In Piedmont, California, license plate cameras guard wealthy enclave. Yuck.

Creative Commons photo by Matteo X/oceanaris on Flickr Say you live in a tony hamlet that happens to be embedded in Criminaltown, USA.

Like, literally, your little town of million-dollar-plus homes is entirely surrounded by the city with the highest robbery rate in the United States.

You’ve already got your own school district, police and fire departments, and your property taxes don’t go into the coffers of those hooligan Oaklanders.

What else can you do to protect the borders of your Forbidden City?Well, if you’re the five people on the City Council of Piedmont, California, you arm 24 of the entrances to your town with digital license-plate-reader cameras.

Big Brother is watching Piedmont, and it only costs $678,613. They can afford it – the median home sales price in Piedmont was just under 1.4 million over the last year. So, burbclave.

Meanwhile in Iowa, this technology has just been banned, thanks to an initiative driven by citizen group

Because Panopticonning your borders is really creepy.

I went to Piedmont for the first time ever in my 16 years in the Bay Area recently (Piedmont’s commercial strip consists of a couple banks and a convenience store, so if you don’t live there, you have no reason to go there. Clever!) I felt like I was on the moon, if the moon consisted of fine 1920s estates and responsible low-irrigation native landscaping.

However, if I’d known they were going to photograph my license plate, I might have not have gone – my registration is expired, I have a headlight out and my car is covered with EFF stickers. Clearly a suspicious type!

I actually live in Oakland, the robbery capitol of America, in the darkest red zone of this robbery map.

robberymapWe haven’t been robbed yet. But, we’re both ex-New Yorkers, and we’re hyper-vigilant. I bolted a grill over our glass front door before we spent a night in the place. I scan the street before I get out of the car when I come home. In other words, I do the common sense things people who live in urban areas should.

I could ask my boyfriend to mount a webcam out our window and set up a digital license-plate recognition program; I’m sure he could find an open-source one, along with code that would pull license plates that are in the public record as flagged for bad. It would probably only take him a couple of hours, and cost whatever a webcam on eBay costs- $6? But if I asked him, he’d say no, because he’s a digital privacy activist, and we just don’t roll that way.

Since there’s a club that is pretty lively on weekends around the corner from us, people park just across the street from our apartment to blow rails, consume nitrous, have drunken sex, and smoke up on Saturday nights. Our little webcam would record all kinds of activities that we actually feel people have a right to engage in if they’re consenting adults and have a card. The morning-after detritus indicates they’re practicing responsible sex.

So who are we to police our neighbors? It’s legal, as the folks on the unbelievably awesomely named blog will tell you. But it ain’t right.

One Nation Under Surveillance Creative Commons photo by Matteo X/Oceanaris on Flickr.
This post originally appeared on the T324 blog.

This entry was posted in Tech news of the weird on by .

About Suzanne Forbes

Suzanne Forbes is a traditionally trained figurative artist who makes documentary art of queer culture and Berlin life. She also works in mixed media. She is a former New Yorker who immigrated to Berlin with her third husband and their two cats. Her work is crowdfunded by the support of her Patrons on Patreon; you could help! In previous lives Suzanne was a graffiti artist in downtown NY, a courtroom artist for CBS and CNN, a penciller for DC Comics on Star Trek, and a live-drawing chronicler of Bay Area alternative culture.

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