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Hrmbee OP t1_jddmyn2 wrote

>Lakeway is just one example of a community that has faced Flock’s surveillance without many homeowners’ knowledge or approval. Neighbors in Atlanta, Georgia, remained in the dark for a year after cameras were put up. In Lake County, Florida, nearly 100 cameras went up “overnight like mushrooms,” according to one county commissioner — without a single permit. > >In a statement, Flock Safety brushed off the Lake County incident as an “an honest misunderstanding,” but the increasing surveillance of community members’ movements across the country is no accident. It’s a deliberate marketing strategy. > >Flock Safety, which began as a startup in 2017 in Atlanta and is now valued at approximately $3.5 billion, has targeted homeowners associations, or HOAs, in partnership with police departments, to become one of the largest surveillance vendors in the nation. There are key strategic reasons that make homeowners associations the ideal customer. HOAs have large budgets — they collect over $100 billion a year from homeowners — and it’s an opportunity for law enforcement to gain access into gated, private areas, normally out of their reach. > >Over 200 HOAs nationwide have bought and installed Flock’s license plate readers, according to an Intercept investigation, the most comprehensive count to date. HOAs are private entities and therefore are not subject to public records requests or regulation. > >“What are the consequences if somebody abuses the system?” said Dave Maass, director of investigations at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “There are repercussions of having this data, and you don’t have that kind of accountability when it comes to a homeowners association.” > >The majority of the readers are hooked up to Flock’s TALON network, which allows police to track cars within their own neighborhoods, as well as access a nationwide system of license plate readers that scan approximately a billion images of vehicles a month. Camera owners can also create their own “hot lists” of plate numbers that generate alarms when scanned and will run them in state police watchlists and the FBI’s primary criminal database, the National Crime Information Center. > >“Flock Safety installs cameras with permission from our customers, at the locations they require,” said Holly Beilin, a Flock representative. “Our team has stood in front of hundreds of city council meetings, and we have always supported the democratic process.” > >After facing public outrage, the cameras were removed from communities in Texas and Florida, but Flock’s license plate readers continue to rapidly proliferate daily — from cities in Missouri to Kentucky. > >“It’s a near constant drumbeat,” said Edwin Yohnka, the director of public policy at the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. > >With over half of all Americans living in HOAs, experts believe the surveillance technology is far more ubiquitous than we know.

It looks like this company is following the playbook of other companies that have been looking to make inroads in communities through disruption, such as Uber and Airbnb. There also seem to be parallels between what they're doing here and what Ring has been doing with individual property owners. If we are to care about privacy in the slightest, regulations around these kinds of activities are sorely needed but also seemingly lacking in most jurisdictions.