Friday, January 6, 2017
Baltimore Is Global Testbed For Total Surveillance
More than a thousand cameras on stoplights, buildings and poles surveil Baltimore passersby throughout the city streets. Since 2005, police have paired privately owned cameras with city ones, weaving together a vast surveillance net in which little remains private.
But its surveillance goes well beyond conventional measures. Baltimore uses technology known as “Stingrays” – devices that impersonate cellphone towers to capture and track calls – license-plate readers, and facial recognition to monitor citizens. In August, three privacy groups filed a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) complaint alleging the city’s above-average use of Stingrays disproportionately affected minority communities and disrupted cell service.
While conventional surveillance tools such as wiretapping and cameras have established usage guidelines, these new technologies exist in a sort of “Wild West,” largely unhindered by regulations and oversight.
“It invariably happens that technology developed for military applications gradually percolates out to domestic policing,” says Julian Sanchez, a senior privacy fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute. “We talk about police militarization usually thinking about … SWAT-style gear, but there’s a parallel phenomenon on the surveillance side.”