“The Police Commissioner’s decision to reverse course, and put Baltimore residents under continuous, aerial surveillance is a fateful step that will impact the privacy rights of Black and Brown residents for generations to come. The surveillance plane means putting every resident of Baltimore under permanent surveillance, creating a video record of everywhere that everyone goes every time they walk outside. If the police did that in real life, in person on our streets, we would never accept it.
“Like most police technologies, this one will have the greatest impacts in Black and Brown neighborhoods, because it relies for its effectiveness on the network of ground-based cameras, which are concentrated in those communities.
“And while the BPD says that it is only interested in using the data in certain cases, the data collected is not limited to those crimes (or any crimes), but tracks everyone, everywhere, all the time. Residents’ private information is held by a completely unaccountable, private, for-profit company. That company, Persistent Surveillance Systems, has already misrepresented what it was doing, saying they were only keeping the data for a limited time, which was not true. The company’s stated goal is to sell the data to as many buyers as it can find.
“Once data like this exists, the pressure is always and inevitably to expand the content, expand its use, and expand access – never the reverse. There is no reason to think this time will be any different. To be clear, the collection of this kind of tracking information about everyone without a warrant violates the 4th Amendment.
“Everyone in Baltimore is concerned about violent crime, but the desire to address that concern cannot be sufficient to ignore the other issues that this surveillance plan raises. Any decision to take such a drastic step, with such long-term impacts, should be made by an elected body that is accountable to the people who elect them, not by the Police Commissioner, or by private funders hoping to use Baltimore as a test site.”
Link for more ACLU testimony in opposition to aerial surveillance: https://www.aclu-md.org/sites/default/files/city_council_testimony.pdf
Link for national ACLU blog post on this issue: https://www.aclu.org/blog/free-future/baltimore-aerial-surveillance-program-retained-data-despite-45-day-privacy-policy.