How to Recognize Noticeable (and Invisible) Monitoring at Protests

How to Recognize Noticeable (and Invisible) Monitoring at Protests

The complete weight of U.S. policing has actually come down upon protesters throughout the country as individuals take to the streets to knock the authorities killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and numerous others who have undergone cops violence. Along with riot guards, tear gas, and other crowd control steps also comes the digital arm of modern policing: respected security innovation on the street and online.

For years, EFF has actually been tracking authorities departments’ huge build-up of monitoring technology and equipment. You can discover comprehensive descriptions and analysis of typical authorities monitoring tech at our Street-Level Surveillance guide. As we continue to broaden our Atlas of Surveillance job, you can likewise see what security tech police in your area might be using.

If you’re attending a protest, don’t forget to take a look at our Security Self-Defense guide to discover how to keep your details and digital gadgets protect when participating in a demonstration.

Here is an evaluation of monitoring technology that police may be deploying versus ongoing demonstrations versus racism and cops brutality.

Monitoring Tech that May be Visible

Body-Worn Cameras

Officers using new body cameras for the very first time. Source: Houston Authorities Department

Unlike many other types of cops technology, body-worn cameras might function as both a law enforcement and a public accountability function. Body cameras used by cops can hinder and record authorities misconduct and use of force, but video can also be utilized to surveil both individuals that police engage with and 3rd parties who may not even realize they are being shot. If combined with face recognition or other innovations, countless policeman using body-worn electronic cameras could record the words, actions, and areas of much of the population at an offered time, raising severe First and Fourth Modification concerns. For this factor, California put a moratorium on using face recognition innovation on mobile cops gadgets, including body-worn cams.

Axon Flex cam system. Source: TASER Training Academy discussion for Tucson Authorities Department

Body-worn cameras been available in numerous kinds. Frequently they are square boxes on the front of an officers chest. In some cases they are mounted on the shoulder. In some cases, the video camera might be partly hidden under a vest, with only the lens visible. Business also are marketing tactical glasses that includes a cam and face recognition; we have actually not seen this released in the United States– yet.

A body-worn camera lens is visible between the buttons on a Laredo Police officer’s vest. Source: Laredo Authorities Department Facebook


Sahuarita Authorities Department show its drones on a table. Source: Town of Sahuarita YouTube

Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles that can be equipped with high definition, live-feed video cameras, thermal infrared video cams, heat sensing units, automated license plate readers, and radar– all of which allow for sophisticated and consistent monitoring There have been propositions for law enforcement to attach lethal and less-lethal weapons to drones.

Drones vary in size, from tiny quadrotors (also known as Small Unmanned Aerial Cars or sUAVs) to large repaired aircraft, such as the Predator Drone. They are more difficult to spot than airplane or helicopter security, due to the fact that they are smaller sized and quieter, and they can sometimes remain in the sky for a longer period.

Activists and reporters may also deploy drones in a demonstration setting, exercising their First Modification rights to collect details about police action to protestors. So if you do see a drone at a demonstration, you ought to not automatically conclude that it comes from the cops.

Automated License Plate Readers

Picture by Mike Katz-Lacabe (CC BY)

Automated license plate readers (ALPRs) are high-speed, computer-controlled video camera systems that can be mounted on street poles, streetlights, highway overpasses, mobile trailers, or attached to authorities team automobiles.

Photo by Mike Katz-Lacabe (CC BY)

At a protest, cops can deploy ALPRs to identify people driving towards, away from, or parking near a march, presentation, or other public gathering. For example, CBP released an ALPR trailer at a gun program participated in by Second Amendment advocates. Utilized in combination with other ALPR’s around the city, cops could track protestors’ motion as they took a trip from the presentation to their homes.

Mobile Security Trailers/Towers

A ‘Mobile Utility Surveillance Tower’ at San Diego Comic-Con and a mobile monitoring pole in New Orlean’s French Quarter

Numerous authorities departments around the nation have mobile towers that can be parked and raised a number of stories above a demonstration. These are frequently geared up with video cameras, spotlights, speakers, and in some cases have small enclosed spaces for an officer. They likewise often have ALPR abilities.

Typical towers include the Terrahawk M.U.S.T. which appears like a guard tower installed on a van and the Wanco surveillance tower, which is a truck trailer with a big extendable pole.

FLIR Cameras

Positive infrared (FLIR) cams are thermal cams that can read a person’s body temperature level and enable them to be surveyed at night. These video cameras can be portable, installed on a car, rifle, or helmet, and are typically used in conjunction with aerial monitoring such as aircrafts, helicopters or drones.

Security Tech That May Not Be Visible

Face Acknowledgment (or other Video Analytics)

Face recognition in the field from a San Diego County presentation

Face recognition is a technique of determining or confirming the identity of a private utilizing their face.

At a demonstration, any electronic camera you encounter may have face recognition or other video analytics allowed. This includes authorities body electronic cameras, installed electronic cameras on structures, streetlights, or security towers.

Also, some cops departments have biometric devices, such as specialized smartphones and tablets, that show the identity of people in custody. Also, face recognition can occur throughout the booking process at jails and holding facilities.

Social Media Tracking

Social network monitoring is widespread, especially surrounding protests Police often scour hashtags, public occasions, digital interactions and connections, and digital arranging groups. This can be done either by real people or by an algorithm trained to collect social networks posts consisting of specific hashtags, words, phrases, or geolocation tags.

EFF and other companies have actually long gotten in touch with social networks platforms like Facebook to prohibit authorities from utilizing covert social networks accounts under phony names Pseudonyms such as “ Bob Smith” have actually long enabled police to penetrate personal Facebook groups and events under false pretenses.

Cell-Site Simulators

Cell-site simulators, likewise referred to as IMSI catchers, Stingrays, or dirtboxes, are gadgets that masquerade as genuine cell-phone towers, tricking phones within a particular radius into connecting to the device rather than a tower

Cops might use cell-site simulators to recognize all of the IMSIs (International Mobile Subscriber IDs) at a demonstration or other physical place. Once they identify the phones’ IMSIs, they can then attempt to identify the protesters who own these phones. In the non-protest context, cops likewise utilize cell-site simulators to determine the area of a specific phone (and its owner), often with higher accuracy than they could do with phone company cell website place details.

Real-time Criminal Offense Centers

Fresno Police Department’s Real-time Crime. Source: Fresno PD Annual Report 2015

Real-time criminal activity centers (RTCCs) are command centers staffed by officers and experts to keep an eye on a variety of surveillance technologies and data sources to keep an eye on neighborhoods. RTCCs often offer a main location for examining ALPR feeds, social media, and electronic camera networks, and deal analysts the ability to use predictive algorithms.


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