A Walking Tour of New York’s Massive Surveillance Network
Earlier this month, on the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the lower tip of Manhattan was thronged with soldiers in uniform, firefighters marching with photos of lost friends pinned to their backpacks, and tourists bumbling around the new mall at the World Trade Center. Firetrucks and police cars ringed Zuccotti Park and white ribbons adorned the iron fence around the churchyard on Broadway. Trash cans were closed up, with signs announcing “temporary security lockdown.”
So it felt a bit risky to be climbing up a street pole on Wall Street to closely inspect a microwave radar sensor, or to be lingering under a police camera, pointing and gesturing at the wires and antenna connected to it. Yet it was also entirely appropriate to be doing just that, especially in the company of Ingrid Burrington, author of the new book “Networks of New York: An Illustrated Field Guide to Urban Internet Infrastructure,” which points out that many of the city’s communications and surveillance programs were conceived and funded in response to the attacks.
In her book, Burrington, a writer and artist, has sketched the pieces of the internet that are visible on and above the streets of the city, and has explained the business interests and politicking behind their installation. Her book is designed to make the internet tangible, and with that in mind, Burrington (who I first met when she worked on a software project for The Intercept) agreed to take me and a friend on a tour of what she found in the financial district