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Privacy Crime Government The Courts Your Rights Online

Audio Surveillance, Intended to Detect Gunshots, Can Pick Up Much More 215

Posted by timothy
from the he-ain't-heavy-but-he's-a-very-good-listener dept.
New submitter groovethefish writes "This NYT article highlights the use of electronic listening devices installed on utility poles, buildings, and other structures, then centrally monitored for gunshots. The company SureSpotter claims it helps reduce time wasted by police searching for the source of gunfire in their patrol areas, but the privacy implications are just hitting the courts. If they are monitoring 24/7 and also pickup conversations along with gunshots, can that be used against the people who are recorded?" Evidently, Yes: the linked article describes just such a case. Continues groovethefish: "The company line, from the article: 'James G. Beldock, a vice president at ShotSpotter, said that the system was not intended to record anything except gunshots and that cases like New Bedford's were extremely rare. "There are people who perceive that these sensors are triggered by conversations, but that is just patently not true," he said. "They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot."'"
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Audio Surveillance, Intended to Detect Gunshots, Can Pick Up Much More

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:41AM (#40143149)

    "They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot."

    So, how are they listening for a gunshot, and then recording the gunshot, after the gunshot was fired?! Is that not a blatant lie or am I being daft?

  • by SJHillman (1966756) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:44AM (#40143215)

    I think they mean the recording portion doesn't turn on unless the sensing portion detects a gunshot. A poorly worded sentence, to be sure. It's like your TV - even when your TV is "off", the small component that listens for your remote is still on.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:46AM (#40143247)

    How can you verify a sound was a gunshot THEN record it?

  • by sjbe (173966) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:50AM (#40143339)

    They don't have any right to privacy either, and can not force you to turn them off, or confiscate & erase the evidence.

    They may not have any right to privacy but they certainly can, in real life, force you to turn them off, confiscate and erase the evidence. Doesn't mean it is legal for them to do so but they certainly are capable of doing it and probably will get away with it too. After all, once the evidence is deleted it becomes your word against theirs and they tend to hold the advantage there. Obviously cops should be held at least to the same standards as regular citizens (if not higher standard) but we know that it doesn't always work out the way it should in actual practice. The certainly aren't going to get thrown in jail and probably not even reprimanded and they know it.

  • Sound familiar? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:54AM (#40143379)

    The TSA scanners didn't store images until we found out they stored images. Then we were told they only stored images for testing until we found out they stored images all the time. Then we found out the images were easily accessible to anyone after being reassured that there were ample security measures to prevent any yahoo from distributing humiliating or enticing images of some people.

  • Given a choice (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CosaNostra Pizza Inc (1299163) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @12:00PM (#40143457)
    Given a choice between outlawing guns and having a sensitive listening device on every street corner that can listen in on conversations like Big Brother, I'd prefer to outlaw guns.
  • by jlv (5619) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @12:00PM (#40143463) Homepage

    While I agree it's not supposed to be permanent, a short circular buffer *is* a recording, and it means the device is on all the time.

    For instance, the circular buffer used by the ReplayTV DVR for live TV pausing is supposed to be transient and inaccessible, but (due to a bug) it is possible to stream that video to other devices on the network. IIRC, the Tivo lets you save the pause buffer.

    His statement shows that James G. Beldock is either ignorant of his company's own technology or attempting to "dumb down" the description of the technology to avoid scaring the common folk. Either way, it says nothing good about him or ShotSpotter.

  • A system where they are fired and sent to jail for 20 years as a federal crime would help a bit as well.

  • Re:Given a choice (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @12:30PM (#40143953) Homepage Journal

    Given a choice between outlawing guns and having a sensitive listening device on every street corner that can listen in on conversations like Big Brother, I'd prefer to outlaw guns.

    Outlawing guns will only serve to guarantee that there will be listening devices on every corner - and in your house, workplace, transportation, and anywhere else BB wants to watch you.

    Do you not realize why we have a guaranteed right (and some will go so far to say, duty) to keep and bear arms in this country? Hint: it has nothing to do with gathering food.

  • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @01:11PM (#40144595) Journal

    In other words, cops may not force you to turn off your camera

    Except that they can still ask you to turn off your camera, and they can still arrest you if you don't. They just have to come up with some other charge(contempt of cop), or release you without charge after holding you long enough to miss the shot. And if you got it, oops, the sd card went missing somehow. Too bad about that. That's if your lucky and the officer didn't mistake your camera for a gun.

    Has any officer anywhere been disciplined in any way (other than paid vacation) for violating the legal rights of a photographer? Unless you can answer in the affirmative, the circuit court decision doesn't mean anything really.

    The protections we actually have against criminals in uniform are vanishingly slim.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @02:35PM (#40145957)
    Governments in the U.S. are EXTREMELY corrupt. Partly that's because it costs millions to run for office.

An Ada exception is when a routine gets in trouble and says 'Beam me up, Scotty'.

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