Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Audio Surveillance, Intended to Detect Gunshots, Can Pick Up Much More

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the he-ain't-heavy-but-he's-a-very-good-listener dept.

Privacy 215

New submitter groovethefish writes "This NYT article highlights the use of electronic listening devices installed on utility poles, buildings, and other structures, then centrally monitored for gunshots. The company SureSpotter claims it helps reduce time wasted by police searching for the source of gunfire in their patrol areas, but the privacy implications are just hitting the courts. If they are monitoring 24/7 and also pickup conversations along with gunshots, can that be used against the people who are recorded?" Evidently, Yes: the linked article describes just such a case. Continues groovethefish: "The company line, from the article: 'James G. Beldock, a vice president at ShotSpotter, said that the system was not intended to record anything except gunshots and that cases like New Bedford's were extremely rare. "There are people who perceive that these sensors are triggered by conversations, but that is just patently not true," he said. "They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot."'"

cancel ×

215 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

No expectation of privacy (5, Informative)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143137)

QUOTE: "In at least one city, New Bedford, Mass., where sensors recorded a loud street argument that accompanied a fatal shooting last December, the system has raised questions about privacy and the reach of police surveillance, even in the service of reducing gun violence."

The Supreme Court has ruled people have no expectation of privacy in a public setting or publicly-open facility (like a mall). Note that also includes cops who try to make you turn-off your videocamera or audio recorder. They don't have any right to privacy either, and can not force you to turn them off, or confiscate & erase the evidence.

Re:No expectation of privacy (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143327)

QUOTE: "In at least one city, New Bedford, Mass., where sensors recorded a loud street argument that accompanied a fatal shooting last December, the system has raised questions about privacy and the reach of police surveillance, even in the service of reducing gun violence."

The Supreme Court has ruled people have no expectation of privacy in a public setting or publicly-open facility (like a mall). Note that also includes cops who try to make you turn-off your videocamera or audio recorder. They don't have any right to privacy either, and can not force you to turn them off, or confiscate & erase the evidence.

There are twelve states in which all parties must consent to being audio recorded, otherwise it's a felony, one of which is Massachusetts. Ten of those states have an 'expectation of privacy' clause which would make recording people in a park legal. The two which don't are Illinois and, you guessed it, Massachusetts.

Re:No expectation of privacy (3, Informative)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143725)

>>>one of which is Massachusetts

Yes and that law is now nullified by the First Circuit Court of the U.S. which declared "citizens have a first amendment right to record their public officials in the performance of their duties." - Then they freed the citizen who was being charged under wiretap laws for recording an law enforcement officer.

In other words, cops may not force you to turn off your camera, per your 1st amendment "freedom of the press" right which allows not just recording conversation with pen-and-paper (like the old days) but also with audio or video.

Re:No expectation of privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40144581)

>>>one of which is Massachusetts

Yes and that law is now nullified by the First Circuit Court of the U.S. which declared "citizens have a first amendment right to record their public officials in the performance of their duties."

That's nice, but what does it have to do with recording a private citizen, as is the case in this article?

Re:No expectation of privacy (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#40144595)

In other words, cops may not force you to turn off your camera

Except that they can still ask you to turn off your camera, and they can still arrest you if you don't. They just have to come up with some other charge(contempt of cop), or release you without charge after holding you long enough to miss the shot. And if you got it, oops, the sd card went missing somehow. Too bad about that. That's if your lucky and the officer didn't mistake your camera for a gun.

Has any officer anywhere been disciplined in any way (other than paid vacation) for violating the legal rights of a photographer? Unless you can answer in the affirmative, the circuit court decision doesn't mean anything really.

The protections we actually have against criminals in uniform are vanishingly slim.

Re:No expectation of privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40144691)

I'm willing to bet that corruption is highest in those states where both parties must consent. That ruling needs to be extended to everyone, not just public officials. The corruption in private business in Illinois is just as bad as in government. As a new transplant to this state (from SW USA), the corruption and incompetence in both government and private enterprises that people are exposed to on a regular basis is staggering.

Re:No expectation of privacy (2)

Java Pimp (98454) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143919)

I believe that applies when there IS an expectation of privacy. I most certainly can video tape in public places and unintentionally (or intentionally) record activities of bystanders. If not, no one would be able to have video of their kids on the beach or at an amusement park or video of any other kind of public activity.

Cops can get away with it unfortunately (5, Insightful)

sjbe (173966) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143339)

They don't have any right to privacy either, and can not force you to turn them off, or confiscate & erase the evidence.

They may not have any right to privacy but they certainly can, in real life, force you to turn them off, confiscate and erase the evidence. Doesn't mean it is legal for them to do so but they certainly are capable of doing it and probably will get away with it too. After all, once the evidence is deleted it becomes your word against theirs and they tend to hold the advantage there. Obviously cops should be held at least to the same standards as regular citizens (if not higher standard) but we know that it doesn't always work out the way it should in actual practice. The certainly aren't going to get thrown in jail and probably not even reprimanded and they know it.

Re:Cops can get away with it unfortunately (1)

Frank T. Lofaro Jr. (142215) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143527)

A system where it gets sent it real time to the Internet would handle the confiscation of evidence issue.

Re:Cops can get away with it unfortunately (5, Insightful)

silas_moeckel (234313) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143947)

A system where they are fired and sent to jail for 20 years as a federal crime would help a bit as well.

Re:Cops can get away with it unfortunately (0, Troll)

tgd (2822) | more than 2 years ago | (#40144003)

A system where they are fired and sent to jail for 20 years as a federal crime would help a bit as well.

The way unions control things here, they'd probably be sent to jail for 20 years and not be fired... and continue to collect pay.

Re:Cops can get away with it unfortunately (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 2 years ago | (#40144089)

The way unions control things here, they'd probably be sent to jail for 20 years and not be fired... and continue to collect pay.

There are in fact a number of cases of "dirty cops" in jail and also collecting their pension.

Re:Cops can get away with it unfortunately (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40144117)

>>>force you to turn them off, confiscate and erase the evidence

Yes they can FORCE you to do it. That's what government is best at: Use of force to suppress natural rights. BUT you can also prosecute the cops under the law for destruction of material evidence. He would be fined or demoted.

Re:Cops can get away with it unfortunately (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40144221)

He would be fined or demoted.

Yeah. Good luck with that.

Re:Cops can get away with it unfortunately (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40144473)

>He would be fined or demoted.

LOL, yeah right.

Re:Cops can get away with it unfortunately (2)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#40144549)

>>>force you to turn them off, confiscate and erase the evidence

Yes they can FORCE you to do it. That's what government is best at: Use of force to suppress natural rights. BUT you can also prosecute the cops under the law for destruction of material evidence. He would be fined or demoted.

I think you meant to say that he will receive 2 weeks on administrative leave with pay (what most of us call "vacation") while the situation is investigated, then he'll be cleared and returned to duty.

Re:No expectation of privacy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143419)

True. Anyone expecting privacy in public is an idiot.

However, being in the public eye is NOT the same as active omniscient police surveillance. Especially when the law is such that everyone is a suspect if not an outright criminal.

Re:No expectation of privacy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143739)

They don't have any right to privacy either, and can not force you to turn them off, or confiscate & erase the evidence.

Actually, they can force you to do pretty much anything. Even things that are supposed to be constitutionally protected. They have the weapons, the training, and the discretion. Tell me that when an officer orders you to do something, you're going to simply say no? Police are taught that they have to be the ones completely in control of every situation. Saying no isn't an option. If you do, they just take the camera by force and break it. Maybe put you in the back of the squad car for 20 minutes while he or she tries to think of something to charge you with. If you're lucky that day, you'll get off with a verbal warning.

Afterward, if you feel like your rights may have been infringed, you can file a complaint. With the police.

Re:No expectation of privacy (1)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143913)

The problem with police recordings are that the police have no responsibility to give the recording in full to the defense; they can limit what they introduce into evidence to just what would be beneficial to securing a conviction, and leave out anything that could help the accused.

Re:No expectation of privacy (2)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40144269)

>>> the police have no responsibility to give the recording in full to the defense

Yes they do. If it's later discovered they were withholding evidence, the defendent is automatically freed because he didn't get a fair trial. So the police have a responsibility to turn over everything (else they'd just be stupid).

Re:No expectation of privacy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40144741)

Unfortunately I don't believe that is the case in most states. I know that there are court cases where it has been upheld that while a audio recording was made of an interrogation, and notes were made from that recording and entered into evidence, the actual recording which was supposedly deleted/destroyed did not need to be submitted to the defense (often in cases of alleged physical/psychological coercion of a admission of guilt).

Re:No expectation of privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40144039)

That's one of the most irritating American legal principles to me. Of course I can be in a public setting and expect privacy. For example, when I'm in a park, with nobody else within 50 yards, and I talk to a friend, then I expect that to be a private conversation. How does a court dare say whether I have an expectation of privacy or not? Even if we are to interpret "have no expectation of privacy" to mean that we "should not have an expectation of privacy", that's still wrong. Why would I not expect a conversation like that to be private? And when that can't be private, why should a letter sent through the postal system be private? Or a VOIP conversation?

Regarding the gunshot detectors: Clearly they should only relay precise and accurate timestamps of possible gunshots, but no sound data, so that a central system can triangulate the noise source.

Re:No expectation of privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40144541)

If you want to have a "private" conversation, do it on private property, not public property. You should not expect privacy in public, period. Sometimes you may have it afforded to you by chance, but expectation of privacy in public areas is not a smart or realistic expectation. Letters and VOIP conversations are protected by law specifically, and that is why you can expect them to be considered "private".

According to your logic, I should be able to run naked and screaming through public areas, and then get upset when people pay attention to me.

Re:No expectation of privacy (1)

SandorZoo (2318398) | more than 2 years ago | (#40144655)

Regarding the gunshot detectors: Clearly they should only relay precise and accurate timestamps of possible gunshots, but no sound data, so that a central system can triangulate the noise source.

The TFA says that the recordings are reviewed by a person first, before being passed on to the police. I guess the software isn't quite as reliable at differentiating gunshots as they would like it to be. Of course, the actual recordings don't have to be handed over, but I guess they could be subpoenaed later.

I was somewhat surprised by this bit of the article:

Detroit's City Council last year rejected the police department's proposal for a three-year, $2.6 million contract, with one City Council member objecting that not enough officers were available to respond to the alerts.

I'm a European living a relatively crime-free city, but it boggles my mind that a city in a 1st world country might not have enough police officers to respond to every single gunshot. Just how crime ridden is Detroit, and how long before we see a real life ED209?

Re:No expectation of privacy (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 2 years ago | (#40144861)

Just how crime ridden is Detroit,

I happened to see a headline today which can answer that question. From just this past weekend , 40 shootings, 10 dead.

Detroit is very crime ridden, if not the worst, probably second in terms of overall shootings, drug incidents, etc. That saying about not driving around in certain neighbors after dark applies to a large portion of Detroit even during the day.

a city in a 1st world country might not have enough police officers to respond to every single gunshot.

Unlike where you live, where you might hear a gunshot once a month, there are daily shootings in every large and mid-sized city in the U.S. Even the cruddy backwater place I work in, ~48K people, has at least one shooting every day.

Further, it's not just one officer who responds to a gunshot, at a minimum, two will show up and usually four or five. That means the remaining police have to cover a larger area where other gunshots (or other crimes) may occur.

Re:No expectation of privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40144073)

Technically you may be correct, but in real life you'll probably end up in a jail cell if you don't shut off/turn over your personal recording device to an officer demanding it. There is no shortage of videos on Youtube where officers harass, assault and arrest people for videotaping them. Even if it is technically illegal, no officer has ever (to my knowledge) been charged for destroying/"losing" a camera or deleting evidence. Where as if you attempt to turn off or delete audio/video footage from a public/police recording device you can be assured that you WILL end up being convicted of felony "Destruction of Public Property/Evidence" charges.

"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot." (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143149)

"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot."

So, how are they listening for a gunshot, and then recording the gunshot, after the gunshot was fired?! Is that not a blatant lie or am I being daft?

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (5, Insightful)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143215)

I think they mean the recording portion doesn't turn on unless the sensing portion detects a gunshot. A poorly worded sentence, to be sure. It's like your TV - even when your TV is "off", the small component that listens for your remote is still on.

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143247)

How can you verify a sound was a gunshot THEN record it?

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (1)

Lumpio- (986581) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143285)

I think a short circular buffer (a gunshot shouldn't take more than a second) is equivalent enough to not recording at all. If it's all in RAM, it's not permanent.

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143393)

So, the device is actively recording and analysing all sounds, then when the last sound in it's buffer is marked as a gunshot it starts recording live.

"There are people who perceive that these sensors are triggered by conversations, but that is just patently not true".. so this is not quite true, these devices can hear your conversations, but unless you fire a gun, it won't store that conversation for very long.

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143425)

It's the difference between "splitting hairs true" and "true for practical purposes"

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143859)

Yes, I am splitting hairs, but to Joe Public "They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot." is not the same thing as "They are always on and listening, nothing is held for longer then 1 minute unless a gunshot is heard, then the system stores this for later analysis by local law enforcement".

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (1)

AdrianKemp (1988748) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143459)

Actually what he says is exactly true, the sensor is not triggered except by a gunshot (or presumably an equally loud and abrupt noise).

He didn't say that no audio is being recorded or listened for what-so-ever until a gunshot goes off (since that would be a self-invalidating statement)

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143563)

>>"There are people who perceive that these sensors are triggered by conversations, but that is just patently not true".. so this is not quite true

The sensors are not "triggered" to record until it hears a gunshot. Conversations alone do not trigger it. His sentence is completely true.

Obviously the device has to be listening to "hear" the gunshot in the same way your TV has to be "on" to pick up the power signal from your remote to turn on the display or your computer is "on" and waiting for you to push the power button to boot.

This is no different than if you plug a microphone into your pc. It's always converting sound to signal, but unless the system is told to record the signal then nothing special is happening.

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (5, Insightful)

jlv (5619) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143463)

While I agree it's not supposed to be permanent, a short circular buffer *is* a recording, and it means the device is on all the time.

For instance, the circular buffer used by the ReplayTV DVR for live TV pausing is supposed to be transient and inaccessible, but (due to a bug) it is possible to stream that video to other devices on the network. IIRC, the Tivo lets you save the pause buffer.

His statement shows that James G. Beldock is either ignorant of his company's own technology or attempting to "dumb down" the description of the technology to avoid scaring the common folk. Either way, it says nothing good about him or ShotSpotter.

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143865)

it means the device is on all the time

That depends on what the meaning of "is" is. -- Bill Clinton

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143997)

I believe that only if the sensors are created in such away that they physically can only record sounds in the frequency range of gunshots and not human voices. Otherwise, why not also record when they hear words like "Stick em up" or any other type of words or elevated voices that tend to lead to a gun being fired?

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (1)

Score Whore (32328) | more than 2 years ago | (#40144797)

His statement shows that James G. Beldock is either ignorant of his company's own technology or attempting to "dumb down" the description of the technology to avoid scaring the common folk. Either way, it says nothing good about him or ShotSpotter.

Or he knows the equipment and when he says "recording" he's talking jargon about the device that is understood by the company the built the device and probably the people who work with the device on a daily basis. And it says nothing good or bad.

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (2)

Lucky75 (1265142) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143641)

You can do something where you continuously record and then throw away the recording after a few seconds if nothing was triggered. A lot of busses do that with video recordings so that they can have footage of a crash if it occurs.

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (1)

Bigby (659157) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143299)

It still would need to record at least a buffer size big enough to go from the start of the gunshot to the time it takes to determine if it is a gunshot or not. It just doesn't save the recording unless it thinks it hears a gunshot.

I wonder if someone is going to go up to one and confess to their killings while shooting a gun continuously in the air.

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143487)

think they mean the recording portion doesn't turn on unless the sensing portion detects a gunshot. A poorly worded sentence, to be sure. It's like your TV - even when your TV is "off", the small component that listens for your remote is still on.

TFA talks about an argument recorded by this system, associated with a shooting.

Unless the argument happened AFTER the shooting, it's unlikely they only start recording as a result of a shooting.

And it the argument DID happen after the shooting, I really can't see how it is even relevant to the case, unless the argument was on the order of "I can't believe you just shot that guy!! WTF?"

Which I don't believe, since I expect that if two people were wandering down the street, one pulled out a gun and shot someone else, then that two of them would be too busy running like hell to have an argument....

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (4, Informative)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143625)

I posted in more detail elsewhere in this article, but I installed a security camera system that could store some footage from before motion tripped the camera. Basically, once motion was in the frame (or a specific part of the frame), it writes everything from the buffer preceding the motion detection to storage and then appends the live video until X seconds/minutes after the motion stops. Unless there's a trigger, the preceding footage never gets written to storage. Technically, the buffer is a type of storage but it's very small, often overwritten, and only used if a trigger event is detected shortly thereafter.

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40144525)

Alright, that would work.

So, why do I have a hard time believing that the police are using a system that just throws data away?

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#40144841)

The point is, that if they wanted to, altering the buffer circuit to continuously record is trivial. Its a software change, and so in that sense, they ARE recording at all times, because the option to exists.

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (1)

Marble68 (746305) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143329)

Maybe, they don't record but use something like DSP analysis to trigger an event when an audio signature event is detected? Considering the audio is being "captured" and "analyzed" it does raise the question; is this equivalent to "recording?"

But why not have a buffer, I wonder? Say, 5 minutes worth? Then, when a gunshot is detected that 5 minutes of audio can be saved along with subsequent audio providing context around the shot. If no gunshot (or automobile backfire?) is detected, the start of the 5 minute memory buffer would simply disappear.

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (4, Informative)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143499)

I implemented several IP cameras for a previous employer. They had a nifty little "record on motion" feature in which it wouldn't record (could still be monitored live) to the NAS unless there was motion detected. One of the big selling points around this feature was that it could actually record up to 30 seconds BEFORE the motion that triggered it so you could be sure you weren't missing anything before the camera was triggered. I believe it did it by keeping a couple minutes of video in a buffer on the camera. If an event triggered it, that buffer would be written to the NAS first and then it would continue appending the live video to the storage until the motion stopped plus X minutes. This system likely works in a similar fashion - it keeps a buffer that's continually overwritten until an event (IE: gunshot) triggers it to be saved to permanent media.

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143545)

To continue my analogy above, the camera system could be set to only look for motion in certain parts of the frame. One of the cameras monitored the warehouse, so we could tell it to only trigger recording if there was motion at the warehouse door and to not trigger it if there was motion elsewhere in the frame. The gunshot would be the equivalent of the door and conversations would be the rest of the frame - it passes through the buffer but is never added to the storage medium unless it's occurring at the same time as the trigger. The camera system was pretty cheap too, around $300/camera as I recall.

Ya ours do this (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143721)

It is done on the DVR itself, not the cameras in our case. It continually records to memory, in an overwriting fashion, until motion is triggered. Then the data in memory is committed to disk, as well as what happens after that until the event ends (you set how long after it stops detecting motion that it keeps recording).

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143853)

Maybe, they don't record but use something like DSP analysis to trigger an event when an audio signature event is detected? Considering the audio is being "captured" and "analyzed" it does raise the question; is this equivalent to "recording?"

But why not have a buffer, I wonder? Say, 5 minutes worth? Then, when a gunshot is detected that 5 minutes of audio can be saved along with subsequent audio providing context around the shot. If no gunshot (or automobile backfire?) is detected, the start of the 5 minute memory buffer would simply disappear.

Well, it's the same as Google. Is GMail's mail scanning to determine ads to show you "reading" your mail? In a technical sense, yes it is, but in a practical sense, it isn't since it's being "read" or "recorded" by a purely mechanical device that cannot comprehend what is being said (for now).

As for the audio recording - it's a camera. The way the system works is it hears a gunshot, figures out where it came from (it's a microphone array), then pans/tilts/zooms the camera to that position to possibly catch the shooter on video. It may do some audio recording purely for identification purposes - to make sure it triggered on a gunshot and not say, a backfire in case the image is vague. For this you'd need a short backbuffer to provide context (and probably why the argument was recorded - they just happened to be arguing when a gunshot went off around them). Of course, if they were arguing and one pulled a gun and fired at the other...

The whole purpose is basically to cut down on calls of gunshots fired - because usually the caller is wrong, it's not gunshot but someone with a loud rapport. So being able to identify real gunshots from merely someone making a loud noise means not having to send someone out to investigate and maybe pre-call ambulances

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40144171)

The whole purpose is basically to cut down on calls of gunshots fired

Actually, if you read the article, you'll see that they say they were astounded at the number of legitimate gunshots the system detected that *didn't* come with an associated 911 call. It's not that usually the caller is wrong, it's that *usually, nobody calls.*

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (1)

detritus. (46421) | more than 2 years ago | (#40144547)

Can it discern the difference between say, an engine backfirin, transformer blowing or a person lighting off fireworks?
I highly doubt that. If it has to be sensitive enough to pick up a .22 being fired off, there's probably a lot of other things that also sets it off.

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143365)

I am tangentially aware of a military system that does the same thing and the way its engineered is you record to a time stamped ring buffer constantly. Meanwhile you analyze your ring buffer for a shot signature. IF you find a shot signature, then you perform a somewhat more detailed analysis to figure out the exact timestamp of firing (more or less). Then you uplink a really short data burst to central, something like "I'm sensor 23542542 and at 10:41:02.239582 I detected a shot and the local airtemp 73F and local air pressure is 1.0001 bar". Presumably central has a database of sensor locations, but if not a GPS RX on the sensor to generate timestamps works pretty well to report your presumably static location (although the .mil version I've heard about mounts on a movable APC).

Well anyway central optimistically gets about 10 reports, then its mega-triangulation time to pinpoint a location and estimated accuracy of fix.

Now if you dump the ring buffer to disk or something for possible later analysis, and the ring buffer is a minute or two (or an hour?) long, that's how you inadvertently collect street conversations.

This seems the only reasonable way to do this... any other way?

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143477)

This is AFAIK what the shotspotter does. Multiple microphones with some kind of microwave communication to a base station, which then triangulates the shot (and I think can tell you what kind of weapon from the sound of the shot). And absolutely you have to dump the raw buffers to disk in case of a court challenge.

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#40144647)

I am tangentially aware of a military system that does the same thing and the way its engineered is you record to a time stamped ring buffer constantly. Meanwhile you analyze your ring buffer for a shot signature. IF you find a shot signature, then you perform a somewhat more detailed analysis to figure out the exact timestamp of firing (more or less). Then you uplink a really short data burst to central, something like "I'm sensor 23542542 and at 10:41:02.239582 I detected a shot and the local airtemp 73F and local air pressure is 1.0001 bar". Presumably central has a database of sensor locations, but if not a GPS RX on the sensor to generate timestamps works pretty well to report your presumably static location (although the .mil version I've heard about mounts on a movable APC).

Well anyway central optimistically gets about 10 reports, then its mega-triangulation time to pinpoint a location and estimated accuracy of fix.

Now if you dump the ring buffer to disk or something for possible later analysis, and the ring buffer is a minute or two (or an hour?) long, that's how you inadvertently collect street conversations.

This seems the only reasonable way to do this... any other way?

Now if you dump the ring buffer to disk or something for possible later analysis, and the ring buffer is a minute or two (or an hour?) long, that's how you inadvertently collect street conversations.

This seems the only reasonable way to do this... any other way?

Sure, there's other ways that could be considered "reasonable". Since these are permanently mounted recorders, there's no reason why they have to record audio locally and discard old recordings. There's no reason why they can't have enough data bandwidth to let them stream the audio to central audio recorders that keep audio indefinitely (purportedly for further analysis or for "quality control" purposes). Likewise, storage is so cheap that even if data was stored locally and eventually overwritten, they could easily make the retention time days, weeks, or even years, so while it's technically true that recordings are eventually overwritten, they are able to be recovered for a long time.

Gunshots are a symptom (1)

ArchieBunker (132337) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143735)

How about the police figure out why so many people are getting shot? Police show up after the fact and if drugs are involved the case goes to the bottom of the pile. Maybe someone could figure out why society has these issues in the first place? And don't tell me guns are the cause either because I seem to recall the UK having problems with gangs of knife wielding youths.

Re:"They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (1)

droopus (33472) | more than 2 years ago | (#40144439)

Ok, obviously none of you guys are marksmen, or are forgetting ear protection tech. Let me give you an example which should clarify this and give further clarity to the "always recording" argument.

Guns are LOUD...a lot louder than they seem on tv...typically 140 - 190db. When there is a gunfight in a room and people have a conversation afterwards on tv, I chuckle. Unless they are wearing hearing protection (colloquially: "ears") all they would hear after the gunfight would be ringing. It is mandatory on most outdoor ranges and all indoor ranges that people wear hearing protection. Three or four .45ACP shots in an indoor range without protection, and you're deaf for at least the rest of the day.

Cheap hearing protection tends to be earplugs or big muffs, like you might see on an airport runway. But competitive marksman typically use electronic "ears" [cabelas.com] that permit normal conversation via an external mic on the headphones (and in fact amplify normal sound up to 45db), but shut down for any gunshot, essentially a fast audio gate. And they work flawlessly.

Once you turn them on, they are always listening for any sound above 85db, which they will attenuate by at least 30db, usually much more. How is that possible, if they have to "hear" the sound before they protect your ears from it? Because they are insanely fast, on the order of 1 - 1.5 ms.

I suspect similar technology is being used in the "gunshot detection systems" and it is very possible to only record the gunshot if the threshold is above 85db.

mmhmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143155)

Sounds like a slippery slope... Only turn on for gunshots heh

That's right... (1)

hey_popey (1285712) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143157)

Because they don't need to "be on" to "hear a gunshot"?

life imitates art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143183)

Life imitates art. Anyone remember the "Acoustic Gunfire Sensors" from Deus Ex 1?

Re:life imitates art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143795)

What a complete retard.

Yes, this is BRAND NEW technology that people copied from a fucking Ion Storm game. It's so much more complicated than a bunch of seismographs that you don't bury. It couldn't have been in use since, oh, before the internet (and therefore your birthdate), right?

Not Hardly (2)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143263)

In my state of Wisconsin, it is against the law to record a conversation between two parties without the express knowledge of one of the parties. This instance would most likely be inadmissible in any court case. I believe this is the recording law in many states as well, but I only have experience dealing with it here.

Re:Not Hardly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143349)

Isn't that about private conversations, rather than stuff people can overhear in public?

Re:Not Hardly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143435)

In 48 states (including Wisconsin), yes. In Illinois and Massachusetts, no.

Re:Not Hardly (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143717)

A similar argument has been used for red light cameras - quick way around it is to put announcements in the paper/radio/etc and put signs up. That way they can argue that they did their due diligence in informing the public, so it should be general public knowledge that your conversation could be recorded. Not sure how well it would stand up in court, but it'd be enough to at least give a fight.

Re:Not Hardly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40144645)

So coupled with a poster saying "Big brother is watching you", it would be totally ok?

Why waste your time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143267)

"There are people who perceive that these sensors are triggered by conversations, but that is just patently not true," he said. "They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot."'"

Yeah, yeah, yeah .... The check is in the mail. I won't cum in your mouth. I'll respect you in the morning.

Hello company spokespeople, you're liars until proven otherwise.

Offended? To fucking bad. We the public are constantly lied to by businesses.

Admissible Evidence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143309)

Students in my lab hid a video camera and caught a janitor going through their things and stealing stuff. It was a big deal ... criminal charge and firing for the janitor.

The security guy, an ex-police officer, came in to talk to the guys about evidence. He said that generally, video evidence is admissible in court even if the camera is hidden. Audio, on the other hand, is not.

Why is a hidden video camera's evidence legit while that from a hidden microphone isn't? I guess that's why the lawyers make the big bucks. ;-)

Re:Admissible Evidence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143633)

For one thing, sound is a lot easier to fake -- basically because it's lower bandwidth. Going further down the ladder, text, of course, is the easiest to fake, so for example an IRC log is basically worthless without some evidence to corroborate it as being a true recording -- such as another log by some disinterested party, or by law enforcement (who are automatically presumed right).

That's for its validity as evidence -- of course, there's the other issue that most states make it illegal to record private conversations without the consent of at least one party, so if he talked to anyone (say, on his phone), you'd be committing a crime by having a hidden microphone... Not sure, but I believe it's illegal to plant a "wiretap", whether or not you get anything, so if there's any chance he might talk on his phone while you're recording, you'd be commiting a crime by setting it up. Safer to roll with just video.

Sound familiar? (5, Insightful)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143379)

The TSA scanners didn't store images until we found out they stored images. Then we were told they only stored images for testing until we found out they stored images all the time. Then we found out the images were easily accessible to anyone after being reassured that there were ample security measures to prevent any yahoo from distributing humiliating or enticing images of some people.

Re:Sound familiar? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143497)

How dare you not Trust Your Government? What are you, some kind of Terrorist? /sarcasm

Re:Sound familiar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40144319)

Yeah. And I'm inclined to argue that the problem is much more the broken promises, the outright lying, and all the other bad things they've done in the name of "fighting terrorism" (that arguably maybe wasn't instigated but certainly fanned up a lot by government actions), than any single bit of technology or even any bit of silly sooper seekrit regulation. Of course there's also the fact that the stuff is horrendously costly, mostly stored in warehouses, and when in use still cannot actually do what it was said to be capable of (oh look, another broken promise). So yeah. It's isn't the technology, it's the lies surrounding it that make it objectionable. Even if, given honest answers, we'd never have accepted the kit in the first place. They just would've had to do without, which means more manual checking which overall would've cost about the same number of people. Because both the technology and the agencies ought to be there to serve (all of) us, yet they're doing something else entirely.

I don't really begrudge them their toys. It's that they feel they have to lie and to cheat to get them that bothers the most.

They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143439)

Or a jackhammer, or a car wreck, or a dropped book, or swamp gas, or a very rare malfunction.

Given a choice (2, Insightful)

CosaNostra Pizza Inc (1299163) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143457)

Given a choice between outlawing guns and having a sensitive listening device on every street corner that can listen in on conversations like Big Brother, I'd prefer to outlaw guns.

Re:Given a choice (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143531)

Given a choice between having sensitive listening devices on every street corner, and having sensitive listening devices on every street corner but also having a .357 with a good sight, I'd prefer to shoot the listening devices and run.

Re:Given a choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143591)

Outlawing guns will not take guns out of the hands of criminals. In fact a surely very dangerous illegal gun trade would crop up within weeks.

Re:Given a choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143897)

Outlawing guns will not take guns out of the hands of criminals. In fact a surely very dangerous illegal gun trade would crop up within weeks.

Note that that illegal gun trade already exists, but it's fairly limited, because only serious organizations have any need for the illegal guns (machine guns by way of the Mexican Army, mostly, though I imagine there's a few unregistered short-barreled shotguns and short-barreled rifles in circulation); ordinary thugs are better off with the ordinary guns they can purchase (before their first felony conviction), have a friend purchase, or steal from ordinary citizens.

If you make a .38 special revolver (the most frequently used gun in crimes, in the '90s; 9mm semi-autos may have overtaken them now) just as illegal as a submachine gun, these thugs will have to get to know a local arms dealer who can source them, and that black market trade will get much bigger. And, once they're in the shop, a few of them may just throw in a few extra bucks for that shiny submachine gun.

Re:Given a choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40144279)

If you make a .38 special revolver (the most frequently used gun in crimes, in the '90s; 9mm semi-autos may have overtaken them now) just as illegal as a submachine gun, these thugs will have to get to know a local arms dealer who can source them

Or, they'll just buy other guns. And when you outlaw those, they'll use knives and clubs and chemical agents. Guns didn't create crime. They may facilitate crime against an unarmed populace, but they sure as hell didn't bring about murder, robbery, rape, and assault.

Re:Given a choice (2)

Infiniti2000 (1720222) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143603)

Given a choice between outlawing guns and having a sensitive listening device on every street corner that can listen in on conversations like Big Brother, I'd prefer to outlaw guns.

Unfortunately or not, for you, the U.S. constitution has no explicit right to privacy like you desire, yet it has a right to gun ownership, to some arguable degree.

Re:Given a choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143879)

Unfortunately or not, for you, the U.S. constitution has no explicit right to privacy like you desire, yet it has a right to gun ownership, to some arguable degree.

Unfortunately or not, the US Constitution does not grant the government the power to listen to my conversations except through the narrowly defined scope set forth in the fourth amendment, assuming that I'm not an enemy of the nation and/or that using war powers against citizens of the US is not treason ("... shall consist only in levying War against them ...").

Unfortunately for us, the government doesn't give a damn about that goddamn piece of paper, and hasn't for decades.

Re:Given a choice (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#40144959)

Do you know WHY we have the right to bear arms? Its supposed to be so the Government FEARS us. That is its EXPRESS purpose.

Re:Given a choice (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143797)

>>>I'd prefer to outlaw guns.

But when some future Julius Caesar takes-over as president, and starts writing his own laws (thus making the House/Senate impotent like the real Caesar did), how are we supposed to overthrow those dictator if we don't have guns?

Re:Given a choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40144745)

How are you supposed to overthrow those dictators if you do have guns? Your weaponry will seem like slingshots against the army.

Re:Given a choice (2, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143953)

Given a choice between outlawing guns and having a sensitive listening device on every street corner that can listen in on conversations like Big Brother, I'd prefer to outlaw guns.

Outlawing guns will only serve to guarantee that there will be listening devices on every corner - and in your house, workplace, transportation, and anywhere else BB wants to watch you.

Do you not realize why we have a guaranteed right (and some will go so far to say, duty) to keep and bear arms in this country? Hint: it has nothing to do with gathering food.

Re:Given a choice (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#40144523)

It's a false choice. There is no reason we can't allow guns and not allow the listening devices. We managed for over 200 years without them.

Of course, they COULD restrict the resolution of the system so that it can detect gunshots but cannot make out human speech. OR they could just note a detected gunshot and record nothing.

Re:Given a choice (1)

PoolOfThought (1492445) | more than 2 years ago | (#40144607)

Yes, and given the choice between my 401k going to zero and overwhelming regulation and "easing" that stagnates the economy / causes looming massive inflation I'd prefer neither. There are almost always other solutions. If you're the kind of person who thinks complicated problems tends to break down into only two possible solutions, both of which suck, then you need to take some time and decide if that's really the case. You're probably in the right place to get your head right though... so lucky you.

Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143529)

Another article to fuel the nutjob fantasies.

Queue the tinfoil hat crowd (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143555)

Herpa derp. You libertarians crack me up.

"Unless they hear" (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143597)

How do they hear a gunshot if they're not already on? Maybe he was talking about the recording part of the sensor?

We had these in Iraq (2)

jesseck (942036) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143617)

When I was there in 2005, some humvees had these. They didn't work well, and picked up a lot of false positives. When I returned a second time in 2006 / 2007, I don't recall seeing a single ShotSpotter. But the ShotSpotters made the guardshack's day when they could come back from dropping Marines at post and say "We were shot at! The ShotSpotter beeped, said it came from the right!"

Re:We had these in Iraq (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40144463)

Maybe they'll work better at finding farts in elevators? Office terrorism!

Terrorists are everywhere. There's a thriving business selling them "uniforms" for Halloween. Some even do it commercially, birthday clowns being an obvious example. Less obvious are the shopping mall Santas. Terror exists in education too, the "pop quiz" being fairly common. City-level terrorism may use technology based extortion. It's getting more advanced all the time, see parking meters that take credit/debit cards for instance.

Perhaps more of the tech used by government should be developed in-house. Contractors, being driven by profit, have incentive to push tech even if it isn't cost-effective or doesn't work well.

Other tech that's off the shelf can sometimes be used. Many needs could likely be met using slightly modified tech developed by toy and game developers.

Maybe some of the corruption and inefficiency in government could be dealt with using tech of the ancient Greeks. Have a sort of time-lottery, a draft system, where citizens rotate to provide a couple of years of community service in various roles. Do away with paid government employees entirely (beyond somehow providing for basic food, housing, training etc and include broad useful skills in the trining). And by all means, do away with paid political ads of all types. Broadcasters should be able to decide how much FREE public affairs time they fairly dole out, but not charge for any.

They also false positive easily. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143655)

Two bamboo poles can create a crack that will set them off. A friend had the cops show up at his place in LA when the kids were playing with poles trying to injure themselves. The cops said that multiple gunshots were reported from there.

The fuck? (1)

evilgraham (1020325) | more than 2 years ago | (#40143901)

"There are people who perceive that these sensors are triggered by conversations, but that is just patently not true," he said. "They don't turn on unless they hear a gunshot."'"

So they can hear a gunshot when they're not turned on? And that's patently true? Jeez, have you americans invented magic and not told the rest of us? Yes, I'm sure Slashdot readers can think of loads of ways to do just that (pressure sensitive switches, etc., etc.) but I was more askance at the sheer mendacity of the spokesman. The case is only extremely rare if he is lying through his teeth.

Re:The fuck? (1)

Stonent1 (594886) | more than 2 years ago | (#40144081)

I think it's like a DVR, it is technically always recording, it just doesn't start holding the stored data until you hit the record button, or in this case a sound spike related to a gunshot. That's why you can go back up to 15 minutes on most DVR devices as long as it had been on and tuned to the same station. I'd bet when it hears a shot, it immediately "Saves" the data in the buffer so you have a lead-up to the shot being fired. Assuming that the shot spotter is being used to gather evidence rather than just call the police when the sound spikes.

Re:The fuck? (1)

Squidlips (1206004) | more than 2 years ago | (#40144521)

No. It is always on and they are always listening. They are lying. There is no incentive for them not to record and plenty to record. Just as there is incentive to read these comments and track down the posters.

Quite apart from legality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40143993)

What such a system essentially does is gather intelligence. That's right, it amounts to spying on everybody. No ifs and buts about it. It's spying, plain and simple. It doesn't matter that it's for the common good. It's spying. That's what intelligence gathering means.

Intelligence always comes with strings attached; it tends to open cans of worms. It's tricky to deal with. So there are no clear-cut answers. Right from the start, you need to realise this.

For example, I'd be perfectly fine with it if and when it was a black box that poops out shots, times, locations with one hunderd percent accuracy, no false positives, no false negatives, and it never produces anything else. But that is pretty much impossible. Even if it wasn't, there'll always be people that figure out ways to "enhance" that data, and in doing that break the original promise. That last bit, breaking the promise of "it does this thing and no other", is what makes this sort of undeniably useful technology objectionable, and rightfully so.

For example. The thing triggers on a backfire. But then the operator, in determining this, hears someone being raped. Accidentally, because it happens maybe just around the corner, who knows. What would you do in her place? Strictly speaking, she'd have to leave it be. Not a gunshot, false positive, done and gone. But morally?

Morally you'd have to call the cops anyway, but in doing that you're outside your remit and you've broken the "does this and no more" promise, thus invading other people's expectation of privacy. Note that there's no "you're on a public road, so you don't have privacy" argument here; the operator isn't near you at all. It's the privacy promise made when installing the system: Only gunshots, no more.

I don't have a good answer for this. One way to mitigate the trouble is to throw away the evidence right after you've notified the police. That means no recordings whatsoever. Nothing for a court to worry about. There was only the signal for the cops to go to a certain place and take a look. If they find nothing, there was nothing. If they find anything, well, it's up to them to take it to court or not. But there'll be no evidence from this system, at all, ever. Only "hunches". Somehow I'm sure LE will never go for this, but it'd solve quite a lot of troubling issues.

The straight-forward approach is to let go of that oh-so-easily-broken promise, and instead say "Well, it listens for things that sound like gunshots. Anything after that is fair game." You have to say that to be honest. But would you still get the system installed if you did that? Discuss.

The overall issue of surveillance (1)

bjdevil66 (583941) | more than 2 years ago | (#40144233)

The recent ruling that banned cops placing GPS trackers on suspects without a warrant was criticized by some of the justices themselves for not going far enough to clear up privacy issues in public. This is just another example of how those justices are being proven right, and at some point, the limits of what forms of warrantless, electronic surveillance (by private or public entities) can be used as evidence in court will need to be clarified once and for all. (I hope this happens sooner rather than later because the public will be more tolerant further down the road as they grow number to it over time.)

Mr. Camera (1)

Java Pimp (98454) | more than 2 years ago | (#40144329)

Ok, I had to read it twice but yes... the lawyer for one of the defendants in the New Bedford case is Mr. Camera.

How is this different from a camera? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40144341)

I don't see any articles about how a security camera caught somebody stealing from a business.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>