When civil liberties advocates discuss the dangers of new policing technologies, they often point to sci-fi films like “RoboCop” and “Minority Report” as cautionary tales. In “RoboCop,” a massive corporation purchases Detroit’s entire police department. After one of its officers gets fatally shot on duty, the company sees an opportunity to save on labor costs by reanimating the officer’s body with sleek weapons, predictive analytics, facial recognition, and the ability to record and transmit live video.
Although intended as a grim allegory of the pitfalls of relying on untested, proprietary algorithms to make lethal force decisions, “RoboCop” has long been taken by corporations as a roadmap. And no company has been better poised than Taser International, the world’s largest police body camera vendor, to turn the film’s ironic vision into an earnest reality.
In 2010, Taser’s longtime vice president Steve Tuttle “proudly predicted” to GQ that once police can search a crowd for outstanding warrants using real-time face recognition, “every cop will be RoboCop.” Now Taser has announced that it will provide any police department in the nation with free body cameras, along with a year of free “data storage, training, and support.” The company’s goal is not just to corner the camera market, but to dramatically increase the video streaming into its servers.
With an estimated one-third of departments using body cameras, police officers have been generating millions of hours of video footage. Taser stores terabytes of such video on Evidence.com, in private servers to which police agencies must continuously subscribe for a monthly fee. Data from these recordings is rarely analyzed for investigative purposes, though, and Taser — which recently rebranded itself as a technology company and renamed itself “Axon” — is hoping to change that.
Our IP Address: