A New Jersey police department has unveiled technology that allows 911 operators to stream video from callers’ smartphones. Sounds like a good idea, at first – but where does the surveillance stop?
Gloucester Township Police’s new 911eye emergency dispatch system lets emergency service operators see video live-streamed from a caller’s phone, giving first responders an idea of what they’re getting into before anyone is sent to the scene. For now, the caller has to activate the livestream with a link sent by the 911 dispatcher, which allows operators to use the phone’s camera and microphone. But this is the first step down a very slippery slope.
911eye, developed by Capita Secure Solutions and Services in conjunction with West Midlands Fire Service in the UK, represents a step toward frankly terrifying surveillance infrastructure that can turn any internet-capable device into a remote-activated surveillance tool. West Midlands Police were the first to embrace “pre-crime” technology in the UK, developing the National Data Analytics Solution to sniff out potential offenders and divert them with ostensibly therapeutic “interventions.”
If the fact that it was developed by the people behind the real-life version of ‘Minority Report’ isn’t enough reason to give 911eye a wide berth, take a look at Carbyne911, one of its competitors. Funded by deceased pedophile Jeffrey Epstein through former Israeli PM Ehud Barak, Carbyne911 markets itself as the solution to mass shootings. The program – founded by current and former Israeli intelligence personnel, which isn’t at all worrisome given that this country spies on the US so extensively it scares Congress – lets emergency dispatchers commandeer the camera and microphone of any internet-capable device within a certain range of the person who made the call.
Investors include Peter Thiel, whose company Palantir has been described as “using war on terror tools to track American citizens,” and its advisory board includes Patriot Act co-author Michael Chertoff, the former Department of Homeland Security chief. At least two US counties have reportedly adopted Carbyne911, despite obvious privacy issues (and the fact that while most of its employees and personnel have military-intelligence connections, few have a background in emergency services).
Of course, bad actors don’t need an “emergency services” app to turn your phone into a spying device. Israeli spyware manufacturer NSO Group’s Pegasus software has been wielded against human rights campaigners, journalists, and even politicians by governments including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to Amnesty International, which has sued the company for allowing its software to be weaponized against peaceful activists.
And how does Pegasus work? The hacker sends the target a link, and as soon as they click on it, the hacker can use the target’s smartphone camera and microphone as surveillance devices. Which sounds an awful lot like 911eye’s business model – but you can trust them. They’re the police, and they’re here to help.