There is a very fine line between advanced, technology-enabled methods of surveillance and infringement on the right of Americans to not undergo unreasonable search and seizure, a right guaranteed by the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
That line is now being put under a microscope as law enforcement departments begin to test use of a “Live Google Earth” program that can and will allow police departments to monitor potential criminal activity in real time (and all non-criminal activity).
Although early reports note Persistent Surveillance Systems (PSS) , the technology behind the new sky-based monitoring ability, does not have the ability to zoom-in close enough to identify a single person’s actual face, Constitutionally-conscious individuals all over the country are raising concerns about the practice overall, especially considering the fact that as camera technologies improve, so too will PSS monitoring technology.
According to an article from Inquisitr, PSS uses cameras mounted to civilian airplanes in order to monitor a 25-square-mile area for upwards of 6 hours at a time. For law enforcement officials, this must appear incredibly useful; technology from the sky can now constantly and effortlessly monitor the movements of citizens below. However, for the people below, this technology is an example of law enforcement overreach.
The 4th Amendment ensures “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” The U.S. Supreme Court has prudently taken an expansive view of the 4th Amendment, ensuring that Americans’ rights to privacy remain consistent with ever-developing forms of technological spying, surveillance, etc. It seems, then, that unreasonable surveillance of Americans, such as the type of surveillance made available by PSS technology, is quite possibly a violation of the 4th Amendment.
According to the recent reports, this sky-based surveillance has been in use for more than a year in select cities across the country. In one test city, Compton, police were able to watch the entirety of the city, tracking the movements of cars as well as people. Such nonstop and largely unavoidable surveillance seems to fly in the face of the notion of privacy. If you are walking around in your backyard, you are subject to surveillance; if you are driving to a friend’s house, the eyes in the sky are watching where and when you’re driving.
Our criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert certainly understand the importance of keeping a watchful eye on potential criminal activity. Our former prosecutors recognize that, after all, it is far more useful to identify and prevent criminal activity before it occurs than it is to realize what has gone wrong after it’s already happened. However, treating everyone like a suspected criminal is not the answer. Law-abiding citizens should not feel that they are immediately and consistently under a magnifying glass when they walk outside.