Miami-Dade police may deploy sophisticated aerial surveillance capable of photographing everyone outside for 32 square miles in an effort to track vehicles and individuals involved in crimes.
The proposal, first reported by the Miami New Times, would send a surveillance plane high above high-crime neighborhoods to film everything below, according to Lt. Juan Villalba Jr. Already used in Baltimore, the technology lets police pull footage after a crime occurs and try to recreate where the perpetrators came from on their way to the scene and where they fled to afterward.
“It’s kind of like a DVR,” Villalba said, referring to playing back television shows hours after they air. “This will allow us to go back and look at what happened.”
Already used in Baltimore and other cities, the technology has helped spark a national debate on civil liberties as it pushes the edge of what’s possible now in mass surveillance. The camera system tracks how the U.S. pursued suicide bombers in Iraq, and the American Civil Liberties Union has called it “terrifying” for the potential to record every citizen’s movement when he or she is visible from the sky.”
“This is not the way to adopt public policy — no system of surveillance should be put into place until it is first established that there is a need which this system addresses, and that there are protections in place for the privacy of the people of Miami-Dade County,” the ACLU’s Florida said in a statement Thursday from executive director Howard Simon. “Until these protections for the rights and privacy of the people of Miami-Dade County are put into place, the grant request should be withdrawn.”
With increasingly cheaper surveillance cameras already mounted on lampposts, buildings, traffic lights and homes throughout Miami-Dade — not to mention the prevalence of cellphone footage — the sophisticated aerial surveillance arrives at a time when people are used to being recorded when they leave home.