People who live in Baltimore or visit the city are under constant surveillance.
A recent article in Wired magazine may have Baltimore, Maryland being referred to as “Big Brother Baltimore.” According to Wired’s article, How Baltimore Became America’s Laboratory for Spy Tech, the city has become a spy tech metropolis.
According to the article, the Baltimore Police Department has been monitoring cell phones without warrants and covertly recording the entire city using aerial spy planes from a company called Persistent Surveillance Systems.
Baltimore’s high crime rate and social unrest have given local law enforcement a ready-made excuse for turning the city into a place where spying on the public is becoming both continuous and ubiquitous.
In April, a federal appeals court upheld a lower court decision that said the Baltimore Police Department is not allowed to use Stingray technology to spy on and track cell phone users. Reportedly, the BPD had secretly been using this cell phone spying without a warrant in order get information on potential suspects. However, the BPD used the fake cellphone tower Stingray devices so much that it disrupted local wireless networks, potentially impeding emergency phone calls and public safety.
In addition, a few weeks ago the Department of Justice issued a report on the BPD, which paints the department as one that is more than willing to ignore the constitution in the name of law enforcement.
According to one insider, who used to work for the BPD, there is a lot of dislike and distrust among the public towards the Baltimore Police Department. Very few people in Baltimore will talk to the police and that has created the need for all of this spy technology to catch criminals and keep the city safe.
As Wired points out, one of the problems with all of this is that there are no checks and balances built into the BPD’s increasing reliance on surveillance technology. Even the mayor of Baltimore didn’t know about the use of aerial spying by the BPD until she read an article in Bloomberg news about it. However, that didn’t stop her from defending the use of the technology as a necessary means for making Baltimore a safer city to live in, work in and visit.
Privacy experts are warning that what is happening in Baltimore is another example of how police and public officials will continue to push the surveillance envelope as far as they can and this is why we need more oversight of law enforcement departments and other government agencies. Predictably, police and politicians will say that these surveillance measures are needed to catch criminals and protect the public.
And so the public surveillance and spying cycle will continue.