Big Brother: Police Use Growing Arsenal of Spy Gadgets

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Law enforcement agencies are deploying an onslaught of new technology to collect information on criminals and unsuspecting citizens alike, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Body cameras, cellphone hacking devices, license plate scanners and facial-recognition software are giving authorities access to broad data on individuals who often have no clue how information about them is gathered, stored and shared. The rapid emergence of such tech tools is raising alarm about the extent of surveillance — and how laws safeguarding data and guaranteeing public access to it are failing to keep up.

Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies are increasingly reluctant to disclose what’s in their high-tech arsenal. “You have an obvious collision when you have technology moving at the speed of sound and light, and you have a bureaucracy that is constantly behind,” said Jim Franklin, director of the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association. Some agencies are skirting a 2015 state law requiring disclosure of video, audio, photographic and other monitoring techniques by police. The divisive issue is cutting across party lines at state capitols. Minnesota legislators were concerned enough about safeguards against misuse of cellphone tracking devices that they required police to get warrants to use them, and then make those warrants public.

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