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Privacy The Almighty Buck

Oakland Is Building a Big Data Center For Police Surveillance 92

rjmarvin writes "$7 million in federal grant money originally tasked with terrorism prevention is now being used to fund construction of a new data center in Oakland to electronically gather and analyze data around the clock from a variety of sensors and databases, displaying selected info on a bank of giant monitors. The center will mine massive data streams, helping the police department tap into 911 calls, port and traffic cameras, license plate readers, gunshot sensors, social media posts and commuters' electronic toll payments."
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Oakland Is Building a Big Data Center For Police Surveillance

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  • Since when does $7m get you a large data center, more like a single rack...
    • by Anonymous Coward

      But it has a donut vending machine next to the rack (separate power line though 'cuz that's what $7 mil gets you).

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Bob_Who ( 926234 )

      Since when does $7m get you a large data center, more like a single rack...

      Good point. Nevertheless, its being used as budgeted. The only subtle distinction is that the terror that we need to worry about are increasingly of the domestic variety. That may always have been the case, but this spending is being done more conspicuously on the municipal scene. I credit the government for being more transparent in this regard. I just wish they would focus the money on jobs for humans and not cash for import data centers... One day at a time a guess.

      • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @06:29AM (#45150983)

        The only subtle distinction is that the terror that we need to worry about are increasingly of the domestic variety.

        the important question is if the increase is the cause of our actions or effect of them.

        • by Mitreya ( 579078 )

          The only subtle distinction is that the terror that we need to worry about are increasingly of the domestic variety.

          the important question is if the increase is the cause of our actions or effect of them.

          Sadly, we won't be able to tell much until someone defines "terrorism"

          Right now, it could be anything. Regular crime, cyber-crime, hateful propaganda, having a wrong name...

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Perhaps in this case, terrorism is monitoring commuters?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        the terror that we need to worry about are increasingly of the domestic variety.

        No, the only terror we have to worry about, is the anti-terrorism activity that seems to be gathering steam daily.

        TSA has NEVER caught anyone that I am aware of. Not once. Based on that, I am more worried about TSA than the terrorism that it doesn't prevent.
        Unless you are operating on an assumption that TSA scares of terrorists that came into existence on 9/11, but were not really around beforehand.

    • 7M will get you about what 5-10 racks? Depending on what you put in it. Even if you are only building the physical infrastructure and not the computers to fill the racks, 7M will get you about 6-10k sqft of data center space. Not even close to a 'big' data center. Also, every single source, with the possible exception of PUBLIC social media posts, in this article were things that the municipal government already had known (and logical) access to.

      I am all for the tinfoil hat outrage on government snoo
    • Since when does $7m get you a large data center, more like a single rack...

      For $7M, they could at least throw in a free nose job to go with your new rack.

    • It sounds more like "We're a government agency with funds to spend. What can we waste it on ?"

      I think the money is likely to go into to some contractor's pocket who is friends with the politically connected. I can't see the value to society in any of their expenditures (other than as an example of what not to do).
      • Certainly it is important that he technology is used with the best intentions. Police departments can do quite a bit with technology that is available. ALPR (license plate readers) DO locate stolen vehicles on a regular basis. Dash cam or In Car Video as well as body cams go a long way to protect citizens and officers, after all when you can see how things unfolded it is hard to dispute. Gunshot detection systems can detect within several feet the type of of gun being shot (and knows the difference between
  • Embarassing Point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 17, 2013 @05:01AM (#45150739)

    "Tap into 911 calls" I think it'd be a bit embarrassing but someone ought to point out to the Oakland police that calls to 911 are in fact often calls to the police, so the only thing they'd need to tap into them is, well pick up the bloody ringing phone to be honest.

    • by Xest ( 935314 )

      I suspect what it means is tapping into information from 911 calls to try and link it up with other information.

      If a gunshot sensor detects a shot and the police go to investigate and a guy just says he accidentally discharged it or was shooting in his yard the police may think nothing of it and go away.

      If the police get a report that they've not seen an employee for a few days they may turn up and say there's no reason to think they should worry.

      If the police get a report of a neighbour digging in their ya

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @05:01AM (#45150741) Homepage
    As an Oakland native, i think its only fair to clarify what the police department means by these technologies in their pursuit of law enforcement:

    911 calls: those troubling interruptions from sleeping, fast food or harassing the homeless that require you do actually respond to something in an hour or so.

    port and traffic cameras often seen on the morning news, and cited frequently throughout the day, it sure would be neat if we used them as frequently as motorists and media personalities did, but that would require us to repair the 400 or so that still dont work.

    license plate readers the closest thing we've got to a thoughtcrime detector. if you havent made quota, this little go-getter is like a golden goose for finding people with parking tickets, expired registrations, and the ever guilty smudgy plate that cant be read.

    gunshot sensors Residents, mostly. Try not to obsess over the ones in low-income neighborhoods, they're constantly going off and its becoming a nuisance.

    social media posts and commuters' electronic toll payments. Ford has a new police car this year, Bushmaster has a new rifle this year, my cruiser laptop is getting too slow to play minecraft, blaze yellow stop sticks are the new black this year, oh, and uh, protect 'n' serve or something.
    • by k8to ( 9046 )

      Or more simply:

      Oakland is pretty crime-encoouraging territory.

      The best (most effective, and most efficient) ways to reduce crime are:

      * Improve neighborhoods to the point where they feel well kept, and try to ensure there's a feeling that most public spaces have people watching them by having housing facing those spaces.
      * Walk beats, be present in neighborhoods in a slow, ongoing way. Crime-in-progress tends to require police to be present for around 30-50 minutes for the actors to give up a

      • by khallow ( 566160 )

        So the obvious place to invest is in neighborhood center revitalization, encouragement of high quality urban development, and slowly getting rid of the semi-tenements that exist here and there. But that's long slow hard work. Gadgets are more fun.

        The thing is, Oakland is not unusual in its physical layout. The whole of the south Bay area is even worse. I think it's a combination of the criminals have to go somewhere and Oakland is the weakest link in the area.

    • by Yaur ( 1069446 )
      gunshot sensors are an actual thing... they just don't work.
    • And that's not even getting into the various ways to potentially abuse them to discriminate like crazy against people from out of town/state. It would be extremely easy for a cop with a plate reader to target, for example, people with SoCal registration addresses who were unlikely to fight a ticket due to distance. Or rental cars. Or known members of political parties. Or women. Or people with names like Juan, Mohammad, or Tyrone. Or perfectly legal gun owners. The list goes on. Honestly, of the abo

    • You nailed it, not to mention the parking and violation information, tax key information, bus cameras, school surveillance, body cameras, squad GPS data and dash cam video,literally anything they can tap into. The social media is a big thing, capturing real time information at the scene can drum up witnesses, capture photos of the area prior to the incident, it all goes a long way. This is similar to the fusion centers throughout the US where these technologies are put to use. IBM has been focusing on brin
  • I'm curious, how do "they" access/ interface these huge reams of data? Does anyone have any insight?
    Surely all this google-size data is useless without a very very good interface to it

    • I2 was purchased by IBM, their product i iBase [] purchased by IBM is an excellent example of of software capable of bringing in this type of data and building the relationships that get the value from the data. This has become part of IBMs predictive analytics [] Along with SPSS []
      There are many others on the horizon, however, there are not enough. It is time that the great minds, such as those here, start looking at developing solutions for law enforcement. There is a market out there for the person who is inte
  • by aralin ( 107264 ) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @05:11AM (#45150797)

    It takes 40+ days in Oakland, just to get a police report number after a non-violent crime has been committed. The insurance people thought that I am kidding, until I mentioned the crime happened in Oakland. Oh well. This is one of the problems with property taxes paying for police. If the value of properties is not high, you don't get police, the crime goes up, the property values go further down and so on. Fun cycle.

    • by pspahn ( 1175617 )

      Speaking of non-violent crime, that's basically the problem in Oakland. Yes, it's a big city with poor crime statistics, but the areas it does the worst in are non-violent types, things like car theft and robbery.

      One of these days that little bastard child of a city that is Oakland (at least compared to the *perceptions* outsiders have of it in relation to neighboring San Jose and San Fran) is going to get on its feet and become that proud and honorable place to live again.

      I get the sense that this is a g

  • ...they will start building data centers for data center surveillance.
  • by Alsee ( 515537 ) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @06:41AM (#45151035) Homepage

    Oakland Is Building a Big Data Center For Police Surveillance

    Awesome. More cities should keep their police under surveillance.


  • Let's see...Federal anti-terrorism money used to surveil American citizens.

    What else is new?

  • Is it clear to you all yet that the government considers YOU, the Citizens, to be the terrorists?

  • The Phillip K Dick I Told Ya So Data Repository

  • The SF Bay area is one of the most expensive areas in the world. What is $7 million going to buy? Perhaps a Winnebago which they can park on the street and loaded with 10 yo Linux boxes?
  • by Squidlips ( 1206004 ) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @08:50AM (#45151679)
    As if the internet surveillance is not enough, most cities now have networks of microphones so that Big Brother can listen in.
  • What will it take to get the Federal government out of the business of wasting money buying local cops toys?

  • Yeah! It's about time we start watching the police back! We need more surveillance on what the governmental organizations are doing.

    Oh wait! That's not what they mean, is it?!

  • by koan ( 80826 )

    "displaying selected info on a bank of giant monitors"

    Yeah I'm familiar with the OPD, this is a giant joke, the only monitors these over payed buffoons will be looking at are their phones.

  • $7MM would only buy them about 800 square feet of datacenter, but it could be about 3,500 square feet of dispatch or emergency response. Essential Facilities in seismic zones tend to be base-isolated structures, which drives up costs.

    I think for $7MM Los Angeles can just build a radio tower and shelter...

  • ... no doubt. I look forward to the artwork of the local taggers.

  • Crime shows like "CSI" and "NCIS" and even that show about the operations of a casino "Las Vegas", which have direct access to everything without the need for a court order or others' say-so, will be a reality!

What this country needs is a good five cent ANYTHING!