Posted by Roger Mallett Posted on 20 January 2024

Biometric surveillance options increase for US police

Proving that it is not always good to be right, public and private video surveillance is gaining critical mass in U.S. cities and towns, just as privacy advocates have warned.

Sensors over highways, on food delivery robots and police vests, hanging from public buildings and convenience store awnings, and attached to porches and doorbells are feeding faces and sounds to the cloud, where law enforcement strains it through biometric recognition software for coordinated action.

Skeptical observers for several years have warned that if biometric surveillance evolves unchecked, life in even modestly populated areas everywhere in the United States will be a real-time 360-degree searchable record.

That’s not here yet, but research by digital-rights group The Electronic Frontier Foundation is not encouraging.

The EFF has an ongoing biometrics project called the Atlas of Surveillance chronicling the growing number of so-called real-time crime centers, which are not unrelated to data-heavy crime-fighting fusion centers.

The real-time crime centers put round-the-clock feeds from private and public cameras and government databases in the hands of police.

Researchers behind the Atlas of Surveillance project say they have located real-time crime centers in 29 states in big and small cities. (The EFF just unveiled an information-and-resource service call Street Level Surveillance.)

News analysis published by nonprofit journalism publisher The Marshall Project indicates that Los Angeles and Washington are next to get the biometrics-heavy centers.

And the centers aren’t necessarily restricted to private camera owners who volunteer coverage from around their homes. According to The Marshall Project’s article, law enforcement is comfortable (and often legally entitled to) asking cloud vendors to open account holders’ data stores.

As concepts like this build it’s natural to ask what the next step will be, and The Marshall Project may have found it.

An entrepreneur has pitched a plan to outsource drone-based biometric surveillance to law enforcement in the Midwest city of St. Louis. The city rejected his proposal.

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