Jackson, Mississippi, Embraces the Surveillance State

Illustration for article titled Jackson, Mississippi, Embraces the Surveillance State
Photo: Chip Somodevilla (Getty Images)

Police in Jackson, Mississippi are reportedly asking resident owners of internet-connected security cameras, like Amazon’s Ring devices, to give them unfettered access to their live video feeds for use in a “Real Time Crime Center.” A Ring spokesperson made it extremely clear that Ring was not consulted, nor does it have any involvement with the program, which is being facilitated by independent data collection and surveillance firms. It’s also not clear what other privately-owned camera systems Jackson Police are working to get their hands on.

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To review: Ring has a bad rep among privacy advocates for famously partnering with 400-plus police departments across the U.S., effectively forming surveillance networks in virtually every major city. Through Ring’s “Neighbors” app—a hyperlocal social media feed for Ring video posts—nearby police can view public posts; they can also ask Ring to email users with requests for video submissions, though Ring says it does not make live video feeds available to police. (While Ring has repeatedly claimed that it doesn’t share any identifying user information, there is reason to believe that police might be able to fill in the gaps.) Ring has a pretty open vested interest in pushing law enforcement community “partnerships,” down to writing pitches for police to present to citizens.

The Jackson police department’s plan makes Ring partnerships look like child’s play. It’s reportedly working with private, data collection firms Fūsus and Pileum to integrate Ring videos into a real-time surveillance system that aggregates video from public and private sources, which are then combined with police dispatch data. NBC affiliate WLBT reports that they’ll be using a “real-time crime center,” described on Fūsus’s website as a 24/7 eye on the street:

Whether it’s a UAV, a traffic camera, a private cell phone video, a building security camera, or a bomb disposal robot, fūsus can extract the live video feed and send it to your emergency operations center and officers in the field.

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These are fairly extraordinary claims about the company’s capabilities, and they’re extraordinarily concerning. Gizmodo asked fūsus whether it obtains consent to gather “private cell phone video” and will update the post if we hear back.

Ominously, fūsus also seems to have no qualms with combining all of this with identifying user information, advertising a “public safety ecosystem” that combines video with Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) data, “real-time officer geolocator feeds,” and “a registry map of all the public and private cameras in your region.” CAD data, gathered from police dispatch calls, often includes names and home addresses. It’s not clear either if that CAD data will be associated with Ring or other home security camera users, but Gizmodo has reached out to fūsus and will update if we hear back.

Fūsus calls its offering a “digital evidence vault,” heavily implying that Jackson police can store a trove of video of Jacksonites, without their consent, for future use. (This is already possible through traffic cams and arguably through Ring videos.)

Mayor Lumumba said that Ring owners would sign a waiver before granting police access. “FUSUS allows us to connect into cameras,” Lumumba told WLBT. “If someone says, ‘I want my Ring door camera to be used,’ we’ll be able to use it.”

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Gizmodo has reached out to the mayor’s office and the Jackson police department and will update the post if we hear back.

Staff reporter, Gizmodo. wkimball @ gizmodo

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DISCUSSION

sergioar
Unspiek Baron Bodissey

Think of the brownie points you earn lending your cameras to The Man.