Criminal Defense & Civil Rights

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

-The Fourth Amendment

All around the world, one major problem continues to be discussed, centralized data surveillance. Edward Snowden made the entire world aware of the practices of the United States government to collect mass amounts of data, but it is also occurring in individual cities. Oakland, California has most recently been the subject of these debates as the city tries to put into practice the Domain Awareness Center (DAC for short), which would be a central surveillance center where agencies could monitor areas potentially threatened by terrorism.

Programs like the DAC pose a serious threat to privacy for millions of Americans all around the world. In Oakland, many fear that the DAC will be used to target minority, racial and religious groups to politically profit government officials. The goal of central surveillance programs is to create a center for live 24-hour camera feeds, police license plate readers, and gunshot detectors to transmit to. Although officials claim that the data collected would only be used when it is absolutely necessary, what is to stop them from abusing their powers to satisfy their curiosities?

Data collection programs have progressed beyond using a few hundred street cameras to collect data. Community surveillance is now capable of sorting through millions of gigabytes of information. Simply put, a very few number of people are capable of accessing data that society believe is private. And, they can do it with relative ease. Expanding central surveillance collection centers in the United States is consistent with the rest of the world.

London is a world leader in data collection. According to some sources, the United Kingdom has approximately 6 million cameras nationwide recording the action's of individuals daily. Cities in France have increased their surveillance programs to have about one camera for every 500 citizens. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil has been planning ways to use data collection centers, utilizing traffic cameras and weather satellites, to monitor the masses during the World Cup.

It is only natural that in New York, a company named Placemeter monitors up to 10 million pedestrians every day using traffic cameras to help businesses market to consumers. The Los Angeles Police Department makes use of Palantir, a mass data-collecting program, to sift through large quantities of material. The United States government heavily uses this same program as well.

But how effective are these data collection centers in individual cities? The Surveillance Studies Center at Queen's University in Ontario has reported that surveillance programs have not shown any effect deterring criminals. However, in Chicago, as a result of officials placing cameras in rail way stations, crime rates decreased. In Sacramento, California, authorities have asked businesses to register security cameras so that investigators can sort through camera data to locate potential evidence. All throughout the United States, efforts to expand surveillance centers will be made regardless of how individuals feel about these practices.

At what point will growing surveillance programs used to target individuals in bars, restaurants or on their way to work worry Americans? Practices that include wide spread data collection are undoubtedly beginning to encroach on privacy and civil liberties, but how far are you willing to let governments take away your Fourth Amendment right to Privacy?

If you feel that any person, police officer, or organization is threatening your civil rights, call Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP immediately! At Lessem & Newstat, LLP we are not willing to give up the freedoms given to us by the United States Constitution.