Only about the size of a soccer ball, a small quad-rotor drone with its onboard camera gives a whole new meaning to a bird's-eye view. This first-ever Statehouse flyover was put on by the Vermont American Civil Liberties Union. It was just a demonstration. But it's surveillance technology like this that privacy advocates say should have everyone concerned.
"If you're carrying a cellphone, you're being tracked. If you're driving a car, 'ALPR's' are picking up where you're going. You've seen what a drone can do. We're going to see hundreds of these things flying overhead in a couple of years," said Allen Gilbert of the Vermont ACLU.
In a new report, "Surveillance on the Northern Border," the Vermont ACLU details some of the high-tech tools that are currently being used. From cellphone tracking, license plate readers and facial recognition software used by the DMV to the use of military-style drones along the border, the report says there are a host of privacy concerns that threaten to turn Vermont into a total surveillance society.
"We talk in detail about Automated License Plate Readers, facial recognition software, cellphone tracking and also drones. We also talk about fusion centers and the NSA. These tools and these facilities may not necessarily have been developed to build a surveillance society, but that's how they can be used," Gilbert said.
Gilbert says the feds provided the money for individual police agencies for license plate readers, essentially bypassing the scrutiny that comes with local and state budgetary oversight.
"We believe we have a good program," Vt. Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn said.
State law enforcement officials say facial recognition at the DMV is used to prevent fraudulent applications, information gathered by license plate readers is secured and there are no drones used by police in Vermont. And there are no plans to do so.
"Our main goal is to protect privacy rights of people and to keep people safe," Flynn said. "We are not butting heads with the ACLU on this. We share their concerns. We share their goals. We are looking for a better way to keep Vermont safe."
Flynn says the use of drones must first be discussed by Vermonters and lawmakers before police put them to use. The ACLU would also like to see legislative action on rules governing police access to the DMV's new facial recognition data, as well as passage of electronic privacy legislation.
Saturday, March 8 2014 9:49 PM EST2014-03-09 02:49:49 GMT
The Burlington Yoga Conference began Saturday at UVM's Davis Center. The event gives participants a chance to connect the mind body and soul through workshops they may not have access to on a daily basis.More >>
The Burlington Yoga Conference began 6 years ago and has become a staple in the community.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 9:29 PM EST2014-03-09 02:29:17 GMT
A warning for pet owners in our region. Coyotes are on the prowl. A biologist in New Hampshire says he has received more than 10 calls recently, in the Keene, New Hampshire area, for a deer that was takenMore >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 9:21 PM EST2014-03-09 02:21:44 GMT
As spring approaches, many Vermont homeowners prepare to work on their houses - so they head to the Burlington Home Show. And many Vermont small business owners - with their products and services on displayMore >>
Many business owners at the Burlington Home Show say the new health care system in Vermont is helpful, but some say it's causing a real headache.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 8:07 PM EST2014-03-09 01:07:08 GMT
A rally at the State House in Montpelier Saturday. A passionate group of dozens of women, and men, assembled in front of the State House Saturday for the Women's March for Dignity. They were demandingMore >>
Women's March for Dignity say they are demanding lawmakers support paid sick day policies for all workers.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 10:21 AM EST2014-03-08 15:21:27 GMT
Two firefighters are recovering from minor injuries. They were injured while fighting a at the Bennett Farm on Route 15 on the Johnson-Cambridge town line. The fire started in a shed around 7:30 FridayMore >>
Two firefighters are recovering from minor injuries.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 10:20 AM EST2014-03-08 15:20:42 GMT
Friends are rallying around families who lost everything in an apartment building fire in St. Johnsbury. They immediately took to Facebook after hearing about this fire and started planning to collectMore >>
Friends are rallying around families who lost everything in an apartment building fire in St. Johnsbury.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 10:20 AM EST2014-03-08 15:20:05 GMT
Reporter: "What are some of the most common burn injuries that we see with kids coming into the hospital?" Jim Esdon, Dartmouth Hitchcock Injury Prevention Center: "This time of year, the glass frontedMore >>
We've had another cold week that's left homeowners cranking the heat. But what does that mean for kids' safety?More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 10:19 AM EST2014-03-08 15:19:21 GMT
Armed with just two L rods, 87-year-old John Wayne Blassingame starts looking for water by asking yes or no questions. "Does it go past 20 feet, does it go past 30 feet, yah," he says. The rods crossingMore >>
A national organization based in Danville says it is providing resources to people in desperate need to find water.More >>