Surveillance Camera News
S.C.N. Vol II. No. I
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Assorted News Items , Links and Press Peleases for: JUNE 2001
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Tuesday June 26, 5:35 pm Eastern Time
Rental Car Company Investigated
Rental Car Co. Investigated for Using Satellite Technology to Track
Customer's Alleged Speeding
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) --
The state Department of Consumer Protection is investigating
a complaint against a rental car company that used satellite
technology to track a New Haven customer's alleged speeding.
James Turner complained about Acme Rent-A-Car of New Haven
for using his rented minivan's global positioning system to clock his speed.
The tracking system is frequently used as a navigational aid.
Acme billed Turner $150 for each of three alleged speeding violations
last fall. Turner, 44, is suing in small claims court in New Haven to recover
``It's a scary situation to be given speeding tickets by way of satellite,
never having come into contact with a law enforcement agent,'' he said.
Bernadette Keyes, Turner's lawyer, said Acme's policy is ``sort of creepy.''
``Who monitors this? Do they have someone in the back room monitoring
where you go?'' she asked. ``I think there's some sort of privacy issues there.''
Rental contracts inform potential customers about the global positioning
systems, said Max Brunswick, a New Haven lawyer for Acme.
Turner signed a contract stipulating that vehicles driven ``in excess of posted
speed limits'' will be charged $150 each time, Brunswick said.
``Most people applaud it,'' he said. ``We're saving lives.''
The devices also are intended to reduce car wrecks and track cars that
customers fail to return, Brunswick said.
Acme fines motorists who drive faster than 79 mph for two minutes or longer,
but Keyes said her client drove 78 mph on two occasions and 83 mph once.
Wednesday June 20 05:15 PM EDT
Car spy pushes privacy limit
By Robert Lemos, ZDNet News
Is that Big Brother in the back seat? A Connecticut rental-car firm
is using new GPS technology to track customers-and then fine them
if they drive too fast. It's raising questions about invasion of privacy.
Car renters beware: Big Brother may be riding shotgun.
In a case that could help set the bar for the amount of privacy drivers
of rental cars can expect, a Connecticut man is suing a local rental
company, Acme Rent-a-Car, after it used GPS (Global Positioning
System) technology to track him and then fined him $450 for
speeding three times.
The case underscores the ways that new technologies can invade people's
privacy, said Richard Smith, chief technologist at the not-for-profit Privacy
"Soon our cell phones will be tracking us," he said. "GPS could
be one more on the checklist here. Frankly, giving out speeding
tickets is the job of the police, not of private industry."
Rental car companies have used GPS devices since the mid-1990s,
installing systems to give drivers directions while they're on the road.
"Fleet management" companies such as AirIQ and Fleetrack are also
selling newer tracking services that help companies monitor their vehicles.
The New Haven Small Claims Court case pits New Haven resident
James Turner against Acme. Turner also filed a claim with the Connecticut
Department of Consumer Protection.
Turner paid for the rental car with a debit card last fall and, after returning
the car, was shocked to find that an extra $450 had been taken out of his
account, according to an article in the New Haven Advocate, where the
case was first reported.
Turner could not be contacted for this article, and his attorney did not return phone calls.
When Turner contested the charges, Acme was able to point out on a map exactly where he
exceeded the company's threshold speed of 79 mph.
For Acme, however, the policy is not about penalizing customers but about protecting its cars,
said Max F. Brunswick, the attorney representing the company.
Acme recently decided to equip its cars with GPS technology and uses tracking services from
AirIQ to find stolen rental cars and charge customers for "dangerous" conduct. The policy is
stated in bold at the top of the rental agreement, Brunswick said.
"You have a problem in rental cars that people don't treat them like their own cars," Brunswick
said. "The main reason to put in the GPS receivers is not to track the people but to track the
vehicles. With this device you can track within a city block anywhere in the world."
That's not all that GPS and AirIQ can do. Calls to Acme itself were not returned, but information
on the company's Web site promotes the service's ability to track the vehicle's location, notify the
company when the car has crossed into another country or state, alert for "excessive speed," and
even disable the car remotely.
Other car companies and vehicle monitoring services have embraced GPS as well. General
Motors' roadside assistance service, known as OnStar, uses GPS to locate subscribers when they
call for help. The company expects its subscriber base to climb to 4 million by 2003.
However, both GPS and cell phone technologies have raised privacy concerns.
"The challenge right now is to ensure, before these services and capabilities are widely deployed,
that rules are in place," said David Sobel, general counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information
Center in Washington, D.C.
At present, both Turner and Acme have left the decision in the hands of the Department of
Consumer Protection. The judge in the small claims court case has delayed hearing the claim until
the department has issued a ruling.
Brunswick said Acme plans to abide by the Department of Consumer Protection's ruling. "If they
say it's not a fair practice, we will give him his money back," he said. "We are not out to make
money on this."
Sunday June 24 01:13 AM EDT
Black Shoppers Feel Bias From Department Stores
African Americans tracked by security cameras at the mall.
From the moment she and her daughter entered J.C. Penney's at the Aurora
Mall, just outside Denver, 30-year-old Zena Gordon was tracked by the store's
hidden surveillance cameras.
Gordon, like many African Americans across America, said that she was
targeted by the store simply because she was black. It's an increasing
problem, according to activists and many African Americans. Several suits
have been filed across the country alleging racial profiling at the mall.
Case Under Review
Gordon's experience at J.C. Penney's happened in November 1998. She came
to the department store to exchange a bra. As she left the store, she was
stopped by a security guard.
"He said, 'Ma'am, our videotapes show you taking a bra.' And I was like 'I
didn't take a bra,'" Gordon said. "I made an exchange and I tried to show
him the bra and the receipt but he totally ignored that."
Local police charged her with shoplifting, a charge that was subsequently dropped.
Gordon decided to try to file a class action lawsuit. A magistrate recommended
that most of the claims be dismissed, however she appealed and the federal judge
has the case under review.
"The only reason I was targeted was because I was black and they clearly know that's
why they watched me, because I was black," Gordon said.
J.C. Penney's officials say they are vigorously fighting the lawsuit.
"The allegations have been made and our company has a policy and we will protect
our good name, that we do not condone racial profiling," said J.C. Penney's official Melvin Paxton.
Gordon is not the first person to make the racial profiling complaint. Many African Americans say they
feel targeted as potential thieves when they go into stores and malls. They are calling the nationwide
problem "shopping while black."
Across the country many similar lawsuits have been filed against such major retailers as Dillard's,
Nordstrom, Bloomingdale's and Wal-Mart.
Chris McGoey, a loss prevention expert, says there's no evidence that blacks shoplift more than whites.
The problem, he says, is with biased security employees.
"Loss prevention personnel that are raised in a world where they believe that minorites are somehow
different, that they are somehow dishonest and not to be trusted, they will bring that to the workplace,"
J.C. Penney's say they do not condone such a practice. Executives spotchecked the four hours of
surveillance tapes taken by one camera operator during the time Gordon was in the store. They insisted
that cameras followed both blacks and whites.
They say they track shoppers who come in with shopping bags. And the practice is normal procedure.
National Boycotts Called
But Gordon's lawyers point out that the tape shows discriminatory behavior on J.C. Penney's part. They
claim that black shoppers were tracked three times more than white shoppers.
The tape shows a white woman carrying a bag and another one with a large bag yet the camera doesn't
follow either of them. Then when a black man enters the store the camera follows him.
Later in the tape a black man and a white man come into the store together, browse together, but then
seperate. The camera instantly follows the black man and not the white man.
Many black organizations are taking on the problem nationally by calling for boycotts and legal action.
The NAACP says it will call a boycott on store's that are found to follow the same practice of tracking
"Because we are a capitalistic society, many of these corporations really only understand economic
pressure and pressure with respect to their public image," said Kweisi Mfume, president of the NAACP.
Stores will either correct the problem or face losing black customers, say community leaders. And in this
economic climate, that's something retailers can ill-afford.
ABCNEWS' Carole Simpson contributed to this report.
Friday June 22 08:56 PM EDT
Third Nurse Accused Of Having Sex With Inmate
A third nurse at a Madison County jail is accused of having sex with an inmate.
Prosecutors on Thursday charged Kelly Scott, who worked at the Pendleton
Correctional Facility, with felony misconduct with an inmate. The prosecutors
say that Scott admitted to the sexual relationship.
Video taken by surveillance cameras, which were installed to catch tobacco
smuggling, led to the charges against the two other women who are accused.
One of them has pleaded guilty.
Tuesday June 19 01:56 AM EDT
City To Try Cameras As Crime-Fighting Tools
The City of Palm Springs is investing in a new kind of potential
deterrent to crime: closed-circuit television.
Last week, the city council voted in favor of seeking state
and federal grants that would enable Palm Springs to be one
of the first cities in the nation to install cameras to monitor
Under the plan, 22 cameras would be placed atop traffic
lights and street lamps on or around Palm Canyon Drive, the
so-called "Rodeo Drive" of the desert.
According to Palm Springs police, the area, which is
saturated in pricey businesses catering to tourists, has
recently become the epicenter of crime in the desert
We get calls for help from there "ranging anywhere from rape, robbery and assaults
down to vandalism," Palm Springs police spokesman Patrick Williams told CBS 2 News.
In the past year alone, Williams said, police have fielded 30,000 calls about crime along
the 12-block street.
Cameras would help law enforcement officials keep a closer watch on the area and
may dissuade lawbreakers from committing more of their misdeeds, according to
"This is an opportunity for us to add, in essence, the equivalent of 56 eyes of police
officers in an area that has demonstrated a need for additional levels of service," he told
CBS 2 News.
The annual cost of maintaining and operating the cameras would be roughly $300,000,
compared to $2 ½ million to hire more police officers, according to reports.
Each of the cameras would be connected via closed-circuit TV to the dispatch center of
the Palm Springs Police Department.
With the press of a button, dispatchers, watch commanders and supervisors would have
the ability to watch each and every move of persons on Palm Canyon Drive.
"We can call up a location, bring it into full-screen view, and then have the capabilities of
zooming, panning and operating the camera remotely from here," Williams said.
The cameras would be outfitted with a 22-plus zoom lens.
If a dispatcher received an emergency call, he or she could instantly locate the scene of
trouble, provided that it's within camera range.
Still, it causes many people great discomfort to know someone might be watching them.
In a letter to the editor of the Desert Sun, Robert Phillips of Palm Desert complained,
"Why not cameras and recorders in our homes to make sure we behave correctly?
"This Nazi mentality was the background for the murder of more than 6 million Jews …
in World War II."
Francine Sherman worried that cameras on street corners are sure to be followed by
cameras "zooming in on our homes."
Robert Levy wasn't so much concerned about privacy as he was the idea of police
officers not being where they're supposed to -- on the street.
"They need to be first-hand at the scene, watching what's going on -- not watching from
some office," Levy told CBS 2 News.
According to the Desert Sun, the cameras won't be installed until Palm Springs receives
federal and state funds for the project.
Once the cameras are in place, signs will be posted alerting pedestrians that they may
be under surveillance, according to CBS 2 News.
06/18/2001 - Updated 01:02 PM ET
Curb that candid camera
Most people don't walk into Wal-Mart or Kroger expecting to see James Bond
technology, but that's what they'll find in those and other retailers in dozens of
states. Customers step through the sliding glass doors and find an
innocuous-looking machine that can identify them with only a picture. Click.
Welcome to Wal-Mart, Mr. Smith.
The retailers are a step ahead of such technology leaders as NASA and
Microsoft in using "facial recognition technology." The device is part of a
check-cashing machine, which poses little risk of a surprise privacy invasion.
Customers will have to sign up to be part of the program.
But civil liberties advocates warn sternly of trouble ahead. While their demand
for strict regulations overreaches, their predictions are well worth considering.
Technology that's capable of invading privacy generally gets used to doing just
that, no matter how innocent its original purpose.
Companies have used pre-employment drug testing as a cover for pregnancy
tests and used DNA test results to discriminate. Electronic tollbooths meant to
speed passage have instead produced records that end up in divorce court,
among other places. In each case, a new technology led to unexpected
invasions of privacy.
So far, facial-recognition technology hasn't been applied in particularly
objectionable ways. The most controversial so far was at the last Super Bowl,
where local police checked a digital snapshot of every fan entering the stadium
against a high-tech database of fugitive criminals and suspects. Ticket holders
NASA plans to use the technology as a security check when its workers
access data from their home computers. Microsoft wants in as a way to make
e-commerce safer. Similar software is already in use in Illinois to catch those
seeking fake driver's licenses, and in Massachusetts, New York and New
Jersey to cut down on welfare fraud. Kentucky is considering another system
to bolster its gun-background checks.
The problem lies in what might come next. Stores today track and sell
information on their customers' buying habits by getting them to accept discount
cards. The customers are willingly selling their privacy. Facial-recognition
technology makes that step unnecessary. If broadly deployed, the technology
would allow tracking of people's activities and whom they associate with.
Yet there are no federal rules for the use of the technology.
Two measures could mitigate the risk:
• Disclosure: When a camera is installed, its purpose should be disclosed
• Limited record keeping: When police use the device, irrelevant information
must be quickly discarded. The technology is a boon if used to locate and
apprehend criminals, but a problem when it creates an easily searchable record
of who walked past a particular camera.
A harder question is how to curb a slowly growing private market in tracking
personal habits and whereabouts. At the very least, businesses should adhere to
already-adopted standards preserving the "right of individuals to limit the
distribution of data beyond the stated purposes."
Those curbs on facial-recognition technology won't satisfy privacy advocates,
but they could deter wholesale invasions of privacy before anyone is hurt.
Stepping outside any one of them, as happened at the Super Bowl, is an
invitation to more strict regulation.
Wednesday June 13 12:39 AM EDT
Spy Devices Let Parents Monitor Children
Parents now have a tool to help keep track of their children around the clock.
Using technology, hidden cameras, microphones and other monitoring
devices, parents can spy on their children while away from home.
Kathie Jacobus put the technology to the test. Using an air purifier and
a smoke detector, both fitted with hidden cameras, she and her
husband monitored their two teenage sons.
"I don't really feel like I'm spying on them because I want good
communication with my children and I think it is one way to say, 'Yea.'
They are communicating with you, they're doing what they say,"
The worst thing that she caught on tape was one of her sons sharing a
late night snack with a friend.
"If you're ever going out of town, this is the way to go. I mean, you can see everything that goes
on," Jacobus says.
Parents can also keep track of their children when their driving around metro area using global
positioning system, or GPS, tracking technology. The systems track where a car goes and how
fast it travels to let parents know how their children are driving when they're not around to
Some of the GPS systems shave memory, which allows parents to produce maps and logs that
show where their children have been.
Tuesday 19 June 2001
Kelowna plans public video surveillance
Police ready to put up five cameras
Chris Sorensen Vancouver Sun
Kelowna residents and B.C. families vacationing in the Okanagan city this
summer may feel they're being watched.
Kelowna RCMP recently announced a plan to install five video surveillance
cameras to monitor the city's downtown core before the tourist season
begins in July.
If the project goes forward as planned, Kelowna will become the first B.C.
municipality to use wide-scale video surveillance to help police public areas.
Kelowna RCMP has successfully operated one video surveillance camera in
the city's downtown for nearly two years.
Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray said city councillors approved this camera
several years ago and at the same time gave the RCMP the go-ahead to
install additional cameras in the future.
"We're all convinced that the program has been successful," Gray said.
RCMP Corporal Reg Burgess said the cameras are another tool to combat
crime. "The cameras aren't meant to replace police patrols, but it does help
prevent crimes committed out in the open."
A similar proposal to install 26 surveillance cameras in Vancouver's
Downtown Eastside was made by Vancouver police in 1999, but eventually
scrapped due to lack of public support.
Kelowna's existing camera is mounted atop a metal pole overlooking a busy
bus loop with a history of drug activity.
Following its installation above Queensway bus loop, Burgess said RCMP
saw a significant drop in the number of calls to that area, although he said
the criminals likely moved somewhere else.
"[The cameras] do, in some circumstances, prevent crime, but they mostly
displace crime," he said.
Burgess added that, by shifting crime away from Kelowna's downtown core
into residential neighbourhoods, police will be alerted to criminal activity
more quickly by homeowners.
However, Garth Barriere, a policy director for the B.C. Civil Liberties
Association, said Kelowna's plan is misguided, and potentially dangerous.
"The last thing you want to do is move criminals into residential districts,"
Barriere said. "You don't want to jeopardize the security of people in their
"That money is better spent on hiring more police."
City's trolleys get surveillance system
Jan. 22, 2000
By Joshua Moore
Herald Staff Writer
On many school buses, hiding from the driver’s gaze in the
rear-facing mirror is part of the fun. But you better not try
any of those shenanigans on the Durango trolley, because
a new high-tech surveillance system will record your every
move and sound.
A digital surveillance system equipped with six cameras is
being installed on two of the city’s trolleys for free by
Loronix Information Systems Inc.
Loronix is a La Plata County-based company that has built
digital surveillance equipment and software since 1997.
The equipment and software are a new generation of
technology for Loronix, and the company is allowing
the city to use the technology for free to test it, said
Scott Jankowski, the transit division sales manager for Loronix.
"We’ve been talking to the city for a year about a beta testing
agreement, and the diesel lift is going to be a perfect testing
lane," Jankowski said.
"The opportunity to work locally with a transit system is an
advantage for us, because we don’t always have
the opportunity to have access to the transit system."
The six fixed cameras are secured inside clear domes and
record activity in the trolley’s seating area, stairway,
and also around the front and sides of the trolley.
Up to four days’ worth of digital video and audio segments
are recorded on a removable hard disk, which can
then be viewed on a computer terminal, Jankowski said.
The images can then be reproduced for viewing in a courtroom.
Jan Choti, the transit manager for the city, said the surveillance
system’s biggest benefit will be in reducing the number of
fraudulent lawsuits from people who claim to be injured on the
"A $500 slip is as important to us as a $500,000 slip is to a larger system,"
Choti said. "While we of course pay a claim if someone is legitimately
injured on a bus, this will point out if someone is trying to stretch the truth.
"Also, if I get a report that one of my drivers was less than courteous,
I can show someone that no, you were
less than courteous."
In exchange for the opportunity to test its new system, Jankowski
said Loronix will install the system and
service it at no cost for a year; if the city wants to buy the system,
Loronix will give the city a discount –
between $9,000 and $12,000 for the camera system on each bus,
and about $7,000 for each terminal where the
data can be reviewed.
Choti said she will use the free 12 months of service to compare
the number of incidents and allegations with
those of other years. At the end of the free year, Choti and City
Manager Bob Ledger will decide whether the
service should continue, she said.
Funds for the purchase of the equipment would have to be included
in the city’s 2001 budget, which would
then have to be approved by the City Council, Choti said.
The new surveillance system will allow the city to monitor all activity
both on and off the trolleys, removing
the possibility of "he said/she said" scenarios, Choti said.
"You won’t be able to do anything in and around the trolley without
being seen," Choti said. "And if you’re
being watched, you’ll probably behave."
Contents copyright © 2000, the Durango Herald. All rights reserved.
S.C. Legislature at Budget Impasse
By JIM DAVENPORT, Associated Press Writer
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Here's what's been going in the South
Carolina Legislature this session: a nasty change in Senate control, a
squabble over a surveillance camera that is a little too intrusive, and a
furor over a prank memo urging female pages to wear more skimpy
And now lawmakers are at a budget impasse that could lead to a government shutdown.
The budget is a week past due, and the Democratic governor - dealing with South Carolina's first
Republican-controlled Senate since Reconstruction - said he will not call legislators back to work until
they agree on a plan to spend proceeds from the state's new lottery.
Last week, Democratic state Sen. Tommy Moore declared: ``It's time to stop the childish partisan
``People out there in the real world don't like what's going on in Washington,'' he said. ``And I think
they're sick and tired of South Carolina trying to emulate Washington.''
Last year, the Legislature wrestled down the Confederate flag in an especially turbulent few months.
This session has been rocky from the start. In January, a Senate Democrat, Verne Smith, defected to
the GOP at the urging of President Bush (news - web sites), breaking the 23-23 tie in the chamber.
Republicans then used their majority to kick Democrats out of chairmanships - and offices - that
previously had been awarded based on seniority.
About the same time, tempers flared about a powerful security camera system that worried Senate
members because of its ability to peer at desk papers and zoom in as they caucused on the floor.
The cameras, part of a system installed under Democratic control, were controlled from the office of a
former Senate clerk who is now a researcher for the Democrats.
Though the Senate building and operations manager said the cameras were never used for spying, the
system is now overseen by the Senate sergeant-at-arms, with rules restricting the cameras' use.
At the same time, lawmakers have been confronted with a financial crunch that has forced them to cut
$500 million, or nearly 10 percent, from the state's budget.
``The fact that the coffers are empty - or hardly as full - probably puts an extra ingredient in the game,''
said Neal Thigpen, a Francis Marion University political science professor.
In recent days, the Statehouse has been in an uproar over an anonymous memo encouraging female
pages to wear shorter skirts, no underwear, and blouses that show cleavage.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has opened a preliminary investigation into the memo,
which was a spoof reply after members of the Legislature's Women's Caucus complained about some
pages' immodest outfits.
Gov. Jim Hodges had called for the investigation, and then suspended one of his aides for three days for
calling House members ``cavemen'' in a memo.