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A new map shows the inevitable creep of surveillance



As they expanded the scope of the project at the national level, according to Maass, they tried to set up the research teams for a happier hunt. By browsing GovSpend, an online repository for third-party government contracts, they could generally determine which parts of the country had bought certain types of devices. Students would then confirm the specific assignments through news articles and public records. Other categories of interest recorded on the card are shot detection and predictive surveillance systems and “video analysis”, a collective term for technology that identifies and tracks objects and patterns rather than faces. The map also includes 59 real-time crime centers (RTCCs) that centralize and synthesize the data gathered by various technologies on the ground.

The surveillance atlas has restrictions, especially its scope. An occasional visitor can type in their district, see no stingray devices or body cameras, and assume that they are relatively free of panopticon, although the project may not have arrived there yet. For example, the map shows a real-time crime center in Birmingham, Alabama, but not the shot detectors or license plate readers that flow into the center. (However, these are mentioned when you click on for more information on the RTCC.) The project̵

7;s procurement also relies heavily on local news, an increasingly scarce commodity.

This is less a failure of the Atlas than the government itself, because this kind of information is not made more accessible to the citizens directly affected. Some bags are better than others; For example, Maryland law requires agencies to report any automated license plate readers they have, which gives the card solid data to build on. Other states and counties are relative black holes.

In fairness, the atlas rejects its incompleteness and provides a link that explains how visitors can work together to fill in the gaps. And Maass points to the growth of the freedom of information community – especially services like MuckRock, which makes filing applications under the Freedom of Information Act child’s play – and online government portals as invaluable resources at a time when the local Reporting has declined. “Many of the surveillance technologies out there are not secret, they just weren’t aggregated,” he says.

The hundreds of Reynolds School journalists who worked on the map now know how to search for this type of information, wherever their professional lives may take them. “You go through the process and see the result,” says Yun. “This is huge data that we have tabulated and that the public can enjoy and view in a very efficient and visually appealing way. You can see how their work is done. “

The Reynolds School will continue to do the Yeoman’s work to maintain and improve the map. Yun says he is particularly focused on making the data entry process smoother, especially now that the project welcomes volunteers from the public. (“It used to be a bit chunky,” he says.) And Maass is exploring various customization options that would make parsing the card easier, especially if the record continues to grow.

Despite all the room for improvement, the Atlas of Surveillance is a strong reminder of how inevitable spy technology has become in the United States, not just in big cities. “The spread of small towns and rural areas cannot be ignored here,” says Maass. “You will see that there are many drones in rural America. You will find that license plate readers are common across Georgia and other rural areas. I wouldn’t necessarily say that is surprising, but it is one of the most valuable things that have come of it for me. “


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