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The DEA and ICE are hiding surveillance cameras in streetlights (qz.com)
242 points by singularity2001 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 141 comments



> It doesn’t matter if you’re driving down the street or visiting a friend, if government or law enforcement has a reason to set up surveillance, there’s great technology out there to do it.

I think most people understand this concept at some level. This describes the same fundamental pattern as undercover officers and informants: a suspect is identified and assets allocated to the project of going after that person or organization. The scary thing isn't so much that surveillance tech exists, but rather the prospect of law enforcement (or others who can obtain access to their systems by various means) being able to select targets after-the-fact at little additional cost because of indiscriminate surveillance.


Here's a dirty secret that doesn't get talked about much: the officers looking at the streaming images we spy from your home end up seeing you and treating you in the same way people see and treat Internet streamers or reality show celebs.


Correct. Every once in a while a story surfaces about Law Enforcement circulating official photos of someone attractive with inappropriate comments. We all know someone who worked in "loss prevention" that would virtually stock someone in the store; and the stories of TSA 'randomly' selecting attractive people for pat downs are legendary. Is this anecdotal, yes. Is this true, yes.


Or law enforcement using these tools to stalk and harass or murder their ex-girlfriends.


Police are serial domestic abusers, its a very serious issue: https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/09/police-...


Pretty sure most of them take anabolic steroids, whose effects can lead to -guess what- delusion, aggressiveness and violence (not unlike cocaine). I wounldn't be surprised at all if random drug tests on cops confirmed this.


Inexplicably, Canadian drug law excludes possession of anabolic steroids.

I speculate it has to do with police influence on the writing of laws.


This isn't true. Do you have a source?


The Department of Justice is concerned enough to have a presentation: https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/pubs/brochures/steroids/l...

Also this: https://www.sciencedirect.com/book/9780128028254/anabolic-st...

Chapter 3 has a lovely abstract: The anabolic steroid abuse problem within law enforcement is straightforward. Police culture embraces images of aggression and masculinity, serving up both institutional and social rewards for those that conform. Denying this reality is not reasonable. Anabolic steroids help provide an easy path to those short-term rewards. However, these rewards are temporary, high risk, and illegal. Additionally, as with any form of illegal drug use, it doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Anabolic steroid abuse requires committing any number of crimes and direct association with other criminals — including those who deal other illegal drugs.

Law enforcement has a professional obligation to public safety that includes employing and deploying only those officers that are fit for duty. It is not possible to use anabolic steroids and also maintain psychological or character-related fitness for duty. However, because of related performance- and image-enhancing benefits, in combination with ignorance of the law, anabolic steroid abuse is tolerated by some public safety agencies and many in the legal community. This short-sighted approach, which amounts to the burying of heads in the sand, ensures that harm will be caused and that legal liability will be incurred.


> Anabolic steroid abuse requires committing any number of crimes and direct association with other criminals — including those who deal other illegal drugs.

Is that actually true? I was under the impression that you could find a doctor that would prescribe them to you. Not the case with, say, cocaine.


I was under the impression that you buy them from your friend at the gym. In the US, the whole class of anabolic steroids are Schedule III controlled substances. There are many compounds that went through clinical and animal trials, steroid chemistry was big in the 1950s and 1960s, the story of Syntex is one of treachery and villainy, but not many are available at market these days. The only use case is cachexia in the very elderly or in cancer patients. A physician who prescribes them too frequently would attract attention, unless of course he has a special relationship with law enforcement.


> The only use case is cachexia in the very elderly or in cancer patients

Uveitis, Grave’s disease, gout, alopecia, systemic vasculitis & giant cell arteritis are some other viable reasons for being prescribed steroids.


Corticosteroids like Prednisone aren’t anabolic steroids.


Your first source is 14 years old.


Here's a one year old source, the British Medical Journal, last reviewed this October : https://bestpractice.bmj.com/topics/en-us/987

Thr authors list the risk factors: employment as nightclub bouncer, professional male dancer, professional wrestler, or law enforcement officer. BMJ is highly reputable.

So the reason smalltown police act like BOPE in Rio is that they want to look buff like a male stripper! They don't want to be the arm of the law, such work is dirty, boring and tedious, their goal is to look sexy with their guns, their kink escaped from the bedroom into the streets!

No wonder that they have a recruitment problem, regular people won't join Anabolics Anonymous, only slightly troubled weirdos and high school bullies will come. It makes you very pessimistic about police violence and proper discipline in the force, they won't ever improve unless they solve their drug abuse problem first.


Seems like a better phrase is 'I find this hard to believe. Do you have a source?'

I certainly doubted the 'most' part of that statement but after looking into it, it really does seem like there is a problem with steroids and the police. Potentially still not 'most' police but certainly enough that it's an issue.


Most was surely an exaggeration on my part, however some well known brutal beatings by cops in my country ending with the death of the arrested had the family of the victim being ridiculed and verbally attacked by police associations. Eventually in the most famous case to date it took one of the involved officers to talk after 9 years to expose what everyone was certain of: a coverup. There has been zero cooperation from above.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/09/world/europe/ilaria-cucch...

http://www.ansa.it/english/news/2018/10/26/superior-sent-cha...

What made me even more angry then however was the fake camaraderie LEOs associations showed when protecting their colleagues; that's not camaraderie, that's collusion plain and simple, which is probably even worse than having the brain f'ed up by hormones.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/30/italian-police...


That's standard police force badness.

No need to invent anabolic steroids as a cause.It's not like these things didn't exist before steroids were available.



[flagged]


You seem very pleasant. While I guess asking other people questions on here is beneath you, I (and seemingly tons of other people) like to ask other people information when they say they know information and have a conversation. Did anyone anywhere ever claim HN is a courtroom? Even so... I'm pretty sure questions are allowed in a courtroom.


It's more about the accusatory nature of it. It implies "I don't believe you", which is not really a question. It's rude, and stymies a conversation. You're making the other do work to get back to the same point in the conversation they were at, before you said anything. I, as a reader, just saw a pissing match, but didn't learn much new.

Moreover, it's intellectually lazy: I could ask for sources after anything anyone says, ever. How does that advance any situation? Can you imagine the tone of those conversations?

Naturally, sometimes it's genuine curiosity. You can usually tell from the way it's phrased. "This isn't true. Do you have a source?" is not it.

But even in that case, I genuinely suggest people to take all of three seconds to type the keywords into Google. It's about as quick as typing that reply, and it frees up the comment section like a quick vick's vapo rub.

The original poster already went through the trouble of sharing the comment, and, presumably, their experience with it. The least you can do is help.


It's super weird that you would blanket say it is not true without doing a quick investigation yourself. What happened there?



> Internet streamers or reality show celebs.

While that is a serious invasion of privacy, there is a far more critical issue of using this technology to suppress and abuse political enemies or those who are unable to defend themselves (minorities, undocumented people, the poor, etc.).


Many prosecutions are based on "parallel constructions" involving such tools.


> being able to select targets after-the-fact at little additional cost because of indiscriminate surveillance

This seems like a bizarre way of thinking, that crimes should only be punished if the criminal happens to be caught in the act, or if law enforcement follows a trail of breadcrumbs involving unreliable eyewitness accounts and scraps of evidence.

How many people have been wrongfully convicted because the police needed to get the crime off the books, or evidence was misleading, or eyewitnesses gave false testimony?

You speak as if it's a forgone conclusion that this is the way things should be, but what's the basis?


Limiting the exercise of power is the goal. The police by design are supposed to meet a high standard of evidence for the use of their power to be justified. The reason for this should be obvious: unrestrained power leads to very bad effects.

Before any technology or policy is used, it first needs to be considered as a weapon, because the historical record shows that this is how powerful tools end up being used regardless of how they were intended to be used. Denying law enforcement any evidence that doesn't meet specific standards isn't the way it "should be", it's the least worst way we know of having functional law enforcement without letting it devolve into various types of oppressive police states.

> what's the basis?

"Innocent until proven guilty."


> "Innocent until proven guilty."

Whose innocence being questioned here? The quote is a non-sequitur in this context, unless you consider "being on camera" a punishment reserved for the guilty. I have bad news for you, if you've ever set foot inside a supermarket, drugstore, fast-food restaurant, corporate office, etc.


> if you've ever set foot inside a supermarket, drugstore, fast-food restaurant, office, etc.

All of which require a warrant before they can be used as evidence against you.

You're conflating private recordings that are not generally available to the enforcement power of the state with the state regularly gathering evidence against you without cause. The entire point of "innocent until proven guilty" is that there must be an established due process of law in the application of the power of the state.

For supermarket cameras, that's the warrant requirement before police can look at the recording, which creates a legal paper trail documenting their justification for needing to see the recording (which can be challenged later in court), and limits the scope of seized recordings to those at lest theoretically involved with a specific incident.


All of which require a warrant before they can be used as evidence against you.

If you are talking about the US, I think you are mistaken. While a warrant would usually be required to compel the store to provide the videotape to the police against their will, the store can always choose to provide it voluntarily. Once the prosecution has a copy of the video, they can use it as evidence whether or not there was a warrant.


> All of which require a warrant before they can be used as evidence against you.

Only if law enforcement wants to seize them. If the owner or representative of the business shares them no warrant is needed.


Police only need a warrant (or other court order) to look at private camera recordings if the owner demands it. Most supermarket managers will happily hand over anything the police ask for.


I think it's more an issue that many of are laws are predicated on the fact that there cannot be 100% enforcement. Look at speeding laws. If those were enforced through complete surveillance practically everyone who drives would be receiving multiple tickets whenever they drove. This would be an undue burden on everyone that the laws didn't intend for.


If there was 100% enforcement of speed laws then everyone would simply stop speeding. We can argue about whether that's a good thing, but the reality is that people do react to deterrents.

Some UK highways have so many speed cameras now that enforcement is close to 100%. Drivers complain, but they mostly obey the limits.


The law says you go over X you get a ticket. Your speedometer is not as accurate as triangulating your speed from multiple static locations as would happen with cameras everywhere. This would lead to a need for much more accurate cameras or a reduction in speed by the margin of error for the average speedometer. Those affects were not intended and aren't even enforced now when police visibly see you going at X speed limit +/- 5 mph.

This is just an example, but improving the accuracy and coverage of surveillance materially changes the situation that the laws we're created in, in the first place


Actually speedometers are required never to under-report the speed. They are allowed something like a 10% margin for over-reporting, but no under-reporting, to solve exactly the problem you describe.


Required != what happens in reality

100% compliance of laws in a population of millions increases costs astronomicaly.

Assuming you are involved in building software if you are in, imagine it this way. It the difference in cost between Google garunteeing they have a 99.5% uptime vs Google garunteeing they have 100% uptime on a service.

That small difference in uptime percentage would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and Foogle is not even close to a national scale


It is very easy for speedometers not to under-report speed, given the 10% margin for over-reporting. It's not at all comparable to trying to maintain 100% uptime.

Most of them deliberately over-report by about 8%. You can check this by comparing your car's indicated speed to the speed shown on your satnav.



As others have pointed out, your example doesn't hold water: other countries have speeding cameras already, and our speedometers are already sufficiently accurate.

Do you have a better example?


"others" is one person who is being incredibly pedantic. Red light cameras or speeding cameras on a few areas !== all encompassing surveillance that implements 100% compliance with the laws.

If you guys are going to harp on speeding cameras existing as well to invalidate the argument, how do you handle the fact that they have been shown to increase accident rates and many communities have pushed to get rid of them as a result?


"One" person is two, and they made valid points that you refused to acknowledge.

> Red light cameras or speeding cameras on a few areas !== all encompassing surveillance that implements 100% compliance with the laws.

Who said there would be all-encompassing surveillance, or that 100% compliance with the laws would be enforced? That's a straw man that you created.


You're confusing red light cameras at intersections with speeding cameras. There has been no research showing that speeding cameras increase accident rates.


> How many people have been wrongfully convicted because the police needed to get the crime off the books, or evidence was misleading, or eyewitnesses gave false testimony?

There are numerous cases where people have been wrongfully convicted even though the police and the prosecutors had evidence indicating that they were innocent. This is especially true for prosecutors, and has been hashed out so many times I won't even bother linking to any specific article - just google for "prosecutor withheld evidence of innocence", and read a couple of stories that pop up in search results. Worse yet, the American legal system refuses to acknowledge this practice as unequivocally wrong and a miscarriage of justice


Of course, but this doesn't negate the fact that more evidence (and better evidence) is generally good.


Most crime doesn't happen in the view of streetlights. Fraud, wage theft, domestic violence… how do cameras help with any of that?


There were 30,000 car break-ins reported in San Francisco last year.

Just because fraud exists, this does not mean street crime does not exist. What a strange argument.


Where did I say street crime doesn't exist? My point is that most criminals are not going to be tracked down using streetlight cameras.


> Where did I say street crime doesn't exist?

Your argument is that if cameras don't help with fraud or wage theft or domestic violence, they serve no purpose.

Cameras may impact street crime, and street crime is rampant in many U.S. cities. White collar crime has no bearing on this, and it's irrelevant to the discussion.


Source?


>being able to select targets after-the-fact at little additional cost

Is it a bad thing though? Imagine that everything on all streets is recorded, and when an incident happens a cop goes to the judge and asks for a warrant to view the footage for "Pike St, between 1st and 2nd ave, between 13:00 and 13:35, on Jan 3rd 2019".

Technology changes the balance of power in different directions. The police used to be able to tap phones, but now whatsapp is pretty much out of reach, this hampers one of the venues. To keep up the police would need new methods, and it does not have to be phone intercept, maybe post-factum external surveillance would suffice.


It is a very bad thing since it gives power to abuse with selectivity. It is just automated enough to maximize the abuse potential essentially to turn into rule of man. If everyone is doing something 'illegal' than it gives great power to those who can enforce it. Sure everybody smokes a joint after work. But the guy who cut you off in traffic? Check him to see if there is something you can ruin his life for - ah there it is. Bingo. And that is just petty abuse instead of orchestrated ones. If things were fully automated such that it was impartial it wouldn't have those problems. You could be the mayor of New York City and the traffic cameras automatically fined you for going 27mph in a 25mph and an appeal was a process that was absolutely ironclad with no room for judgment (Was the camera accurate? Did you have extenuating circumstance such as fleeing from immediate violence or rushing someone to emergency medical aid? If yes ticket dismissed. If no ticket stands.) that wouldn't be abuseable. It may be contrary to intents and would be a royal pain in the ass and may likely get changed to at least give it a margin of 10 mph over the speed limit but it couldn't be abused.


> It is a very bad thing since it gives power to abuse with selectivity.

That can't be why it's bad.

Because all power can be abused selectively.


>Is it a bad thing though? Imagine that everything on all streets is recorded, and when an incident happens a cop goes to the judge and asks for a warrant to view the footage for "Pike St, between 1st and 2nd ave, between 13:00 and 13:35, on Jan 3rd 2019".

The laws were written assuming that they wouldn't be perfectly enforced. We'd never have consented to many of them if we knew they'd be 100% enforced.

Increasing surveillance is a back-door in democracy that grants the government new powers w/o going through the legislature.


> Increasing surveillance is a back-door in democracy that grants the government new powers w/o going through the legislature.

I think a lot of people forget what this means.

It isn't just domestic influence. It is foreign influence too. I'm sure (close to) everyone on HN realizes there is nothing that isn't hackable.

Domestic influence also includes malicious people, not just governments. You're telling me that this system isn't going to be exploited? That stalkers aren't going to use it? That syndicates aren't going to use it to track adversaries?

You're going to have a hard time convincing me that these perform more good than bad. That's even without the overhead for abuse by people that have legitimate access to these streams.

I don't like talking about our own government abusing its powers. Though it has, people seem to be complacent with this. But there is also just as serious of a threat from foreign powers and domestic criminals. Why isn't this also talked about?


After having talked to the office of my local federal representative this morning about another matter, the conversation got around to talking about surveillance, encryption and privacy. The attitude portrayed was ignorance of foreign government, foreign company or criminal organisation being able to use such systems for their purposes against the normal citizens of the country.

It almost seems like that since it is not discussed, it is not important and as such it is not relevant enough to be discussed. Sort of Catch 22, I suppose.


> It almost seems like that since it is not discussed, it is not important and as such it is not relevant enough to be discussed. Sort of Catch 22, I suppose.

I just don't think they think about it. At least from my experience talking to people in different agencies. There job is to catch people. So encryption is a barrier to them in that respect, so that's how they frame it. But they don't connect all the benefits that they themselves get from it because it isn't obvious. Most people don't realize when things are encrypted because a lot of times it is the norm.

Similarly I think people don't think about privacy in general because how it is framed. We are coming from a world where privacy was the norm. It is all about how the discussion is framed. We constantly talk about how encryption is a hindrance to police. About how more surveillance can help us catch criminals. And all this is true! But few people talk about the drawbacks (except specifically government overreach, but we're in a country where people trust the government). But you can't make informed decisions that way. You need to know both sides. Benefits AND detriments.


> Domestic influence also includes malicious people, not just governments. You're telling me that this system isn't going to be exploited? That stalkers aren't going to use it? That syndicates aren't going to use it to track adversaries?

Arguably they would have an easier time with cameras in both laptops and cellphones.


Providing more attack vectors doesn't seem like a good idea though.


Good. Imperfect enforcement amplifies law enforcement biases. All must be equal under the law.


> We'd never have consented to many of them if we knew they'd be 100% enforced.

Like what?

Times change with technology, whether we like it or not. Thankfully, laws can adapt too.


Hence my proposal to rewrite the law - we grant the police their dragnet video recording, in return they must obtain a warrant or show probable cause to get the footage.

The law can raise the bar for obtaining a warrant to an arbitrarily high level to cover minor daily infractions. For example, today police aren't allowed to stop a person for driving without a seatbelt, unless a more serious crime is being committed at the same time.


I'm surprised you place so much trust in our system of laws. With that proposal, we'd be one small step away (e.g. terrorist attack, etc.) from something truly Orwellian. Look what happened with 9/11 and see how fast our civil liberties can go down the drain.


Machine guns and prison camps are a lot more damaging to personal liberties and have more significant potential for abuse by government, and yet we're managing just fine for the last 100 years, thanks to our system of laws.


The government would never use the system to help you either. They're utterly incompetent. They would only use this to imprison you.


Pre-arrest probable cause in the current judicial system is a joke.

Search warrant requests rarely get denied, often the approving Judge isn't even capable of understanding the probable cause argument in the warrant (particularly in cases involving technology)

They rely solely on the sworn statement of the police office 'your affiant' and a rubber-stamp from the local State Attorney's office.

There is little incentive for the judge to deny the warrant, and, could face significant backlash if they do deny a warrant that may have enabled law enforcement to stop something from happening.

LEO would simply draft a warrant 'Your affiant has been in law enforcement for 25 years and has taken this training class and that training class and has this certification. Your affiant knows from his training and experience that a crime happened or likely happened at this date and time. Your affiant requests all video for the time period of 7 days from cameras 1472 - 1499 which cover a 2000ft section of Rodeo Dr.'

The warrant gets rubber-stamp approved, and, even if they don't find what they were looking for, they can single out anything of which the 'incriminating nature is readily apparent' that they observe, and go after that. And that 'incriminating nature is readily apparent' bar is pretty low and generally subjective based on the officer, or 'a reasonable person'.

How well has this 'dragnet surveillance' worked out in the FISA court? A system like this would be ripe for abuse. And what about securing it? So far our government has a pretty crappy track record for securing even info that is classified and top secret. How secure would this dragnet video surveillance be?


Maybe, if they actually had to get a warrant. My understanding is that they don't need to do this for street cameras because there's no expectation of privacy in public spaces. But before massive camera deployments there was also an unstated expectation that there was some kind of cost to collect information on any particular person.

Still, one of the things to keep in mind about mass surveillance (or mass censorship) is that once the apparatus is built, policy can be changed relatively cheaply. And it's highly unlikely that law enforcement agencies are buying equipment that requires configuration changes to be signed by a court's or legislature's private key.


We have managed to keep due process alive and well for hundreds of years without cryptographic signatures.


Our past laws and conventions — such as the third party doctrine — have not yet caught up to the digital age, and if due process has been preserved it’s because of strenuous and constant pushback from civil rights advocates, against far smaller proposals than a vast always-on surveillance apparatus


Due process was looking pretty anemic if you were black or left-wing in the 50s and 60s.


Due process looks pretty anemic if you're black today.


I'd say it looks anemic even if you're a middle class, middle aged white male. It's weaker if you're young, or black, or brown, or female. It's damn near dead if you're a young black male or appear vaguely Arabic.


You can even be rich and politically affluent. I mean, this was "due process", warrants and everything:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berwyn_Heights,_Maryland_mayor...


Good thing we leave officers to rely on their intuitions, their biases, and secondhand accounts, instead of video evidence.


True, but if there's anything today on the scale and invasiveness of COINTELPRO, it's not public knowledge.


COINTELPRO wasn't public knowledge at the time, and many massive surveillance systems operating recently and today are known, e.g. PRISM.


> when an incident happens a cop goes to the judge and asks for a warrant to view the footage for "Pike St, between 1st and 2nd ave, between 13:00 and 13:35, on Jan 3rd 2019"

I don’t think these cameras require a warrant prior to “collection”. That’s the problem.


> The police used to be able to tap phones, but now whatsapp is pretty much out of reach, this hampers one of the venues.

And before they were able to tap phones, a lot more conversations were person-to-person, and also out of reach in practice. So it was a venue that technological progress created, and further technological progress later took away. Why should we implicitly assume that its existence was a good thing?


Good question.

1. No phones, no whatsapp. Criminal talk in person, police eavesdrop in person. Parity.

2. Phones, no whatsapp. Criminals talk on the phone, police eavesdrop on the phone. Parity.

3. No phones, whatsapp. Criminals talk on whatsapp, police eavesdrop in person. Imbalance.

Recommended solution to imbalance: counteract technological barrier with a different application of similar technology. E.g. dragnet video recording.


That's a good point. One only has to imagine an alternate reality without technology where every conversation between two people has a cop nearby listening in. If that creeps us out, why not widespread technological surveillance?


> One only has to imagine an alternate reality without technology where every conversation between two people has a cop nearby listening in.

Listening devices have long been a staple of the police. The FBI took out many a mobster with a bug in a lampshade, say.


We just need to have one of these flying over every major metro area. Uses regular cameras found in cell phones. Once you have everybodies location recorded, you can go back in time to solve crimes. I shudder to think how much more advanced this tech is now, since this was 5 years ago. Now, just throw in some AI: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13BahrdkMU8


> Once you have everybodies location recorded

You don't need anything flying to do that. The location of evert cell phone is already tracked both by the phone's telemetry[1] and deduction based on tower usage[2].

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17081684

[2] http://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/page/national/how-the-nsa-i...


Sure, assuming you're carrying a phone on you. As we continue down this path we seem to be racing towards, I'm sure gait detection, facial recognition, etc., will be in full force in combined systems, sharing data, and they won't need phones to track your movements. They just follow you out your front door and wherever you go, passing whatever license plate scanners/facial scanners they have along the way.


How is that working in the UK right now?


I wonder what would be the legality of creating a guerrilla surveillance network of our own cameras hidden in public places, with publicly accessible live streams and maybe 30 days of recordings?

If there's "no expectation of privacy", surely nobody has any right to complain about it?


> If there's "no expectation of privacy", surely nobody has any right to complain about it?

Whose property will the cameras be attached to? They will certainly have a right to remove them if they did not give permission.


And people can always boycott companies who voluntarily participate which causes companies to prefer not to get involved even if they supported the idea.


People can just put them in their house/apartment windows and cars.

I'm sure some already do.


Rotating volunteers of drones.


Current FAA rules require the drone pilot to be within visible range of their drones. So why not just have rotating volunteers of pedestrians?


Something like Google Glass, maybe?


If you don’t trespass and don’t record audio, you can absolutely do that.

Audio is rife with complications.


This is not surprising. Most people here are already neck deep in implementing surveillance technology. They are the last ones to find it creepy or disturbing, if anything its in their interest to brush it off and pretend its the most normal thing as this thread has done.

That's why discussions about privacy, surveillance and ethics are best had in a context where their significance is not diluted by conflicting personal interests. Posting about these issues is tech communities is like asking individuals rushing to the gold rush with dreams of riches to inquire about their thoughts on democracy. Pointless.


It's very unclear to me what the legality of these hidden cameras is and what our recourse can be.

https://fee.org/articles/thanks-to-wiretapping-laws-your-cel... Individual US citizens are tightly restricted in what they can record and how they declare those recordings to targets, surely the state (without judicial wire tap authorization warrants about specific targets) should be in the same boat?


There is no "reasonable expectation of privacy" in public view, ie a public street. They are just images, which anybody can legally take with a camera (as long as it's not pointing up and looking up skirts!). We've got it going on here in Oregon, too, courtesy of Amazon and our largest populated County. There is a city in Florida using the same Amazon tech, but I don't remember which one. https://www.wweek.com/news/courts/2018/05/22/amazon-sold-pow...


Legality isn't a concern to groups that use the despicable, fraudulent practice of "parallel construction"[1] (aka "evidence laundering").

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parallel_construction


AFAIK this only applies to audio, not video recording.

In Seattle area there was a story recently where police accidentally recorded audio along with video during a prostitution sting operation and had to drop the charges against the affected suspects. My guess is that they thought they only needed the video to convict, so they decided to not get the wiretap warrant


> Chad Marlow, a senior advocacy and policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, says efforts to put cameras in street lights have been proposed before by local law enforcement, typically as part of a “smart” LED street light system.

> “It basically has the ability to turn every streetlight into a surveillance device, which is very Orwellian to say the least,” Marlow told Quartz. “In most jurisdictions, the local police or department of public works are authorized to make these decisions unilaterally and in secret. There’s no public debate or oversight.”

Well there goes down the toilet all the sanctimony over Chinese street surveillance, when you realize they are merely more open and unapologetic about it.


>have hidden an undisclosed number of covert surveillance cameras inside streetlights

It's not impossible to figure out, though, is it?

The article talks about a total of $50,000 of cameras. It mentions that these are pan-tilt-zoom cameras. Pricing this on Amazon, they seem to cost about $250 each. Assume the government pays twice as much. This tells you that they bought about 100 cameras.


It's $50,000 worth of cameras from one supplier - a supplier with a name that presumably made it easy to identify what they're selling.

There could be other suppliers.

And presumably large orders get bulk discounts.


These are very unlikely to be $250 each considering they are niche produces made for the government. I'd guess more like $5k each.


Guarantee you most legitimate targets of this “surveillance” are quite a few steps ahead. Do drug cartels even care if the DEA has installed cameras everywhere? Doubtful. Being able to do this kind of math is a great example of the simple reasoning it takes to start analysis of systems like this once in place.

What are the cartels thinking? Probably that they’ll just have to pay informats more money as the system becomes more complex. They’ll have to pay their tech people more for increased counter surveillance. And so forth.

I’m picking on the DEA but of course similar equations must exist for ICE.

IMO What’s so dystopian about all this is not so much that the tech exists but that our tax dollars pay for these projects and we really don’t have much say.


>Do drug cartels even care if the DEA has installed cameras everywhere?

Back of the envelope math shows that they can't be installed everywhere; not on that kind of budget. The only thing that one could do with 10-1000 cameras is install them at specific, targeted places where the DEA already has some reason to suspect that they'll find something.

>IMO What’s so dystopian about all this is not so much that the tech exists but that our tax dollars pay for these projects and we really don’t have much say.

I don't agree. Spending is controlled by Congress. If you and enough people who agreed with you combined your efforts, you could alter the law so that the purchase of this sort of technology was illegal. Perhaps you hold an opinion that only a minority of America agrees with.


Twice is a severe underestimate.


agree with your back of the envelope math.


DEA has so many cameras within 60 miles of my home its not even funny. Gotta love the ones they put up at eye level with facial recognition. :-/ edit for those wondering, Tucson, AZ


How can you tell they're for facial recognition?


Eye level? Sounds like you need to put on some makeup (CV Dazzel) and sharpie the lenses


DEET bug spray does terrible things to most plastics


Isn't it a major jerk move to deface/destroy law enforcement's equipment? There has to be smarter ways to protest that.


What if civilians used surveilance tech against politicians and prominent law enforcers? I think the best way to regulate this is to turn the table against them.


If this is the streetlight in question, "hidden" isn't quite right. http://dailysentinel.com/news/image_ce44ea7c-f195-11e3-8520-...


"451: Unavailable due to legal reasons" (GDPR, from Europe). Screenshot of the webpage: https://www.webpagetest.org/results/18/11/11/6A/4838de30083b...


Here in Washington, DC we have cameras all over the place. However, streetlights are owned by the local government, and that must apply in normal states and municipalities. So... if this happens in a given city, that means the local government must be cooperating with the feds to permit it.


A streetlight by definition has public view of a street. No expectation of privacy.


It's way more complicated than that. The courts have repeatedly struck down constant automated surveillance from public views.

For instance:

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/12/cops-illegally-n...


The rule about no expectation of privacy in public places need to be understood in context.

If everybody movements are tracked, indexed and published on the Internet where people can look you up, is that acceptable?

If all our conversations are treated in the same way?

At what point the panopticon becomes incompatible with democracy and freedom?


[flagged]


> Have you considered thinking critically ... rather than reciting quotes from 6th grade social studies absent any introspection.

This is in violation of HN guideline: "Don't be snarky" [1]

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


[flagged]


GP is citing to you an actual HN guideline that specifically refers to the tone of your post. If it helps, here's the guideline in full:

> Be civil. Don't say things you wouldn't say face-to-face. > Don't be snarky. Comments should get more civil and substantive, not less, as a topic gets more divisive.

In your case, you accused your parent poster of not thinking critically, instead of constructively saying "hey, here's a nuance of this issue that you may be missing".


Sorry you feel that way. We've now twice addressed this issue, concerns have been noted. Unfortunately I lack the ability to edit or delete the post, so I assure your concerns are noted and consider the matter closed.


> Have you considered thinking critically about the impacts of surveillance technology, rather than reciting quotes from 6th grade social studies absent any introspection?

Have you considered not being rude and insulting?

People who think critically about surveillance have a wide range of views on the topic.


>Have you considered not being rude and insulting?

I'm sorry you feel that way, I didn't mean for you to feel insulted.

>People who think critically about surveillance have a wide range of views on the topic.

Reciting the law is an act of recall, not exposition.


I was wondering if this article would make it to HN.

First off, this has to be some sort of stir the pot article. They spent ~50k... Think about that.

Beyond that I live in Houston. We have had cameras at intersections forever now. I am not sure they would need to conceal them when they already have them in plain sight in many cities.


Is this the laser signal my Valentine One is picking up at more and more intersections?


LPR and video is at the local level too. Most chokepoints in my city are captured by money-losing red light cameras that just happen to capture 30 days of video.


Do red light cameras record video 24/7? I assumed they don't where I live (California) because they flash very brightly when triggered.

That said, we do have a lot of "traffic cameras" mounted on poles, which presumably do record 24/7 and are archived for some period of time.


I’m in New York. In my city, the police make the final determination, and the camera provides context of the situation when the camera detects a light running event.

The police also use them as a time indexed source of evidence that can help stitch a timeline of events filmed on random security cameras. I know because they presented that in a case I was a juror on.


Ah, that makes sense. it sounds like there's one benefit to having the cameras rolling (that the police can apply judgment before red-light tickets are handed out) but another detriment (that the cameras are rolling 24/7. Seems you could obtain the same benefit by having a 2-min cache running at all times, and only store the cache permanently when a light-running event is triggered.


My eyes hurt whenever I look at the new streetlights, like I was looking into the microwave or something...


LEDs are point light sources, of course they hurt - each dot is very bright in order to produce enough light overall. By comparison CFLs produce a lot less glare for the same light output, being basically light-emitting surfaces rather than dots.

If an LED light is expected to be in the field of view they install diffusers over LEDs. Diffusers, however, absorb some of the light and spread the rest across wider angle, so they don't get installed unless needed. For the street light you'd want a narrow beam (facing straight down) and a maximum light output (to save energy along, which adds up quickly for long roads).


It's also common for new installations to have higher output than what they replace, and higher color temperatures that are perceived as harsher. While I have no problem with LEDs as a light source, I do oppose an overall increase in always-on outdoor illumination, and would generally prefer lower color temperatures used for that purpose.


Whoever came up with LED lights for it didn't do enough research, since they are quite damaging to the eyes.


LEDs are not inherently damaging to the eyes. You may be referencing "blue light hazard", for which evidence is neither rigorous or unequivocal.

Assuming blue light is damaging, white LEDs need not have more blue in their spectrum than other white light sources such as incandescent, fluorescent, and gas discharge. Higher color temperate LEDs with more blue in their spectrum are commonly seen though, as their efficiency numbers are a bit better than lower color temperatures.


I'm talking about actual usage. Extremely bright, white LEDs. They should have used softer lights.


I'm not sure what "softer" means. You could mean a lower color temperature (less blue, more yellow), lower output, or a diffuser over the emitters. All of those are commonly used in real LED-based lighting installations.


I don't find it common. There was a recent comparison of photos from the past and current street lights. Current ones are way more white.


Which doesn't at all support your claim that they are damaging.


I didn't say I need to support anything. I said I don't find it common. If you do - good for you.


In what situations and in what ways?


I think you need to stop staring into microwave ovens.




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