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Seattle To Remove Controversial City Spying Network After Public Backlash ( 83

schwit1 shares a report from Activist Post: Following years of resistance from citizens, the city of Seattle has decided to completely remove controversial surveillance equipment -- at a cost of $150,000. In November 2013, Seattle residents pushed back against the installation of several mesh network nodes attached to utility poles around the downtown area. The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and privacy advocates were immediately concerned about the ability of the nodes to gather user information via the Wi-Fi connection. The Seattle Times reports on the latest developments: "Seattle's wireless mesh network, a node of controversy about police surveillance and the role of federal funding in city policing, is coming down. Megan Erb, spokeswoman for Seattle Information Technology, said the city has budgeted $150,000 for contractor Prime Electric and city employees to remove dozens of surveillance cameras and 158 'wireless access points' -- little, off-white boxes with antennae mounted on utility poles around the city."

The nodes were purchased by the Seattle Police Department via a $3.6 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security. The Seattle Police Department argued the network would be helpful for protecting the port and for first-responder communication during emergencies. As the Times notes, "the mesh network, according to the ACLU, news reports and anti-surveillance activists from Seattle Privacy Coalition, had the potential to track and log every wireless device that moved through its system: people attending protests, people getting cups of coffee, people going to a hotel in the middle of the workday." However, by November 2013, SPD spokesman Sean Whitcomb announced, "The wireless mesh network will be deactivated until city council approves a draft (privacy) policy and until there's an opportunity for vigorous public debate." The privacy policy for the network was never developed and, instead, the city has now opted to remove the devices at a cost of $150,000. The Times notes that, "crews are tearing its hardware down and repurposing the usable parts for other city agencies, including Seattle Department of Transportation traffic cameras."

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Seattle To Remove Controversial City Spying Network After Public Backlash

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  • Die (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @09:39PM (#56119597)

    Die, big brother. Keep that shit in the UK.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Kind of hilarious though. Not really fixing the problem at all. Your Android and iPhone are constantly spewing their MAC address out. Someone figured it out and commercialized it. That's what they had installed in this city.

      Fix the problem at it's core. Randomize phone MAC addresses every few minutes and this capability quickly erodes. (Er, unless you have an older phone.)

  • ... GoodToGo passes and Orca transit cards now. No need for that low tech stuff.

    • But what the fuck on the wifi mesh routers:

      A. Most modern wifi enabled devices support changing your hw address.
      B. Most people, especially the poor need internet access to help continue/reintegrate in the world.
      C. Red light and traffic cameras are now a much bigger threat than a dainty number of wifi node based cameras. And that is excluding if they've been working out backroom deals with local companies who can just provide them a live feed from their loss prevention/outdoor security cameras without warran

      • It sounds like the police installed this with no oversight, guidelines or privacy protections. The public backlash caused the network to be shut down until such policies were made and, instead of making the policies and protections, the police decided they didn't want it anymore. Whether this is because they didn't want the restrictions or because they didn't find it useful, there's no information here.

  • But...but...but...what about your safety? If you have nothing to hide, what's the problem? It could stop a crime bla bla bla bla. I thought Seattle was "progressive" (ie: liberal, socialist etc). You mean you want your RIGHTS protected? What about the common good? What about bla bla bla. hahahaha...Seattle....lDIOTS
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Well, to be honest, we believed the sales guy when he told us they'd have a working AI-based filter algorithm by the time the deal was complete to block any data or pictures/video of Progressives and only record non-Progressives.

      Damned lying contractors!

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      It is public space and it should be monitored. Whether you do that with a police officer on foot patrol or via cameras is really the same thing. Care should be taken to ensure the cameras do not point into private space but other than that, cameras recording public actives in public places is not really that bad. As to where they are and what they can record, should be up for public review and the public should have a right to access the system and to monitor it and track what recordings are being kept and

      • A police officer can't follow everyone all the time, to say there's no difference between an officer on the corner and a network that individually identifies everyone and creates a permanent database of their whereabouts or that the latter isn't a privacy violation is disturbing Orwellian authoritarianism. These weren't dumb cameras. And eventually, facial recognition will be so good even those won't be ok.
  • Honestly, it is just horrible. Seattle is the worst run city in the country. Taxes/costs are insanely high thanks to the city council and the county voters who don't realize everything they keep voting yes on raises their property taxes and sales tax. The problem is they vote on programs like light rail that won't be done for 20 years and "safe injection sites" for heroin users. The homeless problem is Seattle is huge now because of all the money spent on homeless. Crime is going up, drug use is going up, h
  • All they had to do was offer free wifi as well and the public would have ate it up. The real story is how most citizens are voluntarily carrying unique radio beacons 24x7 these days.

    but no one talks about that except the crazies right...

    • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

      The real story is how most citizens are voluntarily carrying unique radio beacons 24x7 these days.

      I've been thinking about switching back to a non-smartphone []. A linux based phone was a cool idea if I could have root access to the device I own so that I could control what it does but the problem with smartphones is the things the dumbusers want in it and that they're too dumb to even want to understand why.

    • They were offering free WiFi. The lack of a privacy policy with the free WiFi is the issue.

  • Sorry, people. If you're basically trying to solve the problem by forcing the entities you know to stop gathering data that's publicly out there, you've lost already. The entities who collect it will just be the ones you don't know...

    It's not like the data isn't out there any more. And then governments, when they want/need it, will buy it from that megacorporation that did manage to gather the data without your protests.
    • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

      Sorry, people. If you're basically trying to solve the problem by forcing the entities you know to stop gathering data that's publicly out there, you've lost already.

      All of which could be resolved if the manufacturers of the phones allowed you admin access to, you know, the device you paid for.

  • so the teachers could get part time jobs []. Meanwhile we've got $3.6 million dollar grants for public surveillance. Man, my country has it's head on backwards.

    There's always money for stuff like this and bombs but whenever I hear somebody mention underfunded schools somebody chimes in with "Well why should I have to pay for kids in another state?". These folks argue that they don't want money spent on either schools or surveillance, but those same folks always vote in the guys that approve the surveillanc
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Seattle has a crime problem, homeless problem, and a handicapped police department. The city council is broken, so full of pet causes, they don't actually get any work done. One of the City council members recently complained because the transportation department removed some homeless people from under a bridge to install a fence, this was after the homeless people set fires under a key part of the bridge and were offered relocation assistance.

    The police department cant even enforce laws without the city

  • Frankly I have no issues at all with 100% surveillance at all times, even within my own home. Yes, all people commit crimes these days as we have so many laws that not breaking a law here and there is impossible. But we can eliminate the armed robberies, drive by shootings, rapes and kidnappings easily. Frankly the system will be so full of criminals that getting arrested for cutting the tag off of your mattress will never occur. Go to Miami Beach and have a nice swim and wonder if your car will
    • Frankly I have no issues at all with 100% surveillance at all times, even within my own home.

      Not sure if trolling, or just completely oblivious to the danger to freedom that a complete lack of privacy entails.

      There's already a place where security is very high and there is no expectation of privacy at all. It's called prison. Perhaps you'd enjoy living in one.

      • by nasch ( 598556 )

        And yet people are attacked in prisons all the time. That would tend to cast some doubt on his assertion that total surveillance would lead to total lawfulness.

        • Holds true to the expression that those that give up essential liberty in exchange for a little temporary safety would deserve neither.
  • What most people don't realize is that the Feds use any location they own or lease to install similar surveillance, as does King County, and the State of Washington, and the Port of Seattle. Which gives you full surveillance over pretty much half of Seattle.

    Ask the correct questions. All they removed are the ones that were on city property.

    • Don't try to run uphill in an avalanche. Run perpendicular to it.
      • Don't try to run uphill in an avalanche. Run perpendicular to it.

        Nope. Ski or snowboard at a 30-45 degree angle. I grew up in the area where you see people die in avalanches every year, because they try to either go perpendicular or outrun it, neither of which will work. You need speed to get out of the way.

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