a sizzling iron to burn one in every of the victims.

“The N.Y.P.D. has been using robots since the 1970s to save lives in hostage situations & hazmat incidents,” the department said on Twitter. “This model of robot is being tested to evaluate its capabilities against other models in use by our emergency service unit and bomb squad.”

But the robotic has skeptics.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat, described Digidog on Twitter as a “robotic surveillance ground” drone.

“Please ask yourself: When was the last time you saw next-generation, world-class technology for education, health care, housing, etc. consistently prioritized for underserved communities like this?” she said on Twitter, linking to a New York Post story about Digidog.

The City Council handed the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology Act final June amid efforts to overhaul the police force, a lot of them triggered by Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

The act requires the Police Department to be extra clear about its surveillance and know-how instruments, together with Digidog, one thing civil libertarians mentioned had been missing.

Jay Stanley, a senior coverage analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union, mentioned empowering a robotic to do police work might have implications for bias, cellular surveillance, hacking and privateness. There can also be concern that the robotic may very well be paired with different know-how and be weaponized.

“We do see a lot of police departments adopting powerful new surveillance and other technology without telling, let alone asking, the communities they serve,” he mentioned. “So openness and transparency is key.”

The New York Police Department didn’t reply to requests for remark about the civil liberty issues.

A cellular system that may collect intelligence about a risky state of affairs remotely has “tremendous potential” to restrict accidents and fatalities, mentioned Keith Taylor, a former SWAT workforce sergeant at the Police Department who teaches at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“It’s important to question police authority, however this appears to be pretty straightforward,” he mentioned. “It is designed to help law enforcement get the information they need without having a deadly firefight, for instance.”

The New York Police Department is amongst three in the nation which have the mechanical canine, which is constructed by Boston Dynamics, the tech firm recognized for movies of its robots dancing and jumping with eerie, humanlike fluidity.

The firm, which calls the robotic canine Spot, started promoting it final June. Most of the consumers have been utility and vitality corporations, in addition to producers and development corporations, which use it to get into areas too harmful for people, mentioned Michael Perry, vp of enterprise improvement at the firm.

The robotic has been used to examine websites with hazardous materials. Early in the pandemic, it was used by well being care employees to speak with probably sick sufferers at hospital triage websites, Mr. Perry mentioned.

Most of the corporations rename the robotic after they purchase it, giving it names like Bolt and Mac and Cheese, he mentioned.

The Massachusetts State Police and the Honolulu Police Department are additionally utilizing it. Other police departments have referred to as the firm to study extra about the robotic, which has a beginning worth of about $74,000 and should price extra with further options, Mr. Perry mentioned.

The robotic canine, which has a 90-minute battery life and walks at a velocity of three miles per hour, was not designed to behave as a covert instrument of mass surveillance, Mr. Perry mentioned.

“It’s noisy and has flashing lights,” he mentioned. “It’s not something that is discreet.”

The use of robots that may be deployed into harmful conditions to maintain cops out of hurt’s manner might turn out to be the norm.

In Dallas in 2016, the police ended a standoff with a gunman sought in the killings of 5 officers by blowing him up using a robot.

In 2015, a man with a knife who threatened to leap off a bridge in San Jose, Calif., was taken into custody after the police had a robotic carry him a cellphone and a pizza.

The 12 months earlier than that, the Albuquerque police used a robotic to “deploy chemical munitions” in a motel room the place a man had barricaded himself with a gun, a division report mentioned. He surrendered.

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Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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