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Government Privacy Transportation Your Rights Online

Whose Cameras Are Watching New York Roads? 376

NormalVisual writes "License-plate reading cameras are popping up on utility poles all over St. Lawrence County in upstate New York, but no one is willing to say who they belong to. One camera was found by a utility crew, removed from the pole, and given to the local police. 'Massena Police Chief Timmy Currier said he returned it to the owner, but wouldn't say how he knew who the owner was, nor would he say who he gave it to....(Andrew) McMahon, the superintendent at Massena Electric Department, said one of his crews found a box on one of their poles and took it down because "it was in the electric space," the top tier of wires on the pole above the telephone and cable TV wires, and whoever put it there had taken a chance with electrocution. He said they had never received a request or been informed about its placement.'"
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Whose Cameras Are Watching New York Roads?

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  • Get a bat (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 02, 2012 @06:51PM (#40196677)

    And start smashing. See who comes calling.

  • Re:Get a bat (Score:4, Interesting)

    by stevegee58 ( 1179505 ) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @07:00PM (#40196731) Journal
    Even better: find one, dismount it and take it home to have a look at it.
    Much more interesting.
  • Obvious (Score:4, Interesting)

    by stevegee58 ( 1179505 ) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @07:03PM (#40196757) Journal
    It's DHS. Canadian border right?
  • DEA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sensi ( 64510 ) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @07:08PM (#40196821) Homepage

    It's the DEA. Doing the same thing outside of California. Logging traffic to find patterns of drug runners across the border.

  • Re:DEA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 02, 2012 @07:16PM (#40196889)

    I live in Watertown, which is in the county south of St. Lawrence. Our local online newswank (newzjunky.com) has a few stories confirming this--federal grants funding license plate readers used by law enforcement for various and sundry tracking tasks, including mapping drug runners and catching local burglars.

  • Re:Treaspassing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by skids ( 119237 ) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @07:29PM (#40197013) Homepage

    My guess would be a three-letter-agency, in the "war on (terror|drugs|communism|whatever)"

    My guess is that it is more commodity than that. What PI wouldn't find the answer to the question "did this car go down this road between these dates" unworthy of a small disbursement from their client's expense account fairly frequently?

  • Homeland Security! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gti_guy ( 875684 ) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @07:35PM (#40197055)
    Homeland Security agressively patrols that area since it borders Canada and has a international crossing at Cornwall. I've been stopped at road blocks hosted jointly by NYS Police & Homeland Security. The State Police stayed in the background while my car was singled out by Homeland Security for a walk-around sniff by their dog and an uncomfortable amount of questioning. I'm an old Unix admin who does not resemble a terrorist in the slightest. Also worth noting that that St. Regis Native American Reservation sits on both sides of the border there. Perhaps someone is trying to keep tabs on them??
  • Re:FIrst Post (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Genda ( 560240 ) <mariet@NoSPaM.got.net> on Saturday June 02, 2012 @07:57PM (#40197241) Journal

    Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

    -- Mark Twain

  • Re:Get a bat (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @08:21PM (#40197377) Homepage Journal

    Real guns work even better than paintball guns... just sayin.

    Yeah, but you can get in trouble for shooting guns in public....how about some of those extremely high powered lasers you can buy off the internet...I'd have to guess a blast of one of those would burn out any sensors on the cameras beyond repair.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 02, 2012 @08:56PM (#40197583)
    Both the efforts to get Osama and the banking reform passed were in the works before Obama was even nominated. Keep your eye on the ball. No administration starts from scratch.

    As for ObamaCare? Seriously? ObamaCare is nothing more than a bailout for "big pharma" in the guise of a social program for Joe Sixpack. I know this, I work for big pharma and the CEO of my little slice of the healthcare pie didn't even try to hide how pleased he was with the outcome of the legislation. Oh, our stock is also at an all time high as well as cash flow. If ObamaCare was going to be putting things right for The Little Man(tm) than why is it that the healthcare field is booming right now and they're only ramping up for even more business as the costs of healthcare to the individual continued to rise at a record pace? I know this for a fact. I'm in the middle of it.
  • SCOTUS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Oxford_Comma_Lover ( 1679530 ) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @09:51PM (#40197863)

    But the liberal minority of the court has expressed a willingness to revisit that law, and the court itself is concerned enough with the implications of modern technology that it has actually ruled against GPS-tracking drug dealers for long periods of time.

  • Re:Get a bat (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DanielRavenNest ( 107550 ) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @11:03PM (#40198283)

    Some spray paint works equally well. For deniability, dip a rag in dirty water and just smear the lens. Then just wait to see who comes to fix it. For added fun, set up your own counter-camera nearby to monitor the first camera repair.

  • Re:FIrst Post (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sulphur ( 1548251 ) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @11:23PM (#40198387)

    Albert Einstein gave us some good quotes. Ever heard this one? "The world we have made, as a result of the level of thinking we have done thus far, creates problems we cannot solve at the same level of thinking at which we created them."

    What got us into this mess will not get us out.

  • Re:Treaspassing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jetole ( 1242490 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @02:14AM (#40199161)

    My guess would be a three-letter-agency, in the "war on (terror|drugs|communism|whatever)"

    My guess would agree with you because...

    1. 1) If this was a police or city camera, it likely wouldn't have been placed that high up since the lower the camera is, the easier it would be to view the license plate. The higher it is, the greater the viewing angle and the slimmer the image of the plate the harder it becomes for a program to correctly distinguish the important features. Well... this applies to police looking at license plates at least. Automated tickets for running red lights and speeders. I suppose there are possible reasons why the city could have placed them up there and in doing so wanted them as high as possible (I can't think of why they would want them at all but I guess it's possible) but see the reasons below for why I don't think the city would have done this either.
    2. 2) If this was a police or city camera, it wouldn't have needed to be placed "in the electric space" on the pole for electricity. The electric space doesn't mean it's the only spot for power on the pole. It means it's reserved for transporting massive amounts of electricity and it's reserved at higher place on the pole so that it doesn't become a hazard to less informed telco and cable company workers. It's dangerous and you don't want anyone near it who isn't fully trained in it. Now a camera doesn't even require a wired connection for communication. We have them all over where I live (Miami and Fort Lauderdale area), you see them all of the time on lights, on the highway, etc, and they all have antennae on them for wireless communications. These cameras can receive power and communicate equally at lower levels (when it's this small level of height difference). The police or city would have no reason or want to place them that high for technical purposes. If the cameras are not wireless equipped or they need a faster connection then what the wireless can provide (high def, high fps over long range wireless from many devices simultaneously) then they would still be in the proper zone for cable or telephone links in that zone. They have everything they need in that zone on the poll.
    3. 3) If this were a police or city camera, the power company would have already known, would not have dismounted it and would not have brought it to the police.
    4. 4) The police and city would both admit that it belongs to them if it did. It would not be a secret. They have so many bureaucratic policies that they are not allowed to go through some move like that and not inform the public when they did. I remember in a town a grew up in when the police started using cruisers marked as taxis to trick drunk drivers into not thinking it was police, making it easier to follow them without being noticed, etc, I don't remember the details but it was in the paper with a statement from the police about it. Government, at least at these basic levels, are not allowed to keep any secrets. They are required to inform the public (if your city has cameras, try it, ask the police and they will tell you it's theirs).
    5. 5) The police and city don't install cameras! They don't have a camera installation department. They don't want or need one. They contract this out. This is a one time roll out. They install the cameras and then they are installed. They wouldn't have a pre-existing camera installation department and if they know that they will have no practical use once the cameras are installed then they wouldn't create this department just to have to disband it soon thereafter. They contract this out to qualified individuals who are familiar with these polls and understand what zones it's allowed to be mounted in.
    6. 6) A properly done installation will leave details of the installation at the location. What I mean is these boxes that are mounted on the polls will say something like "Property of Comcast Cable, for problems call 1-800-555-7264" or something like that. It serves to notify people on the pole who
  • Re:FIrst Post (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Truedat ( 2545458 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @05:08AM (#40199729)
    In response to Twain, how will we ever transition away from being fools unless we practice speaking out, are willing to make mistakes and then learn from them? Pithy witticisms like this are all very well for a little amusement but I sometimes worry that people take them seriously.

"The pathology is to want control, not that you ever get it, because of course you never do." -- Gregory Bateson