Recent weeks have brought increased scrutiny to police departments’ policies and practices as well as a reckoning over police brutality, surveillance and lack of accountability. It’s worth knowing that, even if you live in a seemingly sleepy town, your local police department is likely engaging in some type of surveillance—and now you can find out exactly what methods they’re using.
The Atlas of Surveillance, a project created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the University of Nevada, Reno’s Reynolds School of Journalism, is a searchable database of the surveillance tools used in police departments across the country.
There are two ways to use the tool. You can zero in on your area on the map or enter your city, county or state into the search field to pull up your local police department in the text database.
Via both methods, you can narrow down your search by surveillance type:
- Body cameras
- Automated license plate readers
- Ring/Neighbors partnership
- Camera registry
- Face recognition
- Cell-site simulator
- Gunshot detection
- Video analytics/computer vision
- Predictive policing
This allows you to see if police are pulling surveillance video from Ring doorbell cams, taking aerial footage with drones or using predictive policing tools to suggest where to look for crime. You can also locate so-called “fusion centers” and “real-time crime centers”—hubs from which law enforcement gather, analyze and share data.
When you pull up an entry in the database or click a location on the map, you’ll get additional information about the surveillance technology a department favors, including how long it’s been in use and how it partners with other organizations or companies. You can also toggle specific surveillance methods on and off on the map to see how their use is concentrated or spread across the country.
If you’re not sure exactly how any one of these surveillance tools works, toggle Glossary at the top of the page for photos and descriptions of the technology involved.
Finally, note that just because your local police department isn’t marked on the map doesn’t mean it’s practicing surveillance-free policing. It could simply mean researchers haven’t collected data on your area yet.