Surveillance Concerns Spark Conflict in Colorado Suburb

License plate readers are a contentious topic

Surveillance camera
The privacy/security debate takes a new form.
Nathy Dog/Unsplash

How much privacy would you give up for increased peace of mind? That’s not a small question, but it’s one that takes many forms around the world. It’s also something that’s no longer just a question of surveillance in public spaces, like the methods used in London right now. The increased popularity of doorbell cameras, for instance, creates a disconcerting overlap between homeowners and local police departments. And that’s not the only area where surveillance technology is making a big move into suburbia.

At The Washington Post, Drew Harwell documented an ongoing conflict among homeowners in Golden, Colorado. At issue was one neighborhood homeowners association’s decision to purchase a license plate reader to log cars going into and out of the neighborhood in question. This led to some residents pushing back against the decision, noting that bears are responsible for most break-ins in the area — and raising concerns over whether having residents’ automotive movements constantly monitored was worth it.

The article cites a statistic from the company Flock Safety, which is known for its camera systems and surveillance technology, that offers a sense of how widespread their tech has become. Flock Safety systems can be found in 40 states, and log data related to a billion vehicles every month.

The Golden residents who objected to the installation of a license plate readers are not alone in their concerns. Last year, the Electronic Frontier Foundation released a document citing a number of reasons as to why these systems could cause more problems than they prevent. This includes everything from casting doubt on whether they actually increase neighborhood security levels to raising concerns over the possibility of police abusing the information gleaned from them.

In the end, the Post reports, the neighborhood ended up getting cameras installed. But the issues raised in the lead-up to that moment show no signs of going away.

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