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Baltimore Is Global Testbed For Total Surveillance

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Police receive buckets of money in grants from outside the city’s oversight, and are thus not accountable for how it is used. Police departments need to be put back under the total direction of the cities they serve, and the taking of outside funds should be forbidden. — Technocracy News Editor

By David Fishman and Michelle Kim | 6 January 2017

TECHNOCRACY NEWS & TRENDS — Baltimore is at the leading edge of deploying surveillance technologies. Even though its practices have raised questions about civil liberties and privacy, law enforcement agencies around the world see it as a test bed for the future of policing.

For up to 10 hours a day, a Cessna propeller plane circled the city of Baltimore, secretly monitoring about 600,000 people, capturing their movements and transmitting the data to private security analysts.

Operated by a firm called Persistent Surveillance Systems, the small plane circled 8,500 feet above ground snapping wide-angle images of citizens represented as one-pixel dots on computer screens below.

“One pixel per person allows me to follow a dot, which usually goes a block or so, jumps into a car and drives off,” says Ross McNutt, whose company assisted Baltimore police in a trial program earlier this year. “We follow the people and vehicles to and from crime scenes.”

That program, first reported by Bloomberg in August, has since ended. Police spokesman T.J. Smith says the department last operated planes on Oct. 15, monitoring a major naval event and the Baltimore marathon. Since then, “police departments from around the world” have contacted the city to express interest in the aerial program and determine its effectiveness, says Smith, who declined to specify which ones.

The program highlights growing interest among police departments in tools that often elicit criticism when made public. An astronautical engineer who trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mr. McNutt says his company has conducted operations in about a dozen US cities – including Philadelphia and Los Angeles – that closely resembled the Baltimore trial. […]

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