Updated: March 2022
TALON, a US-wide network of smart surveillance cameras that has expanded significantly in recent years, is increasing drawing the attention of rights researchers and NGOs concerned about its privacy implications, marketing claims, lack of transaprency, and other issues.
Officially launched in August 2020 by little-known start-up Flock Safety, TALON's network of automatic license plate readers (ALPRs) enables local and national law enforcement authorities, and local homeowners' associations, a searchable, round-the-clock view of vehicles in their neighbourhood.
Despite Flock's marketing description of TALON as 'the industry’s first ethically-designed' ALPR network, privacy and rights experts shared their concerns with Motherboard that collected data is easily shared and could just as easily be misused.
Others point out that TALON fails to distinguish between guilty and innocent people and, given the ability of wealthier neighbourhoods to buy the system, may be biased towards coloured and low income drivers.
Marketing, transparency, and accountability
Some of Flock's marketing claims are also under scrutiny. An August 2021 Bloomberg CityLab notes Flock claims the system is responsible for a 70% crime reduction across the cities it operates in. But it is unclear what role the technology played in any reduction, or whether anyone was arrested and convicted.
And as Bloomberg points out, Flock 'doesn't release information on its hit rate or offer a breakdown of how homeowners’ associations use the cameras.'
TALON is not mentioned on Flock Safety website.
Operator: New Lenox Police Department; Atherton Police Department; Memorial Villages Police Department; Dayton Police Department; Sacramento Police Department; Multiple
Developer: Flock Safety
Sector: Govt - police
Purpose: Strengthen law enforcement
Technology: Automated license plate recognition (ALPR)
Issue: Surveillance; Privacy; Accuracy/reliability; Bias/discrimination - race, income; Dual/multi-use
Opacity: Governance; Marketing