Eye in the Sky

I just listened to an interesting podcast “Eye in the Sky” from Radiolab.


It talks about technology used in Iraq where a small plane flying above a city would take pictures every second.  Then when a bomb exploded they could go backward in time from the photos and track who placed the bomb, and then forward to follow where they went.  A special forces team could then go to that location to arrest the culprits.

Another example was related where the technology was used in Juarez, Mexico, where a police officer was ambushed and killed, the killers were tracked down, and a drug cartel was tracked and eventually busted.  This cartel had been responsible for over 1500 murders.

The technology was then offered to cities in the USA to help combat crime.  In Dayton, Ohio, it was considered but at a public hearing a vocal small minority opposed the plan and the city dropped the idea.  The major concern was potential government intrusion into privacy of the citizens.  Even the commentators for the podcast did not sound like they favored the idea.

I have to say I’m amazed by the objections.  Perhaps I’m too naive and trusting of government, but what’s not to like about this wonderful technology that, for a very low cost, could make dramatic progress in fighting crime?

Concerns were raised about violating rights of the people as per the Fourth Amendment:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

I think it would take a broad interpretation to say deploying this technology in our cities would violate this amendment.  But I suppose it could ultimately come down to a Supreme Court review to decide.  In the meantime, I bet cities would be very gun shy about civil suits as they consider it.  Such a shame.


One Reply to “Eye in the Sky”

  1. I had similar thoughts about that episode. But I have to believe that people smarter than me have thought it over and are wary about its implementation for good reasons. Even so, I think it’s a shame it can’t be utilized for so many good purposes.

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