Feb 9, 2011
The City of Chicago’s integrated surveillance camera system poses a pervasive and unregulated threat to privacy and it shouldn’t be expanded until the city imposes some rules on its use, said the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.
Chicago’s “Operation Virtual Shield” is a massive, networked, city-wide system of cameras that was implemented using Department of Homeland Security grants. Since 2006, about 1,500 police cameras have been linked into the system from crime trouble spots around the city, but thousands of other privately-owned cameras on buildings and other facilities around the city are also networked.
The ACLU study, released on Feb. 8, noted that advanced capabilities in the cameras make them a more invasive threat than ordinary static surveillance cameras used in other cities. The Chicago cameras have zoom capacity allowing operators to see small objects and features at great distances and at many times their normal size. They are also equipped with facial recognition capabilities that enable computers to automatically search for a particular person’s face. The also are equipped with automatic tracking capacity allowing them to continuously monitor a person or vehicle moving in public, jumping from one camera to the next. The city, said the organization, doesn’t have rules governing the use of those technologies in observing citizens in public.
The group recommended requiring individualized suspicion either of criminal activity or a threat to public safety before a camera operator uses the zoom, facial recognition or automatic tracking technologies. It also said the city should prohibit recording of activity in private areas, like residences and private businesses.