Big Brother gets a job at the local HOA
Governments and their agents have long been big fans, and consumers, of surveillance technology. The more data they can get on people, the better, preferably without having to go to court to get any of those pesky warrants.
One old tech product cops like are license plate readers. These stationary cameras capture plate data on all cars passing within snapshot range, and store them for a month, a year, maybe more. And now, police are pushing homeowners associations to install plate readers to add to the data collection. It’s all for public safety, of course:
Law enforcement agencies tout the devices because they allow departments to search thousands of plates quickly and efficiently, and track suspects across several jurisdictions. When the reader captures a plate, AI technology matches the number to federal, state or custom “hot lists” — databases of cars that have been flagged by authorities. Law enforcement officials get email and text notifications if a car matches the database; departments can also create their own custom lists of cars to track them according to plate or vehicle type, and dip into the broader repository of Flock-captured images if they’re looking for a particular vehicle.
But such indiscriminate data collection has big privacy downsides:
…privacy and civil liberties advocates, who warn that this is the latest way individuals are trading away their — and potentially their neighbors’ — personal information. On top of that, outsourcing vehicle tracking to neighborhoods allows law enforcement to increase its eyes on the street while dodging public regulations and budgetary restrictions.
Yet there are those who have no problem with Big Brother’s all-seeing eye:
“Safety is always going to be our number one priority,” said Gina Coleman, a community activist and one of the co-founders of the neighborhood association. She believes the cameras act as a deterrent. “We know it can’t stop [crime], but at least it can let people know when you come in: We’ve got your plate.”
And that’s an example of how liberty loses ground to security.