“ We live in the surveillance state founded on the partnership between government as well as the technology industry. ” — Law Professor Avidan Y. Cover
In this age of ubiquitous surveillance, there are no private lives: everything will be public.
Surveillance cameras mounted on power poles, traffic lights, companies, and homes. License dish readers. Ring doorbells. GPS devices. Dash cameras. Drones. Store security cameras. Geofencing plus geotracking. FitBits. Alexa. Internet-connected devices.
There are roughly one billion surveillance cameras worldwide and that number is escalating, thanks to their wholehearted ownership by governments (especially law enforcement and military agencies), companies, and individual consumers.
With every new surveillance device we desired into our lives, the government benefits yet another toehold into the private worlds.
Indeed, empowered by improvements in surveillance technology and emboldened by rapidly expanding public-private partnerships between police force, the Intelligence Community, as well as the private sector, police have grown to be particularly adept from sidestepping the Fourth Amendment .
As law professor Avidan Y. Protect explains:
A key feature of the security state is the cooperative romantic relationship between the private sector as well as the government. The private sector’s role is vital to the surveillance both practically and legitimately. The private sector, of course , provides the infrastructure and equipment for the surveillance… The personal sector is also critical to the surveillance state’s legality. Underneath the third-party doctrine, the Fourth Change is not implicated when the authorities acquires information that people provide to corporations, because they under your own accord provide their information to another entity and assume the chance that the entity will disclose the information to the government. Consequently , people do not have a reasonable requirement of privacy in their contacting data, or potentially also their emails. As a result, the government does not normally need a justify to obtain information transmitted digitally. But the Fourth Amendment is not only a source of protection pertaining to individual privacy; it also limits government excess and misuse through challenges by the people. The third-party doctrine removes this essential and populist check on federal government overreach.
Critical to this finish run around the Fourth Amendment’s prohibitions against unreasonable lookups and seizures by federal government agents is a pass enjoy that allows police to avoid public transparency requirements (open bids, public meetings, installation protocols) by having private companies plus individuals do the upfront heavy lifting, leaving police in order to harvest the intel within the back end.
Stingray devices, facial recognition technologies, body cameras, automated license plate readers, gunshot detection, predictive policing software, AI-enhanced video analytics, real-time crime centers , fusion centers: all of these technology and surveillance programs rely on public-private partnerships that with each other create a sticky spiderweb that there is no escape.
As the cost of these technologies becomes more affordable for the typical consumer, an effort underwritten by the tech industry and urged by law enforcement agencies plus local governing boards, which in turn benefit from entry to surveillance they don’t need to consist of in their finances, big cities, small towns, urban, suburban and rural communities alike are adding themselves to the surveillance state’s interconnected grid.
What this adds up to intended for government agencies (that is certainly, FBI, NSA, DHS agencies, etc ., as well as local police) is a security map that allows them to monitor someone’s movements over time and space , hopscotching from doorbell camera feeds and business security cameras to community cameras on utility posts, license plate readers, visitors cameras, drones, etc .
It has all but removed the notion of privacy plus radically re-drawn the line associated with demarcation between our public and private selves.
Over the past 50 yrs, surveillance has brought about a series of revolutions in how governments govern and populations are usually policed to the detriment of us all. Cybersecurity expert Adam Scott Wandt has identified three such cycles .
The first surveillance revolution came about as a result of government video cameras being installed in public areas. There were a reported fifty-one million surveillance cameras blanketing the United States in 2022. It can estimated that People in america are caught on camera an average of 238 times each week (160 moments per week while driving; 40 times per week at work; 24 times per week while out there running errands and purchasing; and 14 times each week through various other channels plus activities). That doesn’t even contact on the coverage by surveillance drones , which remain a relatively covert element of police spying operations.
The second revolution occurred when law enforcement agencies started forging public-private partnerships with commercial institutions like banks and drug stores and parking lots in order to gain access to their live security feeds. The use of automatic license plate readers (manufactured plus distributed by the likes of Flock Safety), once deployed exclusively simply by police and at this point spreading to home owners associations and gated communities , extends the reach of the surveillance state that much further afield. It’s a win-win just for police budgets and local legislatures when they can persuade businesses and residential areas to shoulder the costs of the equipment and share the video footage, and they can conscript the citizenry to spy upon each other through crowdsourced surveillance .
The 3rd revolution was ushered in with the particular growing popularity of doorbell cameras such as Ring, Amazon’s video surveillance doorbell, and Google’s Nest Cam.
Amazon has been particularly aggressive in its pursuit of a relationship along with police , enlisting them in its marketing efforts, and going so far as to hosting parties for police, delivering free Ring doorbells and deep discounts, sharing “ active camera” maps of Ring owners, allowing entry to the Law Enforcement Neighborhood Portal , which allows police to directly contact owners for access to their own footage, and coaching police on how to obtain footage without a warrant.
Ring currently partners with upwards of 2, 161 law enforcement agencies and 455 open fire departments , and that quantity grows exponentially every year. As Vice reports, “ Ring has additionally heavily pursued city price cut programs and private alliances with neighborhood watch groups. When cities provide free of charge or discounted Ring digital cameras, they sometimes create digital camera registries, and police sometimes order people to aim Ring cameras at their neighbours, or only give cameras to people surveilled by neighborhood watches. ”
In November 2022, San Francisco police acquired access to the reside footage associated with privately owned internet cameras as opposed to simply being able to access recorded footage. No more do police even have in order to request permission of homeowners for such access: increasingly, corporations have given law enforcement access to footage as part of their own so-called criminal investigations without or with court orders.
We would suggest a 4th revolutionary shift to be the utilization of facial recognition software plus artificial intelligence-powered programs that can track people by their biometrics, clothing, conduct and car , thereby synthesizing the many strands associated with surveillance video footage into one cohesive narrative, which privacy advocates refer to as 360 degree surveillance .
Finally, Wandt sees autonomous cars equipped with digital cameras that record everything about them as yet another revolutionary expansion of monitoring to be tapped by law enforcement.
Yet in the present moment, it’s those public-private partnerships that signify a watershed moment in the transition from a police state to a surveillance state and sound a death knoll for our privacy rights. This fusion of government power plus private power is also in the middle of the surveillance state’s expanding stranglehold on the populace.
As always, these attacks into our personal lives are justified in the name of national security and fighting crime. Yet while the price to be covered having the government’s so-called defense is nothing less than our own right to privacy, the assure of safety remains suspicious, at best.
As a study on camera surveillance by researchers at City University of New York concluded, the presence of cameras were relatively effective as a deterrent pertaining to crimes such as car robberies and property theft, but they had no substantial effect on violent crimes .
On the other hand, whenever you combine overcriminalization with wall-to-wall surveillance monitored by law enforcement in pursuit of crimes, the producing suspect society inevitably provides way to a nation of criminals. In such a society, all of us are guilty of some crime or even other.
The predatory effect of these types of surveillance cameras has also yet to be fully addressed, but they are vulnerable to being hacked by third parties and abused simply by corporate and government workers.
After all, energy corrupts. We’ve seen this particular abuse of power recur time and time again throughout history. For instance, as an in-depth investigative survey by the Associated Press concludes , the very same mass surveillance technologies that were apparently so necessary to fight the spread of COVID-19 are now being used to stifle dissent, persecute activists, harass marginalized areas, and link people’s information about health to other surveillance and law enforcement tools. As the AP reports, federal officials have also been looking into how to add “ ‘ identifiable patient data , ‘ such as mental health, substance use and behavioral health information from group homes, shelters, jails, detoxification facilities and schools, ” to its surveillance toolkit.
These cameras— and the public-private eyes peering at us through them— are re-engineering a society structured around the aesthetic of fear and, in the process, empowering “ people to not just watch their neighborhood, yet to organize as watchers , ” creating not just digital neighborhood watches but digital gated communities.
Finally, there is a repressive, suppressive effect to surveillance not only acts as a potentially small deterrent on crime yet serves to monitor and chill lawful First Amendment exercise. As Matthew Feeney warns in the Ny Times , “ In past times, Communists, civil rights commanders, feminists, Quakers, folk performers, war protesters and others have been on the receiving end of law enforcement surveillance. No one knows who the next target will be. ”
No one understands, but it’s a pretty good wager that the surveillance state is going to be keeping a close watch upon anyone seen as a threat to the government’s chokehold on energy.
It’s George Orwell’s 1984 on a global range.
As I explain in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Schedules , Orwell’s dystopian nightmare has become our pending reality.