Ring doorbells have video cameras on them that allow people to view and record things happening in front of their homes. They are online, so people can be notified and watch when someone approaches their door, even when they are not at home, thanks to mobile devices. They are becoming more and more popular, and since they are owned by Amazon, they can even be linked up with Amazon’s Echo smart home systems.
However, and this may come as a surprise to people considering them, Amazon has partnered with hundreds of law enforcement agencies to share the surveillance data. That means that law enforcement may literally have a live feed from your house, or other homes in your neighborhood. The technology has benefits and concerns. This video surveillance net could help law enforcement catch more crooks, and has become a frequently used tool for that effect. However, the privacy concerns abound, that the government can be watching with multiple eyes around your neighborhood. Some 67 Florida agencies have already signed on to the program, so it looks like it’s not going away any time soon.
Millions of cars have been spotted by license plate scanners, and logged into massive government databases for several years now. Also, they make the information available to any law enforcement agency that makes a request. Details are limited, and its unclear how many detentions, arrests, or convictions have resulted from the program.
Lee County has its own license plate scanning program, as we discussed in Big Brother post a while back. I suspect Collier County does as well, due to the nature of some police stops I have seen, but I haven’t seen any public information about it: that remains my suspicion. Meanwhile, only a small percentage of deputies have cameras in their cars.
Some good news for Friday, the City of Fort Myers is going to outfit all FMPD officers with body cams. The first 40 cameras are arriving, and will be deployed soon on patrol officers. Chief Baker has been vocal and instrumental in pushing for this equipment upgrade, and I support his efforts.
I’m a big fan of more cameras. It is for the benefit of everybody… I think there is often pushback from law enforcement, but the cameras really benefit them. If there is a real need to use force, the cameras will demonstrate when they are justified. Conversely, it will catch officers if they break the law, but I think we can all agree that we don’t want officers breaking the law. Much of finding real justice in criminal court is trying to determine what really happened. They call is the the criminal justice system, after all. Cameras are a wonderful tool in discovering the true facts in disputed cases. Cameras collect indisputable evidence.
I encourage all of our local law enforcement departments to look into expanded use of cameras for officers in the field.
Lee County is adding more scanners that scan and record all license plates that drive by. I had not even heard of these until last night’s story, but apparently they are already in use up and down the SW Florida coast; Lee County just happens to be adding more of them. Perfectly legal, your license plate must be visible and the roads are public… but it’s another way for the government to track its citizens. I’m sure the data collected from these operations will be added to the NSA’s warehouse of information that is being build right now.
Oh, after I wrote the paragraph above, I ran across this article on Drudge today. The license plate scanning, and recording, is already far more extensive than I had imagined. I had never even heard of these until this week, and they have apparently been in heavy use for several years now. It makes you wonder in what other ways the government is watching and tracking without us even knowing about it. Satellites? Cell tower and GPS information? The breadth of possibilities is frightening.