Wide-area surveillance technology triggers privacy concerns

BY Hari Sreenivasan  April 12, 2014 at 4:05 PM EDT
A look from above at wide-area surveillance technology in action. The tool is described in a new report by the Center for Investigative Reporting and KQED as "Google Earth with a rewind button." Credit: CIR

A look from above at wide-area surveillance technology in action. The tool is described in a new report by the Center for Investigative Reporting and KQED as “Google Earth with a rewind button.” Credit: CIR

A report from Center for Investigative Reporting and KQED posted Friday takes an in-depth look at new technologies that could revolutionize policing, including improvements to fingerprint databases and facial recognition software.

The piece also touches on the potential use of wide-area surveillance by law enforcement, a technology described as “Google Earth with a rewind button and the ability to play back the movement of cars and people as they scurry about the city.”

These new advances raise questions about how extensively the public is monitored by the government.

To learn more about how the nation’s state of surveillance may be changing, I spoke with G.W. Schulz, Homeland Security Reporter for CIR.

“What we wanted to do was identify technologies that were coming around the corner for law enforcement agencies,” Schulz said.

“There’s already an ongoing 21st century discussion about the types of digital technologies that police are adopting and the potential privacy and civil liberties implications for them… We wanted to look a little bit further down the road to see what could be implemented in the coming years.”

Watch “State of Surveillance” by the Center for Investigative Reporting and KQED, a report examining the new technologies police departments are using to fight crime and the civil liberties concerns raised by these tools.