Tag Archive: surveillance programs

Body cameras could transform policing – for the worse

freskos-daviddeshaiesNew facial-recognition technology will enable police to justify stops with a mere glance

From ALJAZEERA

The day after video surfaced of a North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer shooting Walter Scott in the back, the town’s mayor announced plans to outfit all its police officers with body cameras. The New York Police Department has started to put cameras on officers, and the White House has announced a $263 million program to supply 50,000 body cameras to local police.

Advocates for these cameras hope that they will hold police accountable for their behavior. Skeptics point out that unobstructed video footage did nothing to win an indictment in the police killing of Eric Garner. But this debate has overlooked another possibility. Even if cameras reduce police violence, they could transform how citizens interact with police once facial recognition technology allows officers automatically to identify each individual they lay eyes on.

Facial recognition technology isn’t science fiction. Police in the United Kingdom, Dubai and Canada already wear cameras that can recognize faces to identify suspects and missing persons. Apps for Google Glass allow wearers to automatically connect faces to photos, and Taser — the leading seller of police body cameras — is developing cameras that integrate facial recognition with police databases. (more…)

Carrboro Aldermen Examine Guidelines for Police Body Cameras

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(Click here for an article on some of the many problems with body cameras)

From Chapelboro

Carrboro police officers may soon be required to wear cameras on their bodies.

Last year’s incidents in Ferguson and New York invigorated conversations across the nation about police misconduct and racial discrimination. Earlier this month the United States Department of Justice issued a damning report on Ferguson police, finding explicit racial bias among officers against African Americans (including racist emails sent by officers).

At Tuesday’s Carrboro Board of Aldermen meeting, Member Michelle Johnson said body cameras will not end police racial profiling. But some think body cameras could reduce police misconduct by recording interactions between officers and the public.

Carrboro officials have been discussing police body cameras for the last half year. Carrboro’s draft policy sets guidelines for use of cameras and management of the video taken. (more…)

How Police Body Cameras Were Designed to Get Cops Off the Hook

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From GIZMODO

In the wake of protests over police violence against black men, many civil rights activists are calling for a high-tech solution: strapping wearable body cameras to cops. The idea is to hold police accountable for unnecessary violence. But the history of police body cams reveals that the devices have often had the opposite effect.

On the afternoon of March 1st, a band of Los Angeles Police shot a homeless man. Video of the incident was captured by both a witness armed with a cell phone, and by body cameras strapped to the officers. Despite the evidence, what actually happened on Skid Row before police shot Charly Keunang remains a matter of dispute. How it went down depends on who you ask — and, more importantly, on whose video you’re watching.

The civilian shot video from a short distance away, and the footage shows officers circling Keunang before a physical struggle erupts. Keunang is thrown to the ground. Officers struggle to contain him. He’s resisting but subdued. He’s not going anywhere but he hasn’t been cuffed. Then after some yelling, three officers open fire. (more…)

Police Violence Is Not A Problem Because Of Its Invisibility

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Officers wearing riot gear walk through a park in downtown St. Louis on Sunday.

From Ben Brucato

For months, in response to the killing of Michael Brown, Ferguson and Saint Louis have been sites of ongoing rebellion, with frequent actions of solidarity throughout the United States. Last week, after a grand jury declined to indict Michael Brown’s murderer, Officer Darren Wilson, protests erupted across the country.

In response, today US President Obama proposed a national program to outfit 50,000 police officers with body-worn cameras. Many, including Michael Brown’s family, advocate in favor of wearable cameras for police. Rashad Robinson of ColorOfChange.org wrote today that, “If what happened between Mike Brown and Darren Wilson had been captured on video, we would not be here today—and Michael Brown might be alive.” This advocacy is predicated on the idea that police violence is a problem because it remains hidden.

For most of a century, police studies have operated under the idea that policing’s most crucial function—the use of force in the production of social order—is something that occurs outside of the public view. In their influential book, Above The Law, Jerome Skolnick and James Fyfe explained this hidden quality of policing has historically been a defining one, but that it was changed with the video recorded beating of Rodney King by LAPD officers.

Policing’s new visibility, as John B. Thompson calls it, is a consequence of surveillance that is rapidly approaching ubiquity. An institution once defined by operating outside of public view is now on exhibition as a result of cameras. Not only are private and government security cameras capturing many spaces—public and private alike—on video, but dash-mounted cameras in police cruisers and weapon-mounted cameras have produced a kind of self-surveillance (in addition to their primary intended functions of gathering evidence to criminally implicate civilians). On-officer wearable cameras, first developed by Taser, were developed from earlier stun-gun cameras (which, captured the moments before Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. was shot and killed by police in White Plains, NY).

If we believe police violence is a problem as a result of it being hidden from public view, we should expect to see a crisis in the police institution over the past two decades since the beating of Rodney King. As Skolnick and Fyfe wrote, “in the absence of videotapes or other objective recording of gratuitous violence, brutality rarely causes public controversy and is extremely difficult to prove.” But as I wrote last week, police violence appears to be on the rise in the presence of this new visibility. As much as we might hope for a simple, technological fix to the problem of police violence, more cameras are not the answer. (more…)

What a “Mike Brown Law” Means for Ambarella and Digital Ally

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Click on image for full sized poster

From Investor Place

AMBA and DGLY are set to soar if police body cameras go mainstream

It might seem difficult to connect Ambarella Inc (AMBA) and Digital Ally, Inc (DGLY) to the social conflicts of America. But these two stocks are actually poised to soar now more than ever as the tragic events of Ferguson, Missouri reach a new phase: healing.

For months there has been unrest in the 21,000-person town of Ferguson stemming from the August death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old unarmed black man who was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, a white police officer.

Last night, a grand jury found that there was no probable cause to indict Wilson, effectively closing the criminal case. But what does this unfortunate series of events have to do with the stock market?

 

Quite a lot, actually. (more…)

FBI’s “Suicide Letter” to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Dangers of Unchecked Surveillance

mlklettersFrom The Electronic Frontier Foundation

The New York Times has published an unredacted version of the famous “suicide letter” from the FBI to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The letter, recently discovered by historian and professor Beverly Gage, is a disturbing document. But it’s also something that everyone in the United States should read, because it demonstrates exactly what lengths the intelligence community is willing to go to—and what happens when they take the fruits of the surveillance they’ve done and unleash it on a target.

The anonymous letter was the result of the FBI’s comprehensive surveillance and harassment strategy against Dr. King, which included bugging his hotel rooms, photographic surveillance, and physical observation of King’s movements by FBI agents. The agency also attempted to break up his marriage by sending selectively edited “personal moments he shared with friends and women” to his wife.

Portions of the letter had been previously redacted. One of these portions contains a claim that the letter was written by another African-American: “King, look into your heart. You know you are a complete fraud and a great liability to all us Negroes.” It goes on to say “We will now have to depend on our older leaders like Wilkins, a man of character and thank God we have others like him. But you are done.” This line is key, because part of the FBI’s strategy was to try to fracture movements and pit leaders against one another. (more…)

How the Surveillance State Changes Our Everyday Lives

 “Mass surveillance is the elegant oppression, a panopticon without bars. Its cage is... behind the eyes—in the mind.” Under authority's gaze, many people become smaller, more obedient, less daring.

Under authority’s gaze, many people become smaller, more obedient, less daring.

From Vice/ By Molly Crabapple

George Orwell’s 1984 opens with Winston Smith carving out a pocket of privacy by crouching in a corner of his apartment where the telescreen—and thus Big Brother—can’t see and writing a diary entry. These days, that Stalin-inspired nightmare seems quaint.

We carry our personal telescreens around with us, and take it for granted that if someone wants to watch us, they can.There is nowhere to hide, even in the Hong Kong hotel room where Laura Poitras filmed Edward Snowden talking to Glenn Greenwald about the revelations about the NSA the whistleblower unleashed on the world. At one point in Citizenfour, Poitras’s film about the surveillance state and Snowden, an impatient Snowden yanks the hotel phone’s plug from the wall. All VoIP phones can be bugged, he explains, tossing away the cord. The NSA could know what he ordered from room service.

Much of Citizenfour was shot over the eight days that Poitras and Greenwald spent with Snowden. In contrast to the gray poverty of 1984‘s Oceania, the documentary’s dystopian setting is sleekly modern. Poitras shoots NSA data centers, Occupy Wall Street privacy training sessions, and the posh no-placeness of the business-class hotel. Snowden proves what the two journalists already suspected and, thanks to him, we all now know: The US government is spying on everyone. He then trains them in the cumbersome feints with which they might evade its gaze. (more…)

Do We Really Want Cops With Body Cameras Filming Everything They See?

policecameraFrom Mother Board

Police departments across America are eagerly fitting their officers with surveillance cameras that record the public from a cop’s point of view. The technology was trotted out as a way to keep police accountable—to cut back on brutality, acquit wrongfully accused officers, and bust the ones that abuse their power.

Framed with that noble intention, there’s plenty to commend about law enforcement’s latest toy. But folks are singing the praises so loudly it’s drowning out a host of crucial privacy questions that need to be asked as we creep toward nationwide police surveillance.

And creeping we are: A growing number of police departments are adopting the cameras, which are worn attached to glasses or a uniform. The New Orleans police jumped on the bandwagon yesterday, joining the likes of Oakland, Las Vegas, Seattle, and others that already use the cameras. Los Angeles is in the middle of a Hollywood fundraising campaign to purchase 500 body-worn cameras for the LAPD. In New York City, a federal court suggested the NYPD try out a pilot program to cut back on unconstitutional stop-and-frisks.

Lord knows the police need policing, and there’s logic in assuming that if your actions are watched and recorded all the time you’re more likely to behave responsibly—be you civilian or cop. But seen another way, camera-fitted policeman smacks of a surveillance-happy government that’s gone a bridge too far. Even if it’s possible to privacy-invade someone into good behavior, that doesn’t mean it’s not an unsettling can of worms to open. (more…)

Raleigh, Durham police using device that tracks cellphone data

stingrayFrom WRAL

— Police in Raleigh and Durham are using a controversial tool to fight crime.

Commonly called Stingray, the small suitcase-sized technology acts like a cell tower and allows police to track cellphone data. Critics say the devices, which are also in use in Charlotte and Wilmington, invade people’s privacy because they can collect information on the location and activity of cellphones.

“It is a very concerning technology because of its capability, but it’s also concerning because it’s so secretive,” said Sarah Preston, policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s North Carolina chapter.

Raleigh police have used Stingray for five years, police department spokesman Jim Sughrue said Monday, but he didn’t provide any other information regarding use of the device. (more…)