New York Daily Photo Analytics

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Listen for the Drone

This street sign was pointed out to me by a fellow friend and photographer. It has created a small stir and is the perfect fuel for those who like to believe that the age of Orwell's Big Brother is coming soon or has already arrived. Civil liberties advocates are running with this, and the Internet is abuzz with articles and comments/opinions as to the seriousness of this intrusion into the privacy of civilians by the use of UAVs (Unoccupied Aerial Vehicles).

However, it is not clear that these signs are actually the work of the NYPD, and the stir is going as planned. According to an article in the New Yorker on January 23, 2012 by Nick Paumgarten, the signage is the work of a 28-year-old photographer in Manhattan who had served in Iraq as a geospatial analyst for the army. He'd worked with satellite and drone images to provide maps for troops on the ground.

After his discharge from the Army, he became a radical art school student who was dismayed with the Army's use of drones to kills militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan which were being tested on home soil. From the article:

He found an municipal sign manufacturer in a state far from New York, so as not to raise any alarm, and ordered a series of drone-alert parking sings that he'd designed to look as if they'd been issued by the NYPD. Very late on several nights a few weeks ago he set out with a crew of five to install the signs in SoHo, the West Village, Chelsea, Dumbo, and Williamsburg. Two of them did the installing, the others were on the lookout. The had walkie-talkies and, since they were on an open frequency, communicated in military code.

Eleven such signs were installed - some have disappeared quickly, while others remain. References to the New Yorker article populate the Internet alongside assertions that the signs and threat of the use of drones for civilian monitoring is real. Comments are dominated by alarmist reactions, as would be expected.

If the work is not that of the NYPD and by an activist, I am puzzled as to why these signs would remain prominently posted. I called the local precinct, and they seemed unaware of the signs and not particularly alarmed. The community affairs officer said that if the sign bothered me, I should take it down. When I asked regarding the legality of posting signs appearing to be those of the NYPD, she mentioned freedom of speech. I have no intention of attempting to remove a sign prominently located on Washington Square North and 5th Avenue and test the law. But I will occasionally look up and Listen for the Drone :)

More signs: $57.50 (Part 1 and Part 2), Eyes on the Signs, Asbestos Sticks, Martin Luther King, Jr., No Students After 1, WFF 'N PROOF, Small Achievements, ArtKraft Strauss, Dead or Alive, Store Policies, Advertising Gone Wild, Colossal Misbehavior, Pepsi-Cola in Neon, Vintage Mural, One Hour


Cesc said...

noise nyc

Deb said...

Very BladeRunner

Kendigram said...

Yeah, I wouldn't attempt that either. Just unbelievable!

Mary P. said...

How many times we accept things without question because they are "official!"

Bard said...

Hi Brian - I love seeing your posts. Please excuse this pedantic comment, but Big Brother featured in George Orwell's 1984, not Huxley's Brave New World. Your story about the art installation sounds creative, funny and daring to my way of thinking.

Leslie said...

Thanks for posting, bravo. Keep reading up on drones in America...they are so much more prevalent than the public realizes. "Stay strong and pay close attention."