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This Tesla Mod Turns a Model S Into a Mobile 'Surveillance Station'

the Surveillance Detection Scout
Tesla Model S
Tesla Model S’s
Open Images Dataset
Tesla Model 3
Surveillance Detection Scout’s
the Center for Democracy and Technology
CNMN Collection
Condé Nast

Truman Kain
Jetson Xavier
Joseph Lorenzo Hall
Andy Greenberg

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California Privacy Rights

New Hampshire

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The New York Times
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If a large group of Surveillance Detection Scout users were to combine their license plate recognition data—a feature that Kain has purposefully left out of the software—the system could create a crowdsourced version of the same powerful surveillance provided by commercial automatic license plate reader systems, whose use by police has been banned in some states. (Kain says it's far harder to link license plates to actual names, and he doesn't intend to include that data in his tool.)An example of a push notification sent to a phone from Surveillance Detection Scout.Kain says he came up with the idea for his follower detection mechanism last year after he attended a talk on countersurveillance at last year's Defcon. "I had a little bit of FOMO, thinking about how all this video is gone if I don't do something with it," Kain says.A screenshot of Surveillance Detection Scout’s interface, showing recently detected license plates.After learning about a tool available on Github called Tesla USB that allows Tesla owners to store their video to an external drive indefinitely, Kain came up with the idea of combining that storage capability with image recognition to give his car features similar to the Nest camera in his home, which includes so-called "familiar face detection." Beyond tracking license plates, the face detection element of his tool also functions as what he describes as an upgrade to Tesla's existing Sentry security system, which starts recording when someone touches your car and sets off an alarm if they attempt to break into it.By stitching together a patchwork of public code, Kain's 4-inch-cubed box can recognize license plate numbers and faces from the car's video stream and alert the car's owner if it spots repeated plates or faces in that data. "It’s essentially a surveillance camera on wheels, not providing anyone notice of that fact, mapping pieces of people's paths through the cities they live in."Kain says he’s not oblivious to his surveillance invention’s creep factor: “I think there’s a real ethical issue there.”Even more troubling, Hall says, would be the potential for law enforcement to gain access to the data, either through some sort of incentive to drivers—just as local police in some cities have subsidized Amazon's Ring home surveillance cameras as a way to access their data—or by compelling users to share it with subpoenas.Kain says he's aware of those concerns, and built his system in part to demonstrate the possibilities of self-driving cars' video surveillance before a shady commercial startup could do it first—one that might aggregate the data between users rather than keep it separated.

As said here by Andy Greenberg