0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 Google+ 0 Buffer 0 0 Flares ×

The Los Angeles Police Department is hardly denying that it's using technology to help keep track of where ex-cons, and those who are most likely to break the law, are most likely to be found.

Not only do these tools allow higher-ups to assign additional patrol officers to these areas, they say, it's also helped reduce crime rates.

Part of it relates to data collection while the other part is real-time computer tracking; the program uses both street-intelligence and high-speed computer calculations to point officers in a particular direction.  Sources within the LAPD says it's been so successful that the program has started to get national attention.

Concerns about privacy rights

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been among those who are speaking out against the use of spy software.

A recent report found that 40 California counties spent more than $65 million on this type of surveillance in the past 10 years alone.  This spans everything from the use of drones, to license plate readers and even cell phone interception technology.

The ACLU's biggest gripe is that the public is being kept in the dark in terms of how, when and where these types of tools are being used.  If the public isn't aware of it, they said, these systems are far more likely to be abused.

Only a handful of these communities have access to law enforcement policies and procedures for the use of spy technology;  most were entirely in the dark about the ways police and sheriff's officials were collecting data.

The agency is also concerned that this finding is just the tip of the iceberg; this spending only accounts for funds that have been obtained through city council and county supervisor approval.  It doesn't include what may have been purchased through the use of state or federal grant funding.

The debate over a 'necessary evil'

While a great number of people see value in using spy technology to help curb crime rates, nearly everyone agrees that the public needs greater transparency.

The use of license plate readers, for example, helps streamline a process that would otherwise involve officers manually looking information up.  On the flip side of that coin, privacy rights groups say the public should be and needs to be aware of when Big Brother is watching.

A similar argument is being made when it comes to law enforcement agencies deploying spy drones.

Concerns over how data is being used

The ACLU says they are worried that the LAPD's data collection systems may be compiling files against citizens simply based on whether that person is likely to commit a crime, which violates federal law.

And although higher ups suggest system analysts delete names from their list after a set period of time, there isn't any hard criteria that requires them to do so.

Others say that while there are benefits to using algorithms to collect data and predict crime, that law enforcement agencies need to be cautious and make sure they don't cross an intelligence gathering line.