Operation Virtual Shield (aka Persistent Video Surveillance Coming Soon)

According to Government Technology, a network of public and private surveillance cameras increasingly monitors our daily lives.  Chicago’s Police Department’s network, called “Operation Virtual Shield,” directs video feeds from roughly 10,000 privately-owned cameras and roughly 10,000 public-sector cameras to law enforcement personnel.  That includes more than 4,500 cameras in Chicago public schools, 3,000 cameras in public housing, and 1,000 camera at O’Hare Airport.  Atlanta’s Video Integration Center similarly uses feeds from the private sector, soon possibly including feeds from the CNN Center. Pre-existing agreements –memoranda of understanding — facilitate the arrangement.  And what luck for law enforcement, according to Chicago’s managing deputy director of public safety: “If the police wanted the video and the private facility owner didn’t want to hand it over, there’d have to be some kind of a court order of subpoena.  With the agreements in place, obviously we’ve got an inventory of cameras by location.  It save lots of time as a forensics too as well.”  Now, there’s no need to bother with court orders or subpoenas.  Just sign the agreement and it’s frictionless sharing, much as may soon be possible in the private sector with changes to the Video Privacy Protection Act. These “Virtual Shield” feeds likely make their way into fusion centers, raising concerns about oversight and civil liberties as my co-blogger Frank Pasquale and I addressed in Network Accountability for the Domestic Intelligence Apparatus.  The cameras are expensive and their efficacy isn’t entirely clear.  Season 4 of the Wire brought home the limitations of cameras: Snoop knocked out a Baltimore city camera and then proceeded into a house to kill someone.  Of course, if we put up cameras everywhere, it may be difficult for criminals to knock them all down.  That may just be the future for Operations Virtual Shield.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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2 Responses

  1. Ken Rhodes says:

    By coincidence (or perhaps not a coincidence) ABC Evening News (Diane Sawyer’s daily show) this evening featured a segment on domestic police and civilian use of drones for surveillance in the U.S.

  2. Danielle Citron says:

    Thanks for that, Ken. Will check it out.