On 3 July 2001, U.S. Newswire published the following statement from The Law Enforcement Alliance of America (LEAA):
In explaining why these cameras are such a concern to a law enforcement organization like LEAA, Executive Director Jim Fotis said, "law enforcement officers depend on the trust and support of the community they protect. When police are perceived as being part of the big brother scheme that these cameras represent, their relationship with the law abiding citizens of the community is damaged."
The camera manufacturer, Visionics Corp. is a member of the International Biometric Industry Association (IBIA). The IBIA's official Privacy Principles state "clear legal standards should be developed to carefully define and limit the conditions under which agencies of national security and law enforcement may acquire, access, store and use biometric data."
Yet Visionics, working with Tampa authorities, have allowed law enforcement to use these biometric cameras without such legal standards being written into law, in a blatant violation of what they admit is the proper use of their technology.
With more than 65,000 members and supporters, the Law Enforcement Alliance of America is the nation's largest coalition of law enforcement professionals, crime victims, and concerned citizens dedicated to making America safer.
[Copyright 2001, U.S. Newswire.]
On most issues of importance, the Law Enforcement Alliance of America (LEAA) is an unambiguously "right-wing" organization: it demonized Janet Reno and supported John Ashcroft's nomination to be U.S. Attorney General; it campaigns against gun control and in favor of the death penalty; etc. etc. One would have thought that a group such as LEAA would be in favor of the use of face recognition software by local police officers: ie., it is simply a tool that helps the police identify the lost children, child molesters and international terrorists walking among us. And yet, here LEAA is, issuing a strongly worded statement against face recognition software -- and at a time when such a statement is both desperately needed and all-too-uncommon!
(This isn't the first time that LEAA has taken a "left-wing" stance: it 1995 it opposed Clinton's "anti-terrorism" bill, as did the American Civil Liberties Union, Privacy International and several other "left-wing" groups that are occasionally quite vocal in their denunciations of misconduct and brutality by the police.)
It is encouraging to see LEAA base its objection to face recognition software on the "right to privacy" enunciated and protected by the Fourth Amendment, which does indeed cover public areas as well as private properties. It is also encouraging to learn that LEAA Executive Director Jim Fotis is willing to state publicly that the relationship "with the law abiding citizens of the community is damaged [...] when [the] police are perceived as being part of the big brother scheme that these [computer-enhanced] cameras represent." Though the phrase has been watered down of late, "Big Brother" (totalitarianism or a police state) is exactly what computer-enhanced surveillance cameras "represent," embody and forebode. And, last but certainly not least, it is very encouraging, indeed, quite gratifying, to see LEAA go after Visionics, a company that the Surveillance Camera Players (SCP) have been watching since October 2000.
But neither LEAA's statement nor its pledge to "introduce legislation at the state and federal level" that would "ban the use of these [computer-enhanced] systems altogether" go far enough. If one has reached the (obviously correct) conclusion that "big brother schemes" undermine the "trust and support of the community" upon which "law enforcement officers depend," then one should also reach the conclusion that all surveillance cameras -- the ones unenhanced by computers as well as those that are "computer-enhanced" -- are redolent of Big Brother, damaging to the police's relationship with the community, and offensive enough to be removed immediately and wherever they are in use. Just as Visionics and the Tampa Police Department should be compelled to work within "legal standards developed that carefully define and limit the conditions under which law enforcement can use these [computer-enhanced] systems," every police department in America should also be compelled to use their "unenhanced" surveillance cameras in accordance with the Fourth Amendment. Which is precisely what they are not doing.
Contact the Surveillance Camera Players
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