Sunday, November 6, 2011

"You're only a stranger here once!" ~Tampa, FL

Do you recall my prediction about Tampa?
FutureWatch (September 2008) - Although facial recognition and tracking didn't catch on the first go-around (the Tampa, Florida experiment), it is ripe for a come-back. 5 years from now, this will be commonplace – along with automatic license plate readers and motion-intention evaluators.

August 2003 - Tampa police have scrapped their controversial security camera system that scanned city streets for criminals, citing its failure over two years to recognize anyone wanted by authorities.

July 2001 - The Tampa City Council took a fully-informed look at Ybor City's controversial high-tech face-scanning software. When the dust settled, the council split down the middle with a 3-3 vote on whether or not to do away with the face-scanning software.

Fast Forward... 2011 - via National Motorists Association...
The request reads like a shopping list for a counter-terrorism strike: low-light cameras to identify people and vehicles at 100 meters, helmet-mounted cameras, cameras for "use around high-risk activities" and cameras that can read license plates across three lanes of traffic.

In reality, it’s part of a plan proposed by Tampa city officials to provide security for next year’s Republican National Convention. Funds to buy or lease the gear are expected to come from federal taxpayers in the form of a $55 million congressional appropriation.

The surveillance will target convention protestors (as many as 10,000, according to convention organizers), but, given the sweeping nature of the plan, many bystanders and motorists are likely to be ensnared as well.

And while police officials admit they may not get all 238 cameras on the original request, critics are already reacting. A spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida likens the approach to "hitting a gnat with a sledgehammer." (To be fair, officials canceled a request for two aerial surveillance drones due to cost concerns.)

FutureWatch - Drones are already in some state and local police toy chests. Tampa will eventually get one, too.