By Shelia Dunn, NMA Communications Director and Joe Cadillic, MassPrivatel Blog
The Street Surveillance Watch Blog comes to you biweekly on the National Motorists Association Blog. If you have comments or suggestions, write a comment after this blog or contact us at [email protected].
We Don’t Want No Street Surveillance
Joe and I have been wrestling with what to write in this week’s post. Everything is happening so fast right now that it’s difficult to pin down just any one issue.
When writing this, I keep thinking about the lyrics to Pink Floyd’s The Wall—especially the line, “We don’t need no thought control.”
We don’t need no street surveillance the same way we don’t need no thought control.
I mention this because most of us do not want to be another just another brick in the wall. We don’t want cameras watching us everywhere, and we don’t want one of the most fantastic tech inventions ever (a personal computer/smartphone in your pocket) be used to track us wherever we go.
During this time of crisis, the nation as a whole is scared over an unseen enemy that can strike without reason. Many of us are outraged over the loss of work, not having enough food to eat and worry about what will happen next with our kids and our elderly parents. The struggle to survive for many might be the worst it’s ever been.
We don’t want our elected leaders and private companies to take advantage of the situation either –pushing political agendas or trying to profiteer off misery. Many people are in the streets protesting the death of George Floyd and police brutality. Protestors are calling for police reform. When we talk about police reform, we also need to talk about street surveillance, overpolicing, and traffic stops. Traffic stops are where most of us ever encounter a police officer.
Shelia: How is surveillance connected to overpolicing, and how can citizens make sure that street surveillance is part of the discussion when it comes to police reform and transparency?
Joe: A lot has been written about police facial recognition, but what mostly goes unnoticed is DHS’s Real-ID program, which allows federal and local police to track a person’s whereabouts. If you show your driver’s license to purchase prescription drugs or age-restricted items like alcohol, cigarettes, or pot, then there is a log created of what you bought.
From Fast Lane transponder pings to license plate readers, our daily travels are logged in ways we never imagined.
Private companies like Amazon’s Ring doorbells and Flock Safety encourage our neighbors to spy on each other.
Police reform must include all the ways the government tracks and logs innocent American’s daily lives. To do otherwise means police profiling will never end.
Three different corporations announced this week that they would either stop selling facial recognition software or stop selling it for a time until regulations caught up to the technology:
- Amazon pauses police use of its facial recognition software
- IBM will no longer offer, develop, or research facial recognition technology
- The influential project that sparked the end of IBM’s facial recognition program
- Microsoft says it won’t sell facial recognition technology to US police departments
- Microsoft and Amazon Adopt Temporary Bans on Police Use of Their Facial Recognition Tech. That’s Not Nearly Enough.
Whether company officials will do what they say is, of course, something that we will not know yet.
People and groups, though, are fighting back against street surveillance. Here are some headlines to prove it:
- Governments worldwide navigate privacy versus urgency in fight against Covid-19
- US Senator presses controversial facial recognition company Clearview AI on use on protesters
- Democratic senators raise concerns over government surveillance of protests
- ACLU sues facial recognition firm Clearview AI, calling it a ‘nightmare scenario’ for privacy
- Privacy watchdog doubts current law completely protects Canadians for COVID-19 apps
- Arizona sues Google over claims it illegally tracked location of Android users
- Electronic Frontier Foundation: California–Stand Up to Face Surveillance (AB2261)
- ACLU of Maryland launches ad campaign against the Baltimore Police surveillance plane program
- Call to Ban Massachusetts Facial Recognition Grows Amid Protests
- Texas Governor Criticized Over $295M Contact Tracing Deal
Here are some negative headlines, though, from the past two weeks:
- EU: A Single Company Will Now Operate Facial Recognition for Nearly 800 Million People
- The Department of Homeland Security Is Working to Access 300 Million More Facial Recognition Photos
- ICE Outlines How Investigators Rely on Third-Party Facial Recognition Services
- Electronic Frontier Foundation: Immunity Passports Are a Threat to Our Privacy and Information Security
- How to Identify Visible (and Invisible) Surveillance at Protests
- Police are using protests as an excuse to unleash new surveillance tech
- The Military and FBI Are Flying Surveillance Planes Over Protests
- Police Use Contact Tracing And Big Tech To Identify Protesters
- Police body cameras at protests raise privacy concerns
- 1,100 law enforcement departments across the country now use drones
- America is awash in cameras, a double-edged sword for protesters and police
Joe also has posted the following surveillance pieces recently at his MassPrivatel Blog.
- Protests be Damned, Tennessee to Approve a State Police Highway Surveillance Program
- 90+ Years and Americans Still have no Idea how often Police Kill People of Color
- Police Use Contact Tracing and Big Tech to Identify Protestors
If you would like to keep track of the many issues currently involved in street surveillance, check out Joe’s blog called MassPrivatel. Also, take a daily peek at the NMA’s Driving News Feed or subscribe to Driving News Daily, a five times per week email.
Thank you for reading the NMA’s Street Surveillance Watch Blog, and please consider joining the National Motorists Association today!