A new piece over at OneZero examines the rising trend of local neighborhood associations installing private license plate readers to keep tabs on who comes and goes from their precious white suburbs;
ALPR technology, invented in 1976 by the U.K.’s Police Scientific Development Branch, has become a popular law enforcement tool over the past decade and is now commonly used to track down alleged lawbreakers, to gather information about vehicles of interest, and to track down individuals who owe fines.
But now, ALPR companies are targeting the private realm as well. “Live in an HOA or neighborhood? Work in law enforcement?” reads the intro text on Flock’s website. In either case, the call to action is the same: “Use license plate readers to capture evidence and stop crime.” The company, which was founded in 2017, claims 700,000 neighbors in 400 cities and 35 states live in communities that rely on its technology.
At least seven homeowner associations (HOAs) in San Diego County, 100 neighborhoods in Georgia, 10 in the Denver area, and dozens throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, and elsewhere have installed A.I.-infused ALPRs manufactured by Flock and a handful of other companies such as Vigilant Solutions and Obsidian Integration. Flock provides a calculator that recommends the number of cameras that neighborhoods should install: For 50 homes with two entrances, it recommends between two to four cameras; for 100 homes with five entrances, it recommends between five and 10. Each camera costs $2,000 per year. ALPR’s expansion beyond law enforcement may be one reason investors have bet more than $35 million in venture capital funding on Flock. The company closed its most recent and largest round of funding — $15 million — in March.
The article explores the dystopian impact of this utterly excessive surveillance profiteering on some of the neighborhoods that have willingly embraced it. Even if — somehow — a neighborhood association was able to install this license plate readers in a way that wasn’t creepy and authoritarian — say there was the rare instance of outsider crime that they genuinely hoped to catch — the amount of data they would end up collecting would render the whole project moot. Suffice to say: no one in these communities is actually safer, or happier.
Since Fourth Amendment privacy rules do not apply to private citizens, HOA boards are not subject to any oversight. “Whatever motivates an individual gatekeeper — racial biases, frustration with another neighbor, even disagreements among family members — could all be used in conjunction with ALPR records to implicate someone in a crime or in any variety of other legal but uncomfortable situations,” according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit that defends civil liberties in the digital world.
Neighborhood Watch Has a New Tool: License-Plate Readers [Ella Fassler / One Zero / Medium]
Image: Public Domain
Shark-detecting drones have been commonplace over Australian beaches for a while now. The same skyward technology is now spying for large groups of people. As the summer season ramps up down under local officials want to minimize any COVID-19 super spreader crowds. The drone surveillance cameras will transmit video to the authorities who will act… READ THE REST
Trumpeter Steph Richards has been working on a project called SUPERSENSE, and “Underbelly” is an audio-visual-olfactory musing on our surveillance society. Note: strobe effects. The style is evocative of the hand-drawn style used in 1970s children’s shows like Electric Company. If Underbelly was your style, check out “Gong”: Image: YouTube / Steph Richards READ THE REST
Most police have access to tools that can retrieve cleartext data from about 50% of the phones they confiscate, reports The New York Times. Phone-hacking tools typically exploit security flaws to remove a phone’s limit on passcode attempts and then enter passcodes until the phone unlocks. Because of all the possible combinations, a six-digit iPhone passcode takes… READ THE REST
Learning a new language is almost like doing a trust fall. You have to have confidence that you’ve chosen a sound, respected, effective system for acquiring the knowledge you seek. Babbel Language Learning has the stats and testimonials to help put that concern at ease. Earlier this year, the service announced it had reached the… READ THE REST
In most of the top technical fields, certifications are like currency. A seal of approval from a key body can serve as the ultimate gatekeeper to helping you get into a new career like the cloud computing sector. If you want to work on cloud-based systems, it certainly helps to know the industry leader intimately,… READ THE REST
It’s never been easier for creators to come up with new apps for Apple mobile devices. And, if you never thought you’d hear the words ‘Apple’ and ‘easier for creators’ together in the same sentence…well, 2020 has generated its fair share of surprising moments. While Apple has been a longtime staple of proprietary software, as… READ THE REST