The Department of Homeland Security has funded a system of wi-fi boxes around Seattle that are capable of recording the last 1,000 locations of a person using their cellphone.
The DHS has contributed $2.7 million to the project, which consists of white boxes posted on utility poles around the city. The system is reportedly able to locate a cellphone even if it is off.
According to the company that provided the technology to the Seattle Police Department, the system is able to keep track of “rogue” and “unassociated” devices. Aruba’s technical literature states that the system software uses “a location engine that calculates associated and unassociated device location every 30 seconds by default. … The last 1,000 historical locations are stored for each MAC address.”
According to the product literature, the network is “adept at seeing all the devices that move through their coverage area and visually mapping the locations of those devices in real time.”
Reporters from The Stranger, a weekly Seattle paper, said that the DHS refused to comment on the boxes or their purpose.
Seattle Police Department spokesman Detective Monty Moss said the network would not be employed in surveillance without authorization from the City Council or a court.
In other words, “trust us, we’re from the government.” Wink, wink.
As usual when Big Brother expands his police state, the excuse is public safety. Supposedly, the network is designed to allow police, firefighters and other emergency personnel to communicate reliably and even stream video in an emergency.
In these sorts of situations, the definition of emergency tends to get looser and looser as officials begin to figure out how much they can get away with.
Seattle council member Bruce Harrell told KIRO-TV, “While I understand that a lot of people have concerns about the government having access to this information, when we have large public gatherings like the situation like in Boston and something bad happens, the first thing we want to know is how are we using technology to capture that information.”
And if the city should just happen to leave the system on and track all 600,000-plus residents, well, that’s just a happy accident.
This sort of expansion of the police state isn’t going to stop until Americans put their foot down. As Ben Franklin famously observed, those who willingly trade freedom for a little bit of safety deserve neither.