Police Spy Tools Evolve Faster Than Lawmakers Can Keep Up

by
December 9, 2016

In late October, a group of Maryland legislators met with police officials, attorneys, privacy advocates, and policy analysts to discuss creating a legal framework to govern aerial surveillance programs such as the one the Baltimore Police Department had been using to track vehicles and individuals through the city since January.

“What, if anything, are other states doing to address this issue?” Joseph Vallerio, the committee’s chairman, asked the panel.

“Nothing,” replied David Rocah, an attorney with the ACLU. “Because no one has ever done this before.”

The Baltimore surveillance program broke new ground by bringing wide-area persistent surveillance—a technology that the military has been developing for a decade—to municipal law enforcement. The police department kept the program secret from the public, as well as from the city’s mayor and other local officials, until it was detailed in August by Bloomberg Businessweek. Privacy advocates, defense attorneys, and some local legislators called for the program to be suspended immediately, until the technology could be evaluated in public hearings.

But in the three months since the public discussion began, the police have continued to use the surveillance plane to monitor large events, such as the Baltimore Marathon, and essential questions remain unanswered. The police continue to classify the program as an ongoing trial, but the private company that operates it for the police—Persistent Surveillance Systems—doesn’t have a permanent contract and no specific regulations govern its operations.

  • Tiger

    And whose fault is this? I read a year ago what a fiasco all these little drones was going to be. So everyone can get one and with the ingenious minds all over our country today believe me there will be spying nobody safe from prying eyes. Shoot them down and you get in trouble. What is needed is something to deflect these little suckers and me thinks it already is out there. Sadly between this and Google Earth nobody has any privacy. Also all the sites on the net that gladly give away all your personal information.

    I expect these little buggers to be used to wipe out a bunch of us dissidents sooner or later they are great little devices for carrying out Special Ops. This is worse that the Old West this is the New West where even a cave isn’t completely safe from prying eyes. I saw also on the net these cameras that take pictures of large crowds at stadiums etc can zoom in on any face in the crowd. Got to watch out for scratching your backside or picking your nose could go viral.

    • Catherinegtorbert

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