Jul 19, 2019

The surveillance camera next door

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Get ready for a debate over the role of private security cameras, particularly the doorbell cameras used in services like Ring and Nest, owned by Amazon and Google, respectively.

What's happening: Law enforcement and cities actively subsidize Ring cameras, in exchange for potential access to the footage, the AP reports. And some departments use Ring’s Neighbors app, which encourages residents to share videos of suspicious activity.

  • Law enforcement describe the footage as a digital neighborhood watch.

Why it matters: The reason for cameras is understandable. Packages get stolen off doorsteps and suspicious people might come to your door — or you just want to remotely let in a guest or service worker.

The big picture: The increasing worry is that the cameras will turn neighborhoods into places of constant surveillance — with the heaviest cost imposed on people of color.

  • Law enforcement and Ring stress that sharing the content is voluntary, but its existence means a search warrant is always a possibility.

The bottom line: "Tech that seems like an obvious good can develop darker dimensions as capabilities improve and data shifts into new hands," WashPost's Geoffrey Fowler wrote earlier this year.

  • "A terms-of-service update, a face-recognition upgrade or a hack could turn your doorbell into a privacy invasion you didn’t see coming."

Go deeper

Rise of the digital neighborhood watch

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Residents of major American cities are constantly watched by ubiquitous cameras, mushrooming license plate readers and a battery of new smart city sensors.

But, but, but: It's not just the government keeping tabs. An explosion of private surveillance — set up by businesses, landlords and neighbors — is being driven by increasingly cheap but powerful technology. And what these observers see could make its way back to law enforcement.

Go deeperArrowJul 24, 2019

How Amazon will take over your house

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In recent years, Amazon has made a series of investments, acquisitions and R&D moves in the smart home industry. None seemed particularly consequential on its own, but with a real estate deal last week, Amazon appears to have captured first-mover advantage in one of the most important new industries on the planet.

Why it matters: With the deals, Amazon has taken a pioneering lead in what has come to be called "surveillance capitalism," which includes some of the biggest businesses of the future, like 5G, autonomous vehicles and smart cities. Now, the behemoth, with its edge in this new economy, is positioned to explode its revenue.

Go deeperArrowAug 1, 2019

Baltimore wrestles with aerial surveillance

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

With a surge of violent crime plaguing the streets of Baltimore, some residents whose lives have been upended by murder are pushing for a drastic measure: citywide surveillance.

Why it matters: Americans have historically valued privacy over security and generally reject the idea of being monitored by anyone, especially law enforcement.

  • But record-setting homicide rates in Baltimore — not to mention national attention on the city's problems following President Trump's recent Twitter insults — may test that mindset.
Go deeperArrowJul 31, 2019