SkyCop: The Creepy Technology That Could Place Your City Under Pervasive Surveillance
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End the Lie
February 21st, 2013
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Memphis, Tennessee-based ESI Companies, Inc. is behind a quite creepy technology platform they call SkyCop, capable of enabling widespread, long-term surveillance across entire cities.
SkyCop is just one of many aspects ofÂ the massive rise of video surveillance, includingÂ cloud-based video surveillance, inÂ cities across the world. One must also consider the rise ofÂ technologies like behavioral recognitionÂ along withÂ a massive increase in the deploymentÂ ofÂ facial recognitionÂ in everything fromÂ mannequins in retail storesÂ toÂ border crossingsÂ andÂ more.
While SkyCop sounds thoroughly futuristic as it integrates fusion centers, mobile surveillance systems, remote video systems, vehicle license plate and surveillance systems, digital recording systems and wireless communication, it has already been deployed in some areas.
The platform was originally developed in 2007 in concert with the Memphis Police Department,Â according toÂ ESI Companies, as part of the police departmentâs Blue Crush Initiative.
While ESI seems to imply that âa dramatic decrease in criminal activity in critical âhotâ spots for crime and has increased conviction ratesâ is linked to their platform by pointing out that it happened after Memphis implemented SkyCop, this might not be the case.
One must point out that here has actually been a recent surge in some violent crime rates and, according toÂ reports, the Blue Crush program âwas used only sparingly for much of the past year,â largely due to budgetary constraints.
While ESI implicitly links SkyCop to the reduction in crime,Â others sayÂ it was actually Blue Crush, a program that involved much more than just the SkyCop platform.
Furthermore, those with a discerning eye likely note that this is nothing but an anecdote on the part of ESI â even if SkyCopÂ wasÂ somehow linked to the crime reduction â and thus cannot be considered strong evidence by any means.
British non-profit Nacro, for instance, penned aÂ 2002 briefingÂ covering âresearch into the effectiveness of CCTV, which suggests that it is not always as successful at reducing crime as it is claimed to be.â
Furthermore, Detective Chief Inspector Mike Neville, head of Scotland Yardâs Visual Images, Identifications and Detections OfficeÂ said in 2008Â that the UKâs CCTV system was an âutter fiascoâ and was related to solving only 3% of Londonâs street robberies.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has pointed out many other issues with video surveillance, not to mention the massiveÂ privacy concerns surrounding license plate scannersÂ â another part of the SkyCop system â brought up byÂ the ACLUÂ andÂ others.
Yet still Toledo, Ohio has deployed SkyCop as part of their Observation Research Intelligence Operations Network (ORION), and has plans to double the number of cameras to a total of 150 according to theÂ Toledo Free Press.
Toledo isnât alone. The Fort Leonard Wood military police purchased two Dodge Chargers in 2009 outfitted with the SkyCop system according toÂ Guidon.
According toÂ El Paso Inc., the El Paso Police Department has âquietly expanded its use of the SkyCop systemâ since 2009 and raised concerns among the ACLU of Texas given âthe technologyâs potential to invade peopleâs privacy.â
According toÂ ESI, others who have picked up SkyCop technologies include the city of Millington, Tennessee, Shelby County, Tennessee, Olive Branch, Mississippi and Brownsville, Texas.
Much of SkyCopâs claims are quite deceptive.
âCrime centers, also known as fusion centers, are now recognized as a vital technological defense to combat exacerbating crime rates,â the SkyCop websiteÂ claims.
In reality, a Senate panel concluded that the Department of Homeland Securityâs fusion centersÂ produce âpredominantly useless informationâ and âa bunch of crap.â
The SkyCop platform seems to be aimed at creating an all-encompassing surveillance state integratingÂ solar poweredÂ surveillance systems capable of wireless communications, gunshot recognition, environmental sensing devices, etc., Mobile License Plate Recognition & Video Surveillance Systems (MLPRVs), wireless network systems with a range ofÂ 30+ miles, and even data analyticsÂ supposedlyÂ allowing police to âexamine past criminal behavior to better predict future criminal activity.â
That kind ofÂ crime prediction technologyÂ â some would call it âpre-crimeâ or âthreat assessmentâ technology â is surprisingly widespread.
It is unclear how accurate any of the claims made by SkyCop actually are, especially based on their misrepresentation of fusion centers and the power of video surveillance in general.
However, in my assessment, the bigger issue here is the fact that these types of systems are capable of massive invasions of privacy and violations of constitutionally protected rights which would never have been possible in the past.
Thanks toÂ Joe CadillacÂ for emailing a link to the SkyCopÂ official website. Tips, as always, are very much appreciated!
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