The HOAs are watching us. An investigation by the Intercept reveals that the practice of setting up license plate readers, often without public knowledge, is becoming the norm for homeowners associations throughout the US. The outlet has found more than 200 HOAs around the country that have installed cameras from Flock Safety, one of the largest such vendors in the nation. The company typically strikes a deal with private HOAs and local police departments to set up the cameras, and the story by Georgia Gee lays out the privacy concerns that ensue as the data collected is fed into larger search networks. Another issue is that local residents—inside or outside of the HOAs—are sometimes unaware the cameras are in place.
"We find ourselves with a surveillance system with no information and no policies, procedures, or protections," is how Mayor Thomas Kilgore of Lakeway, Texas, put it at a 2021 city council meeting. The eight cameras in question were tracking vehicles on public and private roads, and city leaders knew nothing about it. A Flock representative calls that incident "an honest misunderstanding," but the growing popularity of the cameras suggest it may not be the last. "What are the consequences if somebody abuses the system?" asks Dave Maass of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "There are repercussions of having this data, and you don't have that kind of accountability when it comes to a homeowners association." Read the full story. (Read more Longform stories.)