Big tech is in the throes of a heady, voyeuristic power ride: Siri is listening to people having sex, Alexa is gathering intel inside the home to target advertising, and the smart television is, in reality, watching you. How Americans have accepted this invasion of privacy is beyond the pale. But it is also commonplace for consumers eager to grasp the latest shiny technical gizmo in return for their last modicum of privacy.
It must be gratifying and perhaps a bit titillating, this super-spy phenomenon; so much so that New Jersey cops have decided to get in on the action. The police department of Gloucester Township has unveiled a new program called 911eye, which allows emergency-dispatch operators to live stream video from emergency callers. On the surface, it seems to be a solid tool in assisting law enforcement and first responders in evaluating what kind of scene they are approaching. Because witnesses are notoriously inconsistent in relaying real-time information, many welcome this boon for police preparedness.
What could possibly go wrong?
Eye in the Sky
Criminals loathe the smartphone technology that can provide so much information to the authorities. A tap of laptop keys and GPS is enabled. With a few keystrokes, cell phones, laptops, televisions – all can live stream to the National Security Administration or, in New Jersey’s case, to the 911 dispatcher. That’s a lot of power for the locals to wield. But criminals aren’t the only ones being watched, and therein lies the rub of crime-fighting widgets.
Capita Secure Solutions and Services developed the software, and, as it stands now, Gloucester Township must seek permission from the emergency caller and send an app to click on before being able to live stream and share with first responders. It’s a bit cumbersome if bullets are flying and cell service is sketchy.
But it’s a giant stride down the slippery slope, as the momentum gathers and morphs into its true purpose: an infrastructure that can turn any internet-capable device into a superspy surveillance gadget with the click of a remote. Inventors call it “pre-crime” technology, and you won’t believe the troupe of actors involved in the creation of such invasive technology.
Spies Like Us
The 911eye technology was created to compete with Carbyne911, which warns on its website it is “building for the dramatically different 911 environment that is coming.” And, frankly, the masterminds behind Carbyne could be considered a sinister lot.
Jeffrey Epstein, yes, the now-deceased felonious financier, was the man with the money. But the who’s who list on the company roster is to be noted with interest: former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak; Nicole Junkermann, a major shareholder of China’s third-largest sports retailer; and former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, co-author of the US Patriot Act. Can you say embedded in global power circles?
The team behind 911eye is a bit more localized: former state law enforcement heavyweights and several highly decorated veterans from Army Rangers to US Marine Special Operations Command. But the technology is the same, and it can be abused if an American hero decides to become a soldier of fortune. The point: In the wrong hands, 911eye could cause a massive security breach because it allows dispatchers to remotely control the camera and microphone of any internet-capable device within a certain range of the person who made the call.
Add a hacker to the mix and you have absolute invasive chaos that may be unknown to the intended target, who receives a link and clicks on it. As easy as one, two, three, and a smartphone camera and microphone become James Bond-worthy surveillance devices.
But stay calm, everyone: They’re from the government. What’s not to trust?