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Eyes Over Compton: How Police Spied On a Whole City

Unknown Lamer posted about 4 months ago | from the wait'll-it's-drone-enabled dept.

Privacy 190

Advocatus Diaboli (1627651) writes with some concerning news from the Atlantic. From the article: "In a secret test of mass surveillance technology, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department sent a civilian aircraft over Compton, California, capturing high-resolution video of everything that happened inside that 10-square-mile municipality. Compton residents weren't told about the spying, which happened in 2012. 'We literally watched all of Compton during the times that we were flying, so we could zoom in anywhere within the city of Compton and follow cars and see people,' Ross McNutt of Persistence Surveillance Systems told the Center for Investigative Reporting, which unearthed and did the first reporting on this important story. The technology he's trying to sell to police departments all over America can stay aloft for up to six hours. Like Google Earth, it enables police to zoom in on certain areas. And like TiVo, it permits them to rewind, so that they can look back and see what happened anywhere they weren't watching in real time."

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...and this is our cue... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46810815)

And this is our cue to get the HELL out of this evil, communist nation and move to Europe!

Re:...and this is our cue... (0)

saloomy (2817221) | about 4 months ago | (#46810847)

Count the camera's around you... in 100 ft even. Just imagine how many CCDs are being made every day, how many hard drive platters are being created every day! The era of privacy has passed. We will be forever more in a surveillance state. I think our children will be far more accepting of this change than we are, simply because its new. 25 years from now, being "caught on film" doing something we don't want others to know about will be harder and harder. Its a math problem more cameras = more surveillance.

Re:...and this is our cue... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46810997)

The best thing is that we can counter surveil. I don't care about being recorded in public locations so long as I can also record everyone else. I usually wear a pair of sunglasses with a decent camera in them when I go out. I also have cameras on my house recording the surroundings 24/7.

Re:...and this is our cue... (4, Interesting)

CanHasDlY (3618887) | about 4 months ago | (#46811023)

I don't care about being recorded in public locations so long as I can also record everyone else.

I do, if it's the government. You should, because it makes it even more trivial for the government to harass its targets.

Looks like the future is going to be all about masks. But they'll just ban those, won't they?

Re:...and this is our cue... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811071)

No, I absolutely should not. They can't harass me if I also have my own video evidence that discredits theirs. Privacy in public is a contradiction so there is no point throwing a tantrum over it.

Re:...and this is our cue... (1)

CanHasDlY (3618887) | about 4 months ago | (#46811121)

You assume that it will be easy to detect who they are, or that your footage will not be vanished. Furthermore, public opinion and laws will not always be on your side. Privacy (in this case, from mass government surveillance) is still very useful, and for me, desirable.

Privacy in public is a contradiction so there is no point throwing a tantrum over it.

Privacy from *mass government surveillance of public places* is not a contradiction. Guess how we can prevent it, while still having public places? Simply put, we can simply restrict the government's usage of surveillance devices in public places. If it's such a huge contradiction, then that would not be possible, but since the government doesn't have to be able to use such surveillance devices everywhere, it obviously is possible.

Re:...and this is our cue... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811169)

Banning "the government" from surveillance would also ban regular people from recording in public, otherwise a government agency could simply have someone working with them, a contractor perhaps, do the recording.

I'd also love to see how they would "vanish" my footage when it's stored in numerous places around the world. You watch too many movies.

Re:...and this is our cue... (1)

CanHasDlY (3618887) | about 4 months ago | (#46811229)

Banning "the government" from surveillance would also ban regular people from recording in public, otherwise a government agency could simply have someone working with them, a contractor perhaps, do the recording.

Simply incorrect. Governments have far more resources with which to make use of surveillance devices, so prohibiting them from doing so would help. Furthermore, all their footage goes to one central authority (the government), while they would have to hunt down other people's footage.

As for hiring people, doing so in such ways could also be made illegal. After all, something doesn't become okay just because you hire people to do it.

I'd also love to see how they would "vanish" my footage when it's stored in numerous places around the world.

How would I know how you personally choose to store your footage? I'm not talking about *you*, specifically. The surveillance will mainly be to track you and watch for mistakes, which they can then use to harass you. Even if you have footage on your side, you won't necessarily have public opinion or laws on your side.

Re:...and this is our cue... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811265)

Wrong. A contractor working for the government is a private citizen. If you disallow them to record or photograph in public, you must do the same for all citizens. You don't seem to understand the law very well.

Re:...and this is our cue... (1)

CanHasDlY (3618887) | about 4 months ago | (#46811337)

Who hires the contractors? The government. The government's ability to hire contractors for certain purposes can be restricted.

And when the government hires contractors to do something (such as to violate people's rights), the contractors become a de facto part of the government. Otherwise, they'd just be able to hire contractors to do *anything* they're not allowed to do, constitutionally or otherwise.

You don't seem to understand the law very well.

You don't seem to understand ethics very well.

Re:...and this is our cue... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811451)

Except taking footage in public does not violate anyone's rights, no matter how much you wish it did.

Also, despite what you think, ethics are subjective.

Re:...and this is our cue... (1)

CanHasDlY (3618887) | about 4 months ago | (#46811471)

Except taking footage in public does not violate anyone's rights, no matter how much you wish it did.

Just because the government doesn't acknowledge certain rights, that doesn't mean that people don't believe they should have them, and that it's wrong when the government violates these not-yet-implemented rights. But yeah, I do believe in privacy from mass government surveillance of public places.

Also, I said "such as," meaning it was an *example*. Using the above person's logic, contractors would be able to do *anything* the government couldn't do, which would be insane. That was the point, and it wasn't intended to just apply to this specific scenario.

Also, despite what you think, ethics are subjective.

You don't know how I think.

Re:...and this is our cue... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811503)

Well then you better start freaking out about the police helicopters and dashcams.

I don't care what you think. You attempted to present ethics as something that has a one true way and therefore could be understandable as fact.

Re:...and this is our cue... (1)

CanHasDlY (3618887) | about 4 months ago | (#46811547)

Well then you better start freaking out about the police helicopters and dashcams.

What part of "mass surveillance" do you people not understand? A few dashcams do not cover the same ground as (for example) cameras installed everywhere in public places. Helicopters are prohibitively expensive, but if they became cheap and automated, such surveillance would become a problem.

I don't care what you think.

Considering you're telling me how I think, I would think you would care how I actually think. Or are you more concerned about what goes on in your own delusions?

Re:...and this is our cue... (2)

CanHasDlY (3618887) | about 4 months ago | (#46811551)

And what's with the massive influx of AC idiots defending the government's nonsense?

Re:...and this is our cue... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811689)

Having dozens or hundreds of officers patrolling around, recording at all hours qualifies as mass surveillance. Stop being so dense.

I believe my exact words were "Despite what you think". Try to pay attention and stop presenting your opinion as fact.

Re:...and this is our cue... (1)

CanHasDlY (3618887) | about 4 months ago | (#46811777)

Having dozens or hundreds of officers patrolling around, recording at all hours qualifies as mass surveillance. Stop being so dense.

Actually, no, it doesn't. Having thousands of cheap cameras, which can record footage (Big difference here!) and send that footage to a central authority, and never have to sleep, is absolutely different, and qualifies as mass surveillance. Having that many officers for the sole purpose of surveillance is also cost prohibitive, so they'd never be able to replace even cheap surveillance devices.

I believe my exact words were "Despite what you think".

Which makes it sound as if you know what I think.

Re:...and this is our cue... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811561)

So what? We can still tell the government that they can't do it simply because we don't like them doing it. We don't have to justify why we want something stopped.

Re:...and this is our cue... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811699)

I never said you couldn't.

Re:...and this is our cue... (1)

Noah Haders (3621429) | about 4 months ago | (#46811753)

Since the whole debate is over spying in Compton, I'd like to hear Ice Cube's point of views.

Re:...and this is our cue... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811159)

Looks like the future is going to be all about masks. But they'll just ban those, won't they?

Many states in the US already do. For an example, see Florida Statutes 876.12 through 876.15.

Re:...and this is our cue... (3, Interesting)

CanHasDlY (3618887) | about 4 months ago | (#46811187)

That's the land of the free and the home of the brave for you. So brave. So free.

Re:...and this is our cue... (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811635)

That's the land of the free and the home of the brave for you. Much brave. So freedom. Wow.

FTFY

Re:...and this is our cue... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811129)

camera's -> apostrophe plural

CCDs -> no apostrophe plural

platters -> no apostrophe plural

years -> no apostrophe plural

others -> no apostrophe plural

cameras -> no apostrophe plural the second time.

Uh, what?

Re:...and this is our cue... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46810965)

Re:...and this is our cue... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811245)

Yeah, but theym biatches in Compton aint goin nowhere, Nosiree.
Them officers gonna rub they crotches and hit rewind again and again watchin Chantee goin down on that guy in the alley....
Then they jus say it sugar stains from donuts on they britches.
You watchn see ifn what I say aint right!

No privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46810841)

Queue the "you should not expect any privacy outside your home" comments.

Re:No privacy (4, Insightful)

AK Marc (707885) | about 4 months ago | (#46810867)

So if you are sunbathing in your back yard, with 12 ft fences and no buildings visible, would you still presume privacy? Should you be mailed a ticket for sunbathing nude?

Re:No privacy (4, Insightful)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 4 months ago | (#46810911)

You shouldn't be mailed a ticket for sunbathing nude regardless. Legislating against the human body is wrong on many levels.

Re:No privacy (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811005)

Apparently you've never watched AK Marc sunbathe in the nude.
-LAPD

Re:No privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811145)

Oh no you don't, mister! Pregnancy is a hunting license, as any Gosnell-loving Priestess of Moloch will tell you. We must legislate against the unborn at every turn.

Re:No privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811449)

That's certainly never stopped them before. And what else are they going to look for? Actual crimes?
HA!

Re:No privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811091)

So if you are sunbathing in your back yard, with 12 ft fences and no buildings visible, would you still presume privacy? Should you be mailed a ticket for sunbathing nude?

Of course not. However, they may hint that the video footage might accidentally end up on the Internet. If only someone, like you, were to help convince the city's police to hire their service that footage might get lost as they will be busy with the new business.

Re:No privacy (3, Insightful)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | about 4 months ago | (#46811201)

So if you are sunbathing in your back yard, with 12 ft fences and no buildings visible, would you still presume privacy? Should you be mailed a ticket for sunbathing nude?

A ticket? Not at all.

Rather, you should expect a SWAT team to haul you off to prison to await trial, where you will be found guilty of indecent exposure and forced to register as a Sex Offender for the rest of your life.

Re:No privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46810917)

Yes well, I wonder what the official response would be if a private citizen (or say a TV/News station) sent up a drone to fly over the city and record everything the police did for several hours. Including the ability to rewind and replay same as TFA describes. If the citizens can't expect any privacy in public, then why should the police?

Re:No privacy (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 4 months ago | (#46811167)

We already know this.

Persistent Surveillance Systems [persistent...llance.com] is a company that was demoing this technology to the LAPD. They -- private company -- put their planes in the air to try to sell this technology to the LAPD.

It recorded everything, including the LAPD.

Re:No privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811651)

So, what was their official response?

Re:No privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46810947)

Or inside your home unless you have thermal blocking curtains and no camera's or microphones attached to hackable devices. Assuming they don't just break in and install stuff.

Re:No privacy (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811021)

You shouldn't. If you do, then you are a moron. That's why it's called "public".

Re:No privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811079)

I expect privacy from mass government surveillance. I am no moron. I am simply someone who doesn't think the government is full of perfect angels who would never abuse their powers or make mistakes. I am simply someone who would prefer not to have his location tracked just because I'm in a public place. Who are you, if not someone justifying tyranny with overused, nonsensical memes?

If you do not see the difference between someone seeing you and mass government surveillance, then... seriously, come on.

Re:No privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811105)

How would they abuse it? Doctor the footage?

Re:No privacy (2)

BiIl_the_Engineer (3618863) | about 4 months ago | (#46811165)

You do something the government doesn't like, and they'll use their ubiquitous surveillance to track everything you do in public places (If this trend continues, they'll have surveillance devices everywhere.). If you make even the slightest mistake, they'll have cause to harass you or ruin your reputation. And remember that laws don't have to be just, so even if the 'mistake' is illegal, that doesn't mean what you did is immoral.

Doctoring the footage could prove to be another problem. It certainly wouldn't be beyond our sneaky, slimy government.

Re:No privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811239)

It doesn't matter if they don't like it. So long as it's legal, they can't do anything about it. Your argument makes as much sense as banning guns and knives because they have been used to commit murders.

Doctored footage is easy to spot and *they* would then be breaking the law.

Re:No privacy (2)

BiIl_the_Engineer (3618863) | about 4 months ago | (#46811389)

It doesn't matter if they don't like it. So long as it's legal, they can't do anything about it.

Just like the NSA surveillance doesn't exist? Just like the TSA, free speech zones, DUI checkpoints, stop-and-frisk, etc. don't exist? The government doesn't have to follow the laws, and especially when they're allowed to act in secret. They have enough resources to cover everything up, harass people, and ruin reputations. An example of this would be the surveillance of MLK, which was targeted. Only, this sort of technology would expand the scope of it and give them more power.

Your argument makes as much sense as banning guns and knives because they have been used to commit murders.

My argument makes as much sense as banning the act of murdering innocent people. I am suggesting a specific limitation on a specific actor that will curb abusive acts carried out with technology.

Doctored footage is easy to spot and *they* would then be breaking the law.

Under current laws, you mean. And it doesn't have to perfect in order to ruin reputations.

Re:No privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811483)

The TSA operates within private boundaries. They can have whatever rules they want. Ever hear of "No shoes, no shirt, no service"?

NSA surveillance is a completely different issue. They are under scrutiny for spying on peoples' private lives, not recording lawfully in public. If this experiment had involved flying drones up to windows or using x-rays to spy inside of houses, I would then have a problem with it.

Re:No privacy (1)

BiIl_the_Engineer (3618863) | about 4 months ago | (#46811531)

The TSA operates within private boundaries. They can have whatever rules they want.

Fucking bullshit. The TSA is a government agency. Just because it operates within "private boundaries" doesn't mean government thugs can violate people's constitutional rights, or are moral in doing so. It's people like you that we have to thank for the erosion of our individual liberties; I'm sick of you fools.

Ever hear of "No shoes, no shirt, no service"?

Ever heard of the constitution? Obviously not.

NSA surveillance is a completely different issue. They are under scrutiny for spying on peoples' private lives, not recording lawfully in public.

Lawful != moral.

If this experiment had involved flying drones up to windows or using x-rays to spy inside of houses, I would then have a problem with it.

Of course, because then the privacy you care about would be violated; that's what counts.

But ignore everything else I said.

Re:No privacy (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811759)

If I state that you cannot enter my house or business unless you allow me to search you first, then you either allow the search or you stay out. It's your choice and no rights are being violated. When you enter a courthouse, you are required to run your possessions through an x-ray machine and pass through a metal detector. Do you whine about that too?

Lawful != immoral too. Your personal opinion != moral. See, we can both play that game.

That's because I would actually be in a private location. When in public, I have no expectation of privacy and I accept that.

Re:No privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811673)

It doesn't matter if they don't like it. So long as it's legal, they can't do anything about it.

In New Zealand, when the government didn't like the criticism it received from two women, it released all their private information from the Department of Social Welfare in an effort to discredit them, in violation of that country's privacy laws, and then engaged in an attack on them.

What the women did was legal, what the government did was illegal.

Your government will be no different.

Re:No privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811155)

Cue the people who can't tell queue from cue, even though cue is easier to spell.

Oblig XKCD (-1, Offtopic)

Kittenman (971447) | about 4 months ago | (#46810889)

Re:Oblig XKCiD (0)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 4 months ago | (#46811267)

The comedian in me to said to go with a Tyler Durden second rule of Fightclub bit, but my head led me another way.

It's only after we've lost everything that we are free to do anything.

T.Durden

The NSA intrusion into our everyday lives is now ubiquitous. They know we know they know and it's pretty fucking much business as fucking usual.

Does it work? (2)

number17 (952777) | about 4 months ago | (#46810901)

I can see how this might work against somebody stealing a car as it is something that can be relatively easy to track. But tracking a person as they go into the subway is difficult or if somebody is wearing a hoodie [independent.ie] . It still wouldn't touch the big players in organized or white collar crime.

Re:Does it work? (2)

Tailhook (98486) | about 4 months ago | (#46811015)

or if somebody is wearing a hoodie

That naturally brings to mind Travon/Zimmerman. Had their been infrared aerial surveillance of that scene then better evidence would have been available to the jury about exactly who was closing to engage with whom that night.

Hoddie or not.

No, this is not advocacy for surveilling everything, but the "hoddie" argument is weak and poor arguments need to be avoided. The statists will get their way anyhow, but we don't need to make it easy for them.

Re:Does it work? (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 4 months ago | (#46811093)

Not with planes flying by... it would be hit or miss whether the plane was filming overhead at the critical moment, a few seconds window at best to determine the aggressor.

In the end, I suspect, it will still be the black helicopters.

Re:Does it work? (2)

mythosaz (572040) | about 4 months ago | (#46811233)

The criminal street culture already dresses the same as each other as a means of making identification (eye witness and video) more difficult.

The company that provided this "service" has sample photos and videos online. It's mostly ants marching over blobs... At the best resolutions, you can tell a car from a mini-van, and a truck from an SUV. Telling one person from another would be impossible. At best, you could follow a bank robber's get-away car.

No nude sunbathing here.

http://www.persistentsurveilla... [persistent...llance.com]

Re:Does it work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811539)

A stolen car gets added to a big list of stolen cars. By the time they bother taking your report, chances are it's already been delivered. They'll always be "too busy" to look back unless you are particularly important.

On the other hand, anyone annoying law enforcement officials (in their duties or on a personal level) or anyone capable of obtaining this information will suddenly have every missed stop their car made for the past two months stacked up against them in court, and a few extra hit and runs possibly 'added' to old footage on a rainy day.

There's just no "good" use of this. It won't make anyone safer, it infringes on everyone's freedom, but the real reason anyone's pushing it is because it will cost millions for every town, all of which will go to whomever (is pushing it) gets the contract to install and maintain these.

Apropos of "ethical dilemmas programmers face"... (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 4 months ago | (#46810909)

Hopefully, everyone involved with the Sheriff's department will be punished as hard as legally possible and possibly harder; but that seems unlikely to change the fact that 'power we could use' turns into 'power we just did use' with unpleasant regularity, and it's only reasonable to suspect that the cost of this sort of sensors-and-analysis package is only going to continue plummeting.

I'm sure that the insufferable 'if, hypothetically speaking, this level of surveillance would be legal if carried out by a magical force of zero-cost police officers with perfect memories and no need for sleep, it must be legal if carried out by any means whatsoever!' brigade will be by shortly; but their argument is ahistorical nonsense that ignores the real issue: most of your protection has always been logistical rather than legal. Now we are substantially reducing the logistical barriers and can reasonably expect to further reduce them in the near future. Any protections that you think would be a good idea will soon need to be explicitly legal; because the logistics will be increasingly trivial(possibly even self-financing, if you can sell ads somehow...)

Re:Apropos of "ethical dilemmas programmers face". (1)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about 4 months ago | (#46810995)

punished for... what? for looking at stuff that is outside in plain view from the sky?

take out the snowden stuff. forget the nsa for a minute. leave out the drone aspect.

you are left with cops looking at stuff that is outside. i know i'm supposed to drum up some popular anger right now, but i really just can't.

would you be mad if a cop in a helicopter was flying around the city at 1000 feet and looking at stuff that is outside? at what level of efficiency of cops looking at ANYTHING cross the line from normal cops doing normal cop stuff to stuff to shit your pants over?

Re:Apropos of "ethical dilemmas programmers face". (1)

CanHasDlY (3618887) | about 4 months ago | (#46811045)

punished for... what? for looking at stuff that is outside in plain view from the sky?

For conducting mass surveillance of public places, which is absolutely 100% different from someone merely seeing you, and especially so when something as powerful as the government does it. The problem is a combination of them recording footage and doing so for huge areas. I don't think I even need to explain how this is different from using your eyes to look around.

If you honestly don't see a problem, you need to think a bit harder.

Re:Apropos of "ethical dilemmas programmers face". (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about 4 months ago | (#46811191)

punished for... what? for looking at stuff that is outside in plain view from the sky?

If you honestly don't see a problem, you need to think a bit harder.

Oh I see a problem, namely the storage space required to STORE all this suspect video for later review.... If they do this much, it's going to take a boat load of storage.

You cannot seriously have an issue with the collection of such freely available imagery. ANYBODY flying over this area can take pictures, video etc. Is it somehow a problem because the police do it?

What can the police do these days? Automatic license plate scanning? Red Light cameras? Automated Speed cameras? How about a FLIR camera on a helicopter? (We've been doing that for decades..)

Can tollways collect tolling information? Can employers track their employees? Their assets (say a truck or something):?

What do you think the limit should be?

Re:Apropos of "ethical dilemmas programmers face". (3, Insightful)

CanHasDlY (3618887) | about 4 months ago | (#46811261)

You cannot seriously have an issue with the collection of such freely available imagery.

I do. Especially when it's the government doing it. We The People can easily restrict their activities if we choose to do so. The fact that "anybody" can do it doesn't mean we should let the government, with its virtually limitless resources and authority, do so.

What can the police do these days? Automatic license plate scanning? Red Light cameras? Automated Speed cameras? How about a FLIR camera on a helicopter?

I think that's all morally wrong. The fact that we allow it means we're not living up to the whole "land of the free and the home of the brave" thing.

What do you think the limit should be?

On the government's use of surveillance technology in public places.

Re:Apropos of "ethical dilemmas programmers face". (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 4 months ago | (#46811277)

ANYBODY flying over this area can take pictures, video etc. Is it somehow a problem because the police do it?

Actually, yes -- there are limits to the power of public figures because they also have the ability to abuse said power. If you give someone whose mandate is to enforce the law (catch people doing bad things) the ability to surveil public spaces and review every aspect of that space at any time, you're changing the social contract with law enforcement from how it is currently accepted.

Of course, in reality, this would save money/taxes, resulting in a smaller arrest/fine quota needed, so the smaller police forces could spend more time actually dealing with major issues and less time responding to bogus calls. Right?

I don't think this would help with domestic disturbance calls, which is what the police spend the majority of their time on.

Re:Apropos of "ethical dilemmas programmers face". (1)

johnlcallaway (165670) | about 4 months ago | (#46811221)

Point me to a law where this is illegal. Police agencies have used helicopters for decades, and the Supreme court has thrown out evidence if there wasn't probably cause to look over a fence. There is some semblance of balance.

The local ghetto bird flies over our house several times a week on it's way to and fro whatever it's going to and fro from. There is nothing today that doesn't prevent that helicopter from having a camera on it. Oh wait .. it does. It has even shown it's very bright light into our backyard on occasion as it searches for something. Just yesterday, it flew in circles in the area next to our house for at least 30 minutes. The first time, it flew over, I realized I was crouched down in what could be taken as someone hiding (I was drilling holes in the concrete to attach a shade structure to), so I stood up and watched it fly over the next time just to make sure they saw me.

The only things different that I can tell is I can hear the helicopter and not the drone, the helicopter can't stay up as long, and it probably can't fly as high. Try and dehumanize it as much as you want, a person still has to review the footage to make any sense of it. Just as people review traffic camera footage before the tickets go out. In the end, you can still go to court and have a real person testify as to what was being recorded and interpret it.

Re:Apropos of "ethical dilemmas programmers face". (2)

CanHasDlY (3618887) | about 4 months ago | (#46811269)

I don't know of any laws, but I don't care. I'm saying I think it *should* be illegal.

Re:Apropos of "ethical dilemmas programmers face". (1)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about 4 months ago | (#46811223)

ohh i see a problem all right.

"spying" has come to include all stuff we don't like.

personally, i think the laws should be clear in that police don't need to look at anything unless a crime has been reported. but that isn't the law. and it isn't the policy in any city I've been to.

there are CCTV cameras all over cities... but mount one to a plane and its so different?

right and wrong doesn't come down to degrees. This part here: "especially so when something as powerful as the government does it". So because they are good at it, that is a problem?

Either police looking at stuff even when no crime has been reported is wrong, or it isn't. Deal with THAT. Stop getting wrapped up in what implementation they are using or how efficient they are. It isn't MORE wrong because they are now 64% efficient at looking at stuff vs %35 with the previous techniques.

Mass Surveillance is a meaningless term. Each person is free to set the threshold for "mass" at whatever level makes them angry and is likely to shift when topics shift from heroin dealer to kidnapper. A cop with a camcorder in a helicopter at 1000 feet is likely so "surveil" a city block at one time... that is Mass Surveillance for those living in that block.

Re:Apropos of "ethical dilemmas programmers face". (2)

CanHasDlY (3618887) | about 4 months ago | (#46811309)

"spying" has come to include all stuff we don't like.

The government is definitely spying on you when it has ubiquitous surveillance devices recording as much as possible, even when it happens in public.

right and wrong doesn't come down to degrees.

When something is done past a certain degree that it becomes harmful (in my eyes), I consider it wrong. Very simple.

So because they are good at it, that is a problem?

Because they have virtually limitless resources and ability to harass, it is a problem. History, with its numerous examples of government abuses, further shows that it is a problem.

Stop getting wrapped up in what implementation they are using or how efficient they are.

So, I should stop thinking about anything and mindlessly declare that the situations are the exact same while disregarding the implementation and efficiency? That sounds ludicrous.

Mass Surveillance is a meaningless term.

"meaningless" is a meaningless term.

You're not going to convince me that the government having surveillance devices installed everywhere in public places, or making use of surveillance drones everywhere, are good things. It just isn't going to happen.

Re:Apropos of "ethical dilemmas programmers face". (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 4 months ago | (#46811241)

I watched the sample videos.

http://www.persistentsurveilla... [persistent...llance.com]

I'm beyond unimpressed.

Re:Apropos of "ethical dilemmas programmers face". (5, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 4 months ago | (#46811109)

Did you miss this bit?

"“The system was kind of kept confidential from everybody in the public,”[The supervisor of the project at the sheriff's department Sgt. Douglas] Iketani said. “A lot of people do have a problem with the eye in the sky, the Big Brother, so in order to mitigate any of those kinds of complaints, we basically kept it pretty hush-hush.”

That is...not exactly... the sort of attitude you want somebody with access to legalized violence to operate under. 'Yeah, we knew people wouldn't like the idea, so we just did it secretly instead. Listening to complaints is a total pain in the ass.' That alone strikes me as reason enough to clean house of everyone who gave it their approval, regardless of whether I thought the project was a good idea or not.

Re:Apropos of "ethical dilemmas programmers face". (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 4 months ago | (#46811583)

This particular case was kept secret, but there is a NOVA episode about something similar being done in a DC suburb. They kept a drone aloft for a month recording literally everything that happened in a small city (well, everything visible from the air). The camera was wide-field high-resolution, so you could crop and zoom any part of the video and get an image comparable to what you might see on a news camera from a helicopter zoomed in. They recorded a whole month, so you could go back and look at what anybody was doing anywhere after the fact.

So, this isn't really news per-se, so much as news that the technology is becoming more ubiquitous.

Re:Apropos of "ethical dilemmas programmers face". (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811683)

Actually, one's yard has an expectation of privacy. That's the point of fence heights and the like.
Suddenly using high resolution cameras from high altitude is the equivalent of breaking the window and ripping off the blinds.
Once used it's just a matter of time before yet another step gets taken, and sunbathing besides your pool gets you slapped with indecent exposure.

Re:Apropos of "ethical dilemmas programmers face". (1)

number17 (952777) | about 4 months ago | (#46811013)

but that seems unlikely to change the fact that 'power we could use' turns into 'power we just did use' with unpleasant regularity

Their whole job is dealing with people who do crime and ask for forgiveness later. I don't condone what they are doing, but I can see how they could slip in that direction.

Re:Apropos of "ethical dilemmas programmers face". (3, Informative)

NoKaOi (1415755) | about 4 months ago | (#46811439)

but that seems unlikely to change the fact that 'power we could use' turns into 'power we just did use' with unpleasant regularity

Their whole job is dealing with people who do crime and ask for forgiveness later. I don't condone what they are doing, but I can see how they could slip in that direction.

Which is why we have this thing called the United States Constitution, and why that constitution has an amendment (the 4th one, in fact) that deals with this sort of thing. That same constitution also has a concept of separation of powers, and defines what branch of government has what power. Law enforcement (under the executive branch) are only doing half of their job - they're sworn to uphold the law but the are ignoring the highest law, the constitution The judicial branch exists to prevent that, but they don't seem to be very good at doing the part of their job that involves upholding the constitution.

Re:Apropos of "ethical dilemmas programmers face". (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 4 months ago | (#46811053)

Hopefully, everyone involved with the Sheriff's department will be punished as hard as legally possible and possibly harder

For what? Aerial photography without a license?

Re:Apropos of "ethical dilemmas programmers face". (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 4 months ago | (#46811119)

They probably had a license...

Re:Apropos of "ethical dilemmas programmers face". (1)

AdamThor (995520) | about 4 months ago | (#46811377)

"most of your protection has always been logistical"

The Key Point

14 years for shining a laser. What about a SAM? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46810927)

Well, since it seems you can get a goodly jail term for shining a laser at an aircraft, I wonder what the incremental cost of using a surface-to-air missile is over the laser pointer?
With the SAM, at least they don't get to use the aircraft for a second look at you...

(No, I don't actually encourage disposing of such a craft using a missile or any other means).

Re:14 years for shining a laser. What about a SAM? (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 4 months ago | (#46811147)

Shining a laser pointer at a drone with a camera is pretty stupid.
Unless you've got an automated tracking system to keep the laser pointed exactly at the moving target until it is out of sight, you've just painted a huge target on yourself and committed a crime to give them legal means to track your current and future movements until you're apprehended.

Like a Cheap Argus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46810955)

Sounds like a cheap knockoff of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A... [wikipedia.org]

Well f*ck us!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46810969)

Wait until we downsize the police force to para-military only and just have drones flying overhead blanketing a city with constant surveillance sending a feed directly to a storage. Then another computer can start working with the data batches as they come in. A nice printout with all relevant information regarding the person to be apprehended on the daily sweep.

If you are lucky, you'll just receive a citation in the mail every so often that you'll pay because they have evidence you broke the law and you better not fight it because you'll just lose. It's hard evidence.

For some reason, this same system that will catch everyone breaking the laws won't ever catch politicians or really important people either.

PBS aired a half hour special on this recently... (1)

Bob_Who (926234) | about 4 months ago | (#46810977)

I believe it was titled "Government Surveillance" or something like that. The two sides debated: Law enforcement said its "good" and they would never abuse this data. Stanford ethicists and the EFF argued that its "bad" and its already being abused by law enforcement's flagrant disregard of the Constitution. Interestingly, the arguments were moot since law enforcement complained that the detail resolution of the images were not good enough to justify the costs in terms of actual prosecutions. In other words, it would help to solve crimes, but not necessarily well enough - especially because its hard to ID a perpetrator from above the top of their head. I think we need stop relying on technology to run our criminal justice system. Remember, Soylent Green is people.

Re:PBS aired a half hour special on this recently. (3)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | about 4 months ago | (#46811249)

especially because its hard to ID a perpetrator from above the top of their head.

That's why we need to outlaw hair and head wear. It will be in the best interests of public safety if everyone had a prominent barcode tattooed to the top of their clean shaven, bald head to aid in identification by Law Enforcement surveillance drones.

next thing you know, police will have helicopters (0)

raymorris (2726007) | about 4 months ago | (#46810983)

TFS said they used an "aircraft", which I guess means "airplane". We better watch out - next thing you know, the sheriff's office will have helicopters and be able to hover, watching someone for a while. With an airplane, they can only watch for a couple minutes before they've flown by.

Re:next thing you know, police will have helicopte (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811081)

The next thing you know, the police will have airplanes that can circle over a known area.

Re:next thing you know, police will have helicopte (1)

HiThere (15173) | about 4 months ago | (#46811107)

Not helicopters. They are too expensive. Quadcopter drones possibly. Or areostats. Or blimps. There are lots of choices, each has its advantages and disadvantages. But a robot eye-in-the-sky doesn't need to be very big or support a lot of weight...or be very expensive.

I don't like it, but expect it to happen.

Re:next thing you know, police will have helicopte (2)

Rich0 (548339) | about 4 months ago | (#46811599)

TFS said they used an "aircraft", which I guess means "airplane". We better watch out - next thing you know, the sheriff's office will have helicopters and be able to hover, watching someone for a while. With an airplane, they can only watch for a couple minutes before they've flown by.

The difference was that in the past they'd have to spend $5-10k and then they can watch one person for a period of an hour or two. Now they can spend $100/day and record everybody in a whole town, without targeting anybody in particular.

This isn't a camera with a zoom lens. This is a high-resolution wide-field camera, that effectively behaves like it is zoomed in on everybody everywhere at the same time.

perfectly legal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46810987)

It is perfectly legal, unless they are looking through your bed room window with some device that sees through your closed curtains, opps your curtains are open, sucks to be you.

Re:perfectly legal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811737)

I'll just bet you're one of those cocks who thinks Soviet Russia was pure evil. Right now, you're under surveillance that Stalin would never have dreamed of, and you accept it - you actually approve of it, because America is the Land of the Free.

Let me say it again in different words: just everything you do is being recorded in order to assist in detecting crimes.

Buy some dope? Someone will know. Smash a window? Flip off a cop? Ever take something small that didn't belong to you? Out beyond curfew? How about civil matters, such as copyright violation? Exceed the speed limit? Do you disagree with a politician?

Your profile is expanding, and eventually there will be a match, and a citation or arrest warrant (in extreme cases) will be issued.

There's a name for that: police state.

Is it really much more than goes on already? (2)

supernova87a (532540) | about 4 months ago | (#46811101)

I'm sorry, but I guess I don't understand why this is any bigger deal than cameras on a street corner. Maybe it's having grown up in Baltimore with a police helicopter constantly overhead that's desensitized me.

Doesn't everyone just assume that when in public, everything you do could be observed by someone else? Now, if they were looking in people's windows, that would be a bit creepier.

Re:Is it really much more than goes on already? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811313)

If you're in your backyard with a 12 foot private fence, you're not in public but you're visible from the sky. There's also a difference from being temporally observed by someone and having the government watching you.

You can see into windows from public areas. How is that creepier?

Re:Is it really much more than goes on already? (1)

jaa101 (627731) | about 4 months ago | (#46811357)

This system is going to see plenty of things that aren't "in public", even without peeping in windows. What is your expectation of privacy in your backyard? Could there be a constitutional up-side in the US though? Maybe everyone will be able to have their cases thrown out due to the warrantless surveillance conducted on them prior to their arrest.

Re:Is it really much more than goes on already? (1)

NoKaOi (1415755) | about 4 months ago | (#46811465)

Maybe everyone will be able to have their cases thrown out due to the warrantless surveillance conducted on them prior to their arrest.

Hahahaha! That's the funniest bit of satire I've read all day! The notion that the judicial branch would do their jobs, hahahaha!!!1!eleven!!

Re:Is it really much more than goes on already? (1)

Rinikusu (28164) | about 4 months ago | (#46811511)

Yeah, I can't wait until 12 year old kids get their own quadcopter "video" drones and can peep into chicks' windows 5 or 6 stories up...

Re:Is it really much more than goes on already? (1)

digitalPhant0m (1424687) | about 4 months ago | (#46811437)

Compton also has the Ghetto Bird constantly overhead (most of L.A. does).
One difference is you can hear it coming, unlike the drone which I am assuming is silent.

Now, if they were looking in people's windows, that would be a bit creepier.

Read: "All of Compton", this assumes back/front yards. Peeping into the backyard IMO is almost as bad as peeping into a window.

more drone scares on slashfud (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811289)

This is getting to be a several time a day occurance...agenda much?

Filmed by drone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811375)

"Straight outta Compton" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com]

How is this not a general warrant? (2)

dbc (135354) | about 4 months ago | (#46811417)

This seems like a general warrant to me. For civilian aircraft, there are minimum altitudes, and no general expectation of privacy from overhead observation at that distance. But in this case, this is for the purpose of gathering evidence. How is that not a general warrant?

At least you can shot the drone down (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811517)

Same can't be said for the spy satellites.

Compton is a combat zone (see linked map) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811571)

Compton is a combat zone, and literally more dangerous than some war zones:

http://maps.latimes.com/neighborhoods/neighborhood/compton/crime/

If we want the cops to do anything about crime they need situational awareness just as military units need overhead surveillance in urban combat. Officers on the streetcorner many see some things but he won't have an overall picture without more data, and video evidence is what to have in a court of law.

I'd rather have the unblinking eye of a camera than a subjective observer with no camera in a "he said, she said" situation.

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