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EFF Compiles Data on Surveillance Operations on Citizens Across the Nation

by Dale Chappell

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (“EFF”) released a new report in November 2020 on the variety of ways that law enforcement agencies spy on the general public. Called Real-Time Crime Centers (“RTCC”), police and other agencies can monitor all sorts of data collected from surveillance of citizens.

While fusion centers and RTCCs are similar and referred to interchangeably, they aren’t the same. Fusion centers are command centers that operate on a larger regional level, and are part of the Department of Homeland Security. They’re supposed to focus mainly on national security threats. RTCCs, however, focus on the municipal or county level and deal with public safety issues.

The problem is that RTCCs are used by law enforcement to mine historical data to inform “predictive policing.” That’s where the police use data about past crimes to predict where crime might happen. It’s a controversial strategy that has been disproven. It’s also been shown to cause overpolicing of poor and mostly black neighborhoods.

EFF located more than 80 RTCCs in 29 states across the country, with most in New York and Florida, but some in places such as Utah and New Mexico.

The Atlas of Surveillance project is a collaboration between the EFF and the Reynolds School of Journalism that’s building a central database of police technologies using open-source intelligence. As of November 15, 2020, the Atlas contains more than 6,100 data points ranging from automated license-plate readers to drones and other police technology.



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