Report: Oakland invests $7 million in federal grants for 24/7 surveillance

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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City police forces are taking advantage of the availability of spy technology and big data processing to combat crime in a manner that brings them — and us — closer and closer to the world of “Minority Report.”

The New York Times reports that $7 million in federal grant money originally intended for counterterrorism efforts at Oakland’s port has instead been working to bring online a system that processes and analyzes immense volumes of data captured by license plate readers, gunshot detectors and other surveillance measures.

The new system, built by federal defense contractor Science Applications International Corporation, is scheduled to come online in the summer of 2014.

Similar systems have been pioneered by police forces in New York City, Massachusetts and Texas.

“Proponents of the Oakland initiative, formally known as the Domain Awareness Center, say it will help the police reduce the city’s notoriously high crime rates,” the Times reports.

“But critics say the program, which will create a central repository of surveillance information, will also gather data about the everyday movements and habits of law-abiding residents, raising legal and ethical questions about tracking people so closely,” writes the publication.

The new surveillance measures serve to bolster the capabilities of law enforcement agencies, many of which are generating concern over a perceived militarization of domestic police forces.

“The programs smack of mission creep: A multitude of tracking and surveillance technologies, pulled into a centralized system by government-funded programs, once intended for counterterror activity, now increasingly part of quotidian law enforcement,” writes Salon’s Natasha Lennard.

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