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Increased, crowd-sourced surveillance threatens our privacy rights

We hope to pass the Illinois Protecting Household Privacy Act, a law that would require police to obtain a warrant before accessing data collected by household electronic devices, such as Amazon’s Ring.

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In response to the recent, tragic surge in gun violence, some public voices encouraged widespread adoption of Amazon’s Ring technology as one tool to address crime. Ring utilizes a neighborhood watch application called “Neighbors” that Amazon promotes as a tool putting “neighborhood security in your hands.” In reality, through partnerships with over 1,450 police departments nationwide, Neighbors put video surveillance footage in the hands of law enforcement, including at least 155 in Illinois.

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Chicago is already one of the most surveilled cities (more than 35,000 cameras for 2.7 million people), and there is little evidence that increasing surveillance will reduce gun violence. Our vast surveillance network has a history of over-policing, especially in low-income communities and against people of color. At a moment of national reckoning for racial justice, the last thing we need is people using Amazon devices to police the behaviors of their Black and Brown neighbors.

When the legislative session resumes, we hope to pass the Illinois Protecting Household Privacy Act, a law that would require police to obtain a warrant before accessing data collected by household electronic devices, like Amazon’s Ring. It would similarly hold companies accountable by requiring them to inform consumers about the data being collected by these devices and who that data is being shared with. Until then, it’s a bad idea to embrace increased, crowdsourced surveillance (through a corporate intermediary, no less) when we should focus our efforts on proven methods that can decrease crime without sacrificing civil rights and liberties.

Sapna Khatri, advocacy and policy fellow. ACLU of Illinois

Sabotaging the mail

Our Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, claims that the reason for delaying mail is to save overtime costs. To anyone who believes this, I have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale.

This is simply another attempt by Donald Trump and his toadies to sabotage mail-in voting for the coming election.

Mail-in ballots must be in the hands of election officials, not just postmarked, by election day, so any delay means that your vote won’t count.

Martha Meyers, Rogers Park