Los Angeles Law Enforcement Looking To Crowdsource Surveillance

from the snitches-get-stitches-cloud-storage dept

The LAPD wants you, Joe Citizen, to help it out with its surveillance. It has enlisted the help of a crowdsourcing tool called LEEDIR to collect photos and recordings from everyday people who may have additional footage of natural disasters or civil unrest that could help out both emergency responders and cops looking to put a few more demonstrators in jail.

In today's announcement, earthquakes, terrorist attacks, and the Boston Marathon bombings were mentioned as scenarios in which LEEDIR could help law enforcement respond to disasters or large-scale public security threats. One might also imagine large citizen protests like Occupy Wall Street being the focus of such crowdsourced surveillance.
It's unarguable that the addition of crowdsourced photos and video helped authorities track down the Boston Bombing suspects, which shows that there is some value to this service. But, as is pointed out by Xeni Jardin, it could also be used to build a database of people enjoying First Amendment-protected activities. Currently, the site is soliciting input for any info related to last week's party-turned-riot in Isla Vista, CA, where over 100 arrests were made and 44 people injured, including five police officers. The notice clearly states the police are "seeking to identify several subjects wanted for violent felonies that occurred during the evening."

This is a potentially useful tool that isn't completely evil, but there are some definite concerns. For one, there's no real way to submit anything anonymously. You aren't required to input your name, but the app itself demands access to GPS data and any other communications-related metadata is likely hoovered up by LEEDIR when images and video are uploaded.


There are also other questions left unanswered about the handling of the data submitted.
According to today's announcement, agencies might typically retain uploaded content for a month or two, then delete it. But there's no requirement to delete it…
And the way the system is accessed and used seems to lend itself to abuse.
It's up to law enforcement to provide analysts or investigators to sort through all of the content uploaded to LEEDIR and find potential evidence…

Once the content is uploaded, it belongs to law enforcement, [Co-Global CEO Nick] Namikas said. It's up to each agency to decide how long they want to store the content in the cloud – a service being provided by Amazon.
An unfiltered influx of photos and videos curated by law enforcement officers. What could possibly go wrong? The tool may be aimed at natural disasters (which provides free access to police and emergency responders in the affected area), but paid subscriptions are available which would keep LEEDIR live at all times for any law enforcement agency willing to foot the bill.

As if the potential negatives of this sort of crowdsourcing weren't apparent enough, there's also the very large problem of who's behind this new system.
Under the leadership of disgraced former LA County Sheriff Lee Baca, the department is said to have conceptualized the web service and smartphone app, which was built by Citizen Global with Amazon

Baca's administration was plagued by corruption and scandal, and he resigned amid ongoing investigation into possible criminal activity. Certainly no such imperfect leader would misuse LEEDIR.
But LA Sheriff's Dept. commander Scott Edson sees no downside:
“I like to call this a flag-waving opportunity,” Edson said. “This is a great opportunity for the public who really wants to catch those guys as badly as any law enforcement agency wants to catch them. Now they’re going to have an opportunity.”
Sure. Just like "see something, say something" filled DHS Fusion Centers with thousands of reports of people using cameras. With unfiltered access to whatever citizens submit, law enforcement can browse for unrelated criminal activity or simply use it to fill in the holes in their surveillance network.

It's not that it couldn't help, as it did in the Boston Bombing. It's that the downside isn't even being considered by the proponents of the system, which include a former law enforcement official accused of corruption. There's seemingly no oversight to the program and absolutely no concerns being raised about privacy or the potentially endless retention of non-relevant footage and photos.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 3:20am

    Upload crowd sources footage of cops harassing citizens, get hit with a wire-tapping felony.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 3:26am

    Tim Cushing voted "Guy Online Most Likely To Blow Up a Police Station".

    Congratulations, Tim. You've really made something of yourself.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 3:38am

    Looking at the permissions requested, they go far beyond those needed to upload photos and videos. Of particular concern are GPS location, where you are when you upload, and also camera and microphone control, spy on what you are doing when you upload. Why does it need access to your on line accounts and network state or full Internet access. Also why does it need write and delete permission over files, unless it is to be able to delete files that incriminate the authorities.
    The requested permissions look more like let us spy on you than give us any possible evidence that you may have captured. The gathering of evidence needs the ability to upload a files under user control, and maybe take a live video/audio feed, also under user control, oh and the option on the upload site for the user to identify themselves if they are willing to appear as a witness.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 3:41am

    Remind Me

    To start donating to EFF/ACLU on a monthly basis now.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 3:42am

    Re:

    Look at that Anomymity!

    What,s that, Timmy? Anonymity is being murdered? Well,t hen if you have nothing to hide, Timmy, you have nothing to fear. Well, Timmy, that is, of course, unless we want you to be scared! ARREST THAT BOY!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 3:54am

    This already exists. For free. Its called "the internet." you know, YouTube. And Facebook. And Twitter. And Google.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 4:04am

    Snow Crash

    Is not a how-to guide.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 4:09am

    and yet another step towards the total surveillance state! wont be long, people, just you wait!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Violynne (profile), Apr 16th, 2014 @ 4:45am

    "It's unarguable..."
    Brain... temporarily... broken. I know it's in the dictionary, but damn, does it look ugly in the real world.

    Not criticizing, just wasn't prepared to see anyone actually use this version.

    ***

    Don't be too surprised this kind of thing grows in popularity.

    The first step to making a police state is to pretend people aren't in one.

    This program is going to get huge support because people just can't see 3 steps in front of them, until it's too late.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    Anonymous Howard (profile), Apr 16th, 2014 @ 5:06am

    Re:

    The list of permissions it requires alone should ward off anyone from touching this piece of spyware. Then ofc, there are the ones who don't even read it before installing..

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    me@me.net, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 5:12am

    Trust is a another issue

    the NYPD, LAPD, Chicago PD as well as the FBI are in manys opinions less than trustworthy in their methods. The LAPD is not the proper salesman for this idea.

    ANd thats without even getting into the abuse angle. Or the fact that I'm not seeing what's to prevent protesters from "flooding the sytem" with useless photos of puppies, and clowns and fire hydrants...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    zip, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 5:21am

    I'd like to know exactly what "crime" occurred that was apparently so bad that the police seem to be treating it like a bank robbery or murder. The LEEDIR website only mentions "civil unrest" -- which unlike most crimes, is typically a symptom of too much policing rather than too little.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    George Carlin, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 5:33am

    Cop didn't see it; I didn't do it

    So much for that!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    avideogameplayer, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 5:34am

    Re: Trust is a another issue

    I'd laugh my ass off if someone dumped a few gigs of kiddie porn...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Apr 16th, 2014 @ 6:00am

    Re: Trust is a another issue

    Or the fact that I'm not seeing what's to prevent protesters from "flooding the sytem" with useless photos of puppies, and clowns and fire hydrants...

    This could be interesting. Or maybe the protesters themselves taking pictures of random people, including bystanders and uploading them all. This thing is exploitable in both directions!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Apr 16th, 2014 @ 6:01am

    Re:

    Not to mention how broadly the term may be applied.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 6:10am

    Re: Re: Trust is a another issue

    Look at the requested permissions again, they will be using your phone to spy on you and those around you, while ignoring the pictures and videos that you actually upload.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Rich Kulawiec, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 7:06am

    How will they establish the provenance of this data?

    In other words, how will they determine that photos/videos are unaltered and that the metadata associated with them hasn't been tampered with?

    Making such a determination is (a) difficult (b) time-consuming and (c) occasionally impossible based on the available facts. So will they tackle the job, or will they just blithely drop everything they get into their database without bothering? If the former, then the intake rate will be extremely slow and the cost will be quite high. If the latter, then they'll soon have a database full of unverified crap, some of which will be deliberately falsified.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 7:34am

    Synergy

    Come on folks. Can't you see the symmetry here? The cops who were caught removing the antennas from their personal video systems need to be punished. Those poor public servants will be FORCED, FORCED I tell you to validate all the incoming data under this program. That is a dastardly punishment, I tell you. And so efficient.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 16th, 2014 @ 7:45am

    Re: Re: Re: Trust is a another issue

    Let's be a bit rational here. they could use the app to spy on you and those around you. That they request those permissions doesn't really mean the will do so. It means that they're asking you to trust them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 8:18am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Trust is a another issue

    They could have provided a web site that allowed people to upload photos and videos, but instead they provide an app capable of spying on the person who installed it. This looks too much like a con for installing spy-ware for my tastes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 16th, 2014 @ 8:29am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Trust is a another issue

    Yes, I understand. However, let's look at this another way. Assume for the moment that the intention of the police is actually pure and they have no intention of spying on people through their cellphones.

    They want to provide an easy way for people to record and submit lawbreaking in progress. A website won't do for this -- that's too cumbersome. An app is the way to go. The app should be as convenient to use as possible. This means that the app itself should record the video and audio. That video and audio should be geolocated so the cops know where it was taken. The app should also be able to upload the data to the cops.

    The permissions requested are exactly what would be required to accomplish all of that.

    Whether or not the cops deserve the amount of trust that capability requires is a different issue, but that they are asking for those permissions is not actually evidence of ill intent.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    me@me.net, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 8:55am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Trust is a another issue

    Hence the term fishing expedition. The FBI has prosecuted more than one self-created case. If you install that app, you're a moron.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 9:11am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Trust is a another issue

    I think perhaps it's time to remind everyone that in the US, the best possible course of action is "Don't Talk to Police": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wXkI4t7nuc

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Lurker Keith, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 9:12am

    Baka!

    Anyone else read Baca as Baka ("stupid" in Japanese)? I had to reread a few things trying not to...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 16th, 2014 @ 9:19am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Trust is a another issue

    Yes, I agree. I'm not actually saying that the police won't abuse the permissions. I personally wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole. I'm merely saying that the permissions being requested aren't evidence of intent.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Apr 16th, 2014 @ 10:13am

    I forsee a whole slew of pictures of people's junk being sent in as 'evidence of a crime in progress'...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Babs, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 10:22am

    Wait, is this the same LAPD that doesn't want its own activities recorded? That's not ironic at all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 10:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Trust is a another issue

    The problem is with the way that Android handles permissions. A user installing an app is forced to decide whether or not an app should be allowed to do a bunch of different general things, in all or nothing fashion, now and in the future, without a specific context. In other words, there's no fine-grained control over the what, when, where, and how.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 10:37am

    Why record your videos in a way you can share them with anyone (including police) when you can instead share them directly with police who, I'm sure, won't delete anything that portrays them in a negative light?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 16th, 2014 @ 11:31am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Trust is a another issue

    True. Although you can avoid this by using other flavors of Android which do allow you to revoke individual permissions in a fine-grained way (this is what I do). The mainstream flavor of Android will be gaining this ability very soon, too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 12:53pm

    Flying Fascist

    I like to call this a flag-waving opportunity, Edson said."

    Start your Fascist flag waving and goose stepping!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    OLAASM, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 1:19pm

    LASD/LAPD

    The Los Angeles Sheriffs Department is not interchangeable with the Los Angeles Police Department. The LEEDIR program, as frightening as it sounds, is part of the LASD - not the LAPD.

    I hate all cops, but part of that is knowing which cops are responsible for which Orwellian program. ;)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Rekrul, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 3:43pm

    The notice clearly states the police are "seeking to identify several subjects wanted for violent felonies that occurred during the evening."

    In the opinion of the cops, "violent felonies" would cover someone putting up their hands to protect themselves from a cop's billy club.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    jmi, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 7:06pm

    crowds

    Really interesting, thanks!

    I think that you would be really interested in some of the most cutting-edge research that I have come across explaining crowds, open innovation, and citizen science.

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=1919614

    And you may also enjoy this blog about the same too:
    https://thecrowdsociety.jux.com/

    Powerful stuff, no?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Stasi, Apr 23rd, 2014 @ 1:10pm

    Better Term Needed

    Crowdsourced Surveillance once had a better sounding name: STASI.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Connor Clawson, Apr 23rd, 2014 @ 1:10pm

    potential irony incoming?

    I would not be surprised if those who did apply only used it to watchdog officer misconduct, which in turn will prompt LAPD to shut down the crowd source op.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
Advertisement
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Chat
Techdirt Reading List
Advertisement
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Support Techdirt - Get Great Stuff!

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.