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Lawsuit fights new Baltimore aerial surveillance program

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The American Civil Liberties Union has sued to cease Baltimore police from launching a sweeping “eye within the sky” surveillance program. The initiative, operated by an organization known as Persistent Surveillance Methods (PSS), would ship planes flying over Baltimore at the least 40 hours per week as they virtually repeatedly accumulate wide-angle pictures of town. If not blocked, a pilot program is predicted to start later this 12 months.

The ACLU criticism, filed on behalf of Baltimore activists, describes the “Aerial Investigation Analysis” plan as “probably the most wide-reaching surveillance dragnet ever employed in an American metropolis.” It follows an earlier, secret aerial surveillance program that was revealed in 2016. Whereas that operation (additionally run by PSS) was shut down, Baltimore officers voted earlier this month to launch a extra public model, beginning with a privately funded 180-day take a look at run.

The ACLU argues that the plan didn’t obtain a good listening to in the course of the novel coronavirus lockdown and that it violates Fourth and First Modification rights by infringing on privateness rights. It’s asking a choose to completely forestall this system from launching.

Proponents argue that the system may help police examine violent crimes, together with homicide, and the present plan contains grants to let researchers research its impact on town’s crime price. Nonetheless, the ACLU calls it a “digital, visible time machine whose grasp no individual can escape.” The pictures aren’t high-resolution sufficient to visually determine an individual on the bottom, however hours of footage may let officers “roll again the tape” to catch an nameless individual leaving a recognized deal with, and the footage could possibly be cross-referenced with different types of surveillance.

Police in Baltimore have an extended historical past of using high-tech surveillance strategies, together with controversial “stingray” cellphone trackers. In 2016, the ACLU revealed proof that they used the social media monitoring device Geofeedia to arrest protestors after the death of Freddie Gray. The aerial surveillance program grows out of a army drone pictures system known as Gorgon Stare.

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