A black woman invented home security. Why did things go wrong?


Amazon isn’t the only one. This trend can also be seen with the rise of automated license plate-reading systems for individual neighborhoods, Google’s partnership with ADT, and the company’s launch of “smart” security cameras that provide the ability to identify “events” for recording, recognize friendly faces, and detect noises such as breaking glass. As tech giants seek to indulge every aspect of our lives, home security has become a $50 billion business in the United States alone.

In line with surveillance expansion over the years, Amazon’s Ring has partnered with more than 400 police departments across the country, following a successful multi-year strategy of turning law enforcement into part-time sales agents and introducing the term “porch pirate” into our lexicon. Then the giant ironically tried to confront the obvious racist consequences of this in its own consumer-driven way. In 2020, the Ring dash cam debuted with a stop-traffic mode that allows drivers to say “Alexa I’m being pulled over”, at which point Alexa will begin recording subsequent stop-traffic. The company that made so much hay to enable surveillance, and supercharged the power to blast racist notions about who belongs in the neighborhood and act like a benefactor, is now throwing a bone at people who might be guilty of “driving while black.” This is pretty much the same reasoning that drove the push for body cams. In both cases, the results regarding the protection of black lives fell short of the advocates’ claims.

in a Dark Matters: In Observing Blackness, Simon Brown, Professor of Black Studies in the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, suggests that anti-black racism is encoded primarily in all of our systems of vision, supervision, observation, and surveillance. She argues that there is no such thing as a surveillance system, at least when humans are involved, and that doesn’t add to the anti-blackness. According to Brown, “the historical formation of slavery is not outside the historical formation of slavery.”

No amount of technological advancement will change the basic fact that surveillance technologies and germs exist to serve those under control. Narratives about police response times and accountability have remained the same, although the past 50 years since Brown’s patent have seen more surveillance in both public and private settings. This calls into question prevailing assumptions about what keeps communities safe – a point repeatedly raised by community activists and police abolitionists. Brown’s invention is not evidence of some kind of conscious complicity with oppressive techniques; Rather, it shows that the repressive function of technologies lies in their intertwining with prevailing notions of race.

Many of these tools have become agents for improvement. They empty the “police” of blacks in public for individuals who become de facto policemen. Ring’s early ads were vocal about this, even offering promising rewards in the form of free products. Although the company has toned down this rhetoric in recent years, a key aspect of Ring and Neighbors remains the assertion that by owning the device, you’re doing your part to “fight crime.”

Anecdotes about how a particular surveillance technology would improve the way police operate in black communities have remained relatively stable over time. Claims of improved police response times, increased safety and accountability, more security or continually improved community relations, from the introduction of new surveillance technologies – from police body cameras to Detroit’s Project Green Light, to stingrays or surveillance planes in Baltimore, license plate readers The mechanism in the neighborhood, the doorbells of the ring. While this may be indicative of what communities demand from the police, there is an alternative reading: promises remain and are not delivered because these technologies exist to further entrench black and brown object surveillance as a core practice of how law enforcement operates in this country. In other words, these techniques beat the edges of systemic problems. More and better forms of surveillance have not and never will be a solution to these issues.

Remarkably, like Amazon and other private providers, US cities and states offer assurances about more monitoring that produces more security, despite the fact that other countries have already tested this idea and found them willing. The UK has what is known as the largest network of CCTV cameras in a democracy, with between 4 million and 5.9 million cameras in use as of 2015, many of which are not run by the government but by companies and individuals. However, even the UK and Wales Commissioner of Surveillance was concerned that the intent of the cameras was to “build a surveillance society”, not to prevent crime, as there is little evidence that cameras deter crime, and the crimes they commit tend to be property crimes rather than property crimes. Violent crimes. This is an indisputable empirical evidence that one can request that visual and acoustic monitoring of the environment do not create safer societies.



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