Worried about security? How about giving your local police direct access to a live stream of your outdoor security cameras?
It’s a scenario that could play out in Jackson, Mississippi, where police are asking businesses and residents to connect their Ring cameras to a real-time video surveillance center. As the AP reports, the effort is part of a 45-day pilot program approved by the Jackson City Council last week in partnership with Jackson-based IT consulting firm Pileum and Georgia-based Fusus, which says it offers a “real-time crime center in the cloud.”
It may sound a bit too Big Brother for most people, but Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba says the program is opt-in and police will only tap into people’s cameras when a crime has occurred in the immediate area. “Ultimately, what will happen is residents and businesses will be able to sign a waiver, if they want their camera to be accessed from the Real Time Crime Center,” he told the AP. “It would save (us) from having to buy a camera for every place across the city.”
The move comes as the city is grappling with a rise in crime. According to data from WBLT, Jackson has had 111 homicides this year so far, up from 83 in 2019.
The program will work with Amazon’s Ring cameras. Though Ring has a Neighbors app that lets police request video footage from local Ring users, Amazon says it’s not an official partner in Jackson. “This is not a Ring program and Ring is not working with any of the companies or the city in connection with this program,” the company told the BBC.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation says the pilot raises privacy concerns.
“The footage from your front door includes you coming and going from your house, your neighbors taking out the trash, and the dog walkers and delivery people who do their jobs in your street,” EFF policy analyst Matthew Guariglia wrote in a blog post. “In Jackson, this footage can now be live streamed directly onto a dozen monitors scrutinized by police around the clock. Even if you refuse to allow your footage to be used that way, your neighbor’s camera pointed at your house may still be transmitting directly to the police.”
As Guariglia notes, Jackson banned police use of facial-recognition tech earlier this year, so “this is a city that understands invasive surveillance technology when it sees it, and knows when police have overstepped their ability to invade privacy.”