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On Surveillance

Targeting those unaware or unconcerned about the current state of surveillance and data collection in all forms. Baltimore specifically - a central tesing and implementation hub of new surveillance technologies. Many of these systems contain databases of those never accused of a crime, or have been used to target popular dissent. These means of control disproportionately affect minority populations and do so in such a way that any individual in these neighborhoods is under watch by the mere act of being in public. As such, it is important to alert those most affected to the nature and means by which they are affected.Also necessary: alerting those not living in disenfranchised, minority neighborhoods as to the ways in which others are affected by such surveillance.

As needs - critical abstraction of interconnections in hierarchy. Regarding: all-encompassing and frequently unchecked nature of surveillance forms such as street cameras1, wide-field aerial2,5,10 the unwarranted mass collection of cell phone data3, audio monitoring4,1 and the use of face recognition technologies8. Attention must be drawn to how their use may impede first and fourth amendment rights.

Cell phone-spoofing Stingray technology - used during the protests surrounding the death of Freddie Gray to collect information on peaceful protesters [further includes those within the vicinity] sending chilling messages to those who wish to exercise their right to dissent. Unwarranted data collection use extended during a (questionably-declared) State of Emergency.

The Maryland Image Repository System contains records of all individuals who have had their image taken through the MVA, including those never accused of a crime, raising possibilities of false identification of innocent individuals.

In 2017, unbeknownst to many, even within the Baltimore government, a secretive program run by Persistent Systems to fly a camera-laden Cesna airplane over Baltimore was caried out to be able to track all persons moving in public spaces in real-time with the further archiving ability to rewind and track indidviduals across their day. In late 2019 the program, against the wishes of many, and again without public discussion, resurfaced - this time for a contract to fly three aircraft.

The technologies themselves: a container for inherent bias. It is less capable of discerning features of darker skinned citizens8 - further exacerbated through overabundant use on minority communities and on those with the fewest resources to defend against accusation7,9.

Surveillance is a methodology which prefers to be only on the seeing end - it's full apparatus is made invisible to those who are watched. Made intentionally visible, such as with Baltimore's blue light cameras, it is to produce a deterring effect by reliance on a lack of information as to who is at the other end of the camera. This mechanism of unidirectional information flow must be layed bare.

Who's Watching - [2018]

The installation brings viewers into one of two visually and physically separated chambers. Initially, participants are aware only of the chamber into which they are entering. Upon arrival, viewers are immersed in 360° security video and audio fed from the other space, projected across the walls and ceiling with an overlay of any captured wifi data from an open network to which phones may automatically connect. This feed is periodically interrupted by FBI surveillance footage from the 2015 Baltimore uprising surrounding the death of Freddie Gray, connecting the surveillance occurring live in the space with the historical surveillance that has taken place in Baltimore City.

Inside, viewers are presented one of two screens. The first, immediately visible upon entering one space, provides controls allowing viewers to scan / zoom on the feed from the other installation space, giving the chance to actively surveil from the control side. The second screen on the far side of the other space presents a catalogue of faces collected from those using the control screen with audio analysis of that space. This combination of elements aids the realization of the simplicity and prevalence of these technologies.
Persistance of Vision - [2018]

An further extension of the ideas presented by Who's Watching, this piece considers the secretive program offered by Persistent Systems. All present are watched from above and displayed by an array of four projection screens. These present a mirror view of those within the space - subjected to various algorithmic and sound responsive manipulations.


1 Broadwate, Luke. Geurge, Justin. “City expands surveillance system to include private cameras of residents, businesses.” The Baltimore Sun Oct 2014. The Baltimore Sun Web. 31 Dec 2016.

2 Froomkin, Dan. “Billion Dollar Surveillance Blimp to Launch Over Maryland.” The Intercept Web. 17 Dec 2014.

3 Fenton, Justin. “Baltimore Police used secret technology to track cellphones in thousands of cases.” The Baltimore Sun Apr. 2015. The Baltimore Sun Web. 21 Dec 2016.

4 Gold, Hannah. “ShotSpotter: gunshot detection system raises privacy concerns on campuses.” The Guardian July 2015. The Guardian Web. 17 July 2015.

5 Reel, Monte. “Secret Cameras Record Baltimore’s Every Move From Above.” Bloomberg Business Week. Aug 2016. Bloomberg L.P. Web. 23 Aug 2016.

6 Hay Newman, Lily. “How Baltimore Became America’s Laboratory for Spy Tech.” Wired Magazine Sep. 2016. Wired Web. 4 Aug. 2016.

7 Barret, Brian. “The Baltimore PD’s Race Bias Extends to High-Tech Spying, Too.” Wired Magazine Aug. 2016. Wired Web. 18 Aug. 2016.

8 Rector, Kevin and Knezevich, Alison. “Maryland’s use of facial recognition software questioned by researchers, civil liberties advocates.” The Baltimore Sun Oct 2016. The Baltimore Sun Web. 18 Oct 2016.

9 Joseph, George. “Justice by Algorithm.” The Atlantic Dec 2016. Citylab Web. 8 Dec 2016.

10 Reel, Monte. “Police Spy Tools Evolve Faster Than Lawmakers Can Keep Up; Baltimore’s aerial surveillance continues unchecked.” Bloomberg Business Week. Dec 2016. Bloomberg L.P. Web. 19 Dec 2016.
Additional Resources:

FBI Records: The Vault. Protests in Baltimore, Maryland 2015, Aerial Surveillance Footage. https://vault.fbi.gov/protests-in-baltimore-maryland-2015/unedited-versions-of-video-surveillance-footage

» August 13, 2019 ... Last Update: January 20, 2020