EFF Launches Searchable Database of Police Agencies and the Tech Tools They Use to Spy on Communities

Electronic Frontier Foundation

San Francisco—The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), in partnership with the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, today launched the largest-ever collection of searchable data on police use of surveillance technologies, created as a tool for the public to learn about facial recognition, drones, license plate readers, and other devices law enforcement agencies are acquiring to spy on our communities.

The Atlas of Surveillance database, containing several thousand data points on over 3,000 city and local police departments and sheriffs’ offices nationwide, allows citizens, journalists, and academics to review details about the technologies police are deploying, and provides a resource to check what devices and systems have been purchased locally.

Users can search for information by clicking on regions, towns, and cities, such as Minneapolis, Tampa, or Tucson, on a U.S. map. They can also easily perform text searches by typing the names of cities, counties, or states on a search page that displays text results. The Atlas also allows people to search by specific technologies, which can show how surveillance tools are spreading across the country.

Built using crowdsourcing and data journalism over the last 18 months, the Atlas of Surveillance documents the alarming increase in the use of unchecked high-tech tools that collect biometric records, photos, and videos of people in their communities, locate and track them via their cell phones, and purport to predict where crimes will be committed.

While the use of surveillance apps and face recognition technologies are under scrutiny amid the COVID-19 pandemic and street protests, EFF and students at University of Nevada, Reno, have been studying and collecting information for more than a year in an effort to, for the first time, aggregate data collected from news articles, government meeting agendas, company press releases, and social media posts.

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