FedEx is using AI-powered cameras installed on its trucks to help aid police investigations, a new report has revealed.

The popular postal firm has partnered with a $4billion surveillance startup based in Georgia called Flock Safety, Forbes reported.

Flock specializes in automated license plate recognition and video surveillance, and already has a fleet of around 40,000 cameras spanning 4,000 cities across 40 states.

FedEx has teamed up with the company to monitor its facilities across the US, but under the deal it is also sharing its Flock surveillance feeds with law enforcement. And it is believed to be one of four multi-billion dollar private companies with this arrangement.

It’s led critics to liken the move to rolling out a mass surveillance network - as it emerged that some local police forces are also sharing their Flock feeds with FedEx.

Jay Stanley, a policy analyst with the ACLU, told the Virginian Pilot: ‘There’s a simple principle that we’ve always had in this country, which is that the government doesn’t get to watch everybody all the time just in case somebody commits a crime.’

‘The United States is not China,’ he continued. ‘But these cameras are being deployed with such density that it’s like GPS-tracking everyone.’

In response to Forbes’ report that FedEx was part of Flock’s surveillance system, he told the outlet: ‘It raises questions about why a private company…would have privileged access to data that normally is only available to law enforcement.’

He went on to bill it as ‘profoundly disconcerting’.

Flock Safety’s cameras are used to track vehicles by their license plates, as well as the make, model, and color of their cars. Other identifying characteristics are also monitored, such as dents and even bumper stickers.

Lisa Femia, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, warned that FedEx’s participation could prove problematic because private firms are not subject to the same transparency laws as cops.

This, she told Forbes, could ‘[leave] the public in the dark, while at the same time expanding a sort of mass surveillance network.’

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office in Tennessee confirmed its partnership with Flock in an email to Forbes.

‘We share reads from our Flock license plate readers with FedEx in the same manner we share the data with other law enforcement agencies, locally, regionally, and nationally,’ public information officer John Morris told the outlet.

He also confirmed his department had access to FedEx’s Flock feeds.

Its participation was unmasked after Forbes found the name of the force on publicly available lists of data sharing partners - along with others such as the Pittsboro Police Department in Indiana, located just outside of Indianapolis.

Pittsboro police chief Scott King reportedly did not comment on why his department is participating but insisted the force had not requested access to a private system.

‘Only those listed under law enforcement,’ he said.

Assistant Chief of Greenwood Police Department Matthew Fillenwarth confirmed its force, also in Indiana, is similarly participating.

Memphis police department also stated it had received camera feeds from FedEx but did not confirm if these were provided by Flock.

When speaking about networks of license plate readers, Brett Max Kaufman, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told Forbes: ‘The scale of this kind of surveillance is just incredibly massive.’

He went on to describe to the outlet how the warrantless monitoring of citizens en masse was ‘quite horrifying’.

FedEx declined to answer questions about its partnership with Flock, saying in a statement: ‘We take the safety of our team members very seriously. As such, we do not publicly discuss our security procedures.’

There is no suggestion the partnership is illegal, but some critics suggest it is flouting the basic tenets of the Constitution

For now, it is currently unclear just how far-reaching the partnership between law enforcement and FedEx actually is or how much Flock data is being shared.

Forbes also found that FedEx was not alone its decision to sign up - with Kaiser Permanente, the largest health insurance carrier in the US, also taking part.

The company shared data garnered from Flock cameras with the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, an intelligence hub that provides support to local and federal police investigations involving major crimes across California’s west coast.

‘As part of our robust security programs, license plate readers are not only an effective visual deterrent, but the technology has allowed us to collaborate with law enforcement within the parameters of the law,’ a spokesperson confirmed.

‘The technology has been used in response to warrants and subpoenas, as well as in other scenarios regarding potential or ongoing crimes on the facilities’ premises -and it has supported the arrest and prosecution of those committing crimes.’

The cameras were labeled to disclose to passersby they were filming - but she declined to comment when asked about where the company had these cameras deployed.

Meanwhile, police forces around the world over the past few years continue to pick up Flock as a partner - with more than 1,800 law enforcement agencies taking part.

Overall, more than 3,000 American communities use Flock technology, only ten years since the startup surfaced in 2014.

The firm today is valued at nearly $4billion, and continues to receive a steady stream of venture capital.

In 2022, it raised an astounding $300 million in just seven months, followed by $38 million in Series B funding February the following year.

It uses real-time data ‘to enable and incentivize safer driving,’ a description on its website states - describing the effort as ‘the world’s first fully digital insurance company for connected and autonomous commercial vehicles.’

‘Eliminate crime in your community’ a chyron geared toward businesses in the private sector - such as grocery stores - reads.

  • ᴇᴍᴘᴇʀᴏʀ 帝@feddit.uk
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    9 days ago

    ‘We share reads from our Flock license plate readers with FedEx in the same manner we share the data with other law enforcement agencies

    Did I miss the announcement of FedEx becoming a law enforcement agency?

    • talentedkiwi@sh.itjust.works
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      9 days ago

      I’ll be honest that I didn’t read the whole thing, but why does FedEx need vehicle data for other drivers to this degree? Only thing I can think of is for a collision or theft from a vehicle. A camera would be just fine without the other privacy invasion stuff.

      • dohpaz42@lemmy.world
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        9 days ago

        Private company. Not bound by privacy laws like law enforcement is. That means cops can ask for footage without a warrant. And FedEx will gladly give it to them. Probably same reason for why FedEx has access to police video. A means of skirting the privacy laws.

        • jonne@infosec.pub
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          9 days ago

          Yep, the 4th amendment applies to government entities alone, and there’s pretty much no other privacy laws in the US. That means private companies can do all the stuff the government isn’t allowed to do, and the government can just buy that data and circumvent the few protections citizens actually have.

      • AwkwardLookMonkeyPuppet@lemmy.world
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        9 days ago

        They don’t. But since our Congress can’t be arsed to pass any consumer privacy laws at all, and go out of their way to violate the ones that we have, companies are free to gobble up as much data as they can sell.

      • ᴇᴍᴘᴇʀᴏʀ 帝@feddit.uk
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        9 days ago

        There are gangs of criminals who crash into buses and the like in a way that makes it look like the bus’ fault as the insurance usually pays out quite quickly. This has led to buses installing cameras and I suppose they are worried about that as well as van heists. Why they need number plate recognition is unclear. They may justify it by saying it could soot known criminals but that is unlikely.

        I notice they are also being hired to monitor their depots and In could imagine they’ve a situation where they do a deal for cheaper cameras and monitoring in return for being able to sell the information to law enforcement. That’s the situation where number plate recognition becomes useful. So FedEx don’t need it, but Flock do to make the data more widely useful so it piggybacks on cameras installed for security purposes.

          • ᴇᴍᴘᴇʀᴏʀ 帝@feddit.uk
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            9 days ago

            While I’m not saying that happens, it is a ruthless business model that would maximise coverage that, in turn, makes their data more valuable.

            So, for example, I create a video doorbell. I offer AI facial recognition at $5/month but it’s free if you let me use and resell the data from your doorbell footage. It’s a useful feature for a household (unlike number plate recognition for a parcel delivery van) and could increase sales, leading to extensive coverage.

  • AwkwardLookMonkeyPuppet@lemmy.world
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    9 days ago

    This shit is illegal without a warrant. ALL of this modern spying is illegal. Exchanging money for information doesn’t remove the legal requirement for a warrant. Why aren’t organizations like the ACLU suing over these things?

    There is no suggestion the partnership is illegal, but some critics suggest it is flouting the basic tenets of the Constitution

    This is the norm now. We’re running our country from a document that was created long before any of the immediate threats to constitutional violations existed. Since we don’t have any citizen representation in Congress, only corporate representation, and Congress can’t stay functional long enough to pass anything anyways, companies, politicians, and government agencies are running roughshod over our rights.

    The technology has been used in response to warrants and subpoenas, as well as in other scenarios regarding potential or ongoing crimes on the facilities’ premises -and it has supported the arrest and prosecution of those committing crimes.’

    Welcome to the age of pre crime…

    It uses real-time data ‘to enable and incentivize safer driving,’ a description on its website states - describing the effort as 'the world’s first fully digital insurance company

    Literally everything we do is being tracked by corporations, and the government, both online and off. All of it is a violation of the spirit of our constitution, and our basic liberties and civil rights.

  • soloActivist
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    7 days ago

    Folks, FedEx has always been on the extreme right. Some basic facts:

    • FedEx is an ALEC member (extreme right lobby and bill mill), largely as an anti-union measure
    • FedEx founded by an ex military serviceman
    • FedEx gives discounts for NRA membership (though I heard this was recently discontinued). NRA is obviously an extreme right org who also finances ALEC.
    • During the NFL take-a-knee protest, FedEx is one of very few die-hard corps that refused to give in to the boycott. FedEx continued supporting the NFL throughout all the Black Lives Matter athletes taking knees and getting punished.
    • FedEx ships shark fins, slave dolphins and hunting trophies. Does not give a shit about harm to animals (even when endangered) or environment.

    I have been boycotting FedEx for over a decade. Certainly being pro-surveillance is fitting with their history and should not be a surprise to anyone who is aware of this background.

    The only moral inconsistency is that FedEx has a reputation for not snooping on your packages and seems to be favored by people shipping contraband. But to find the consistency it’s just about the bottom line. They make no money by ratting out their customers who break the law. But installing a surveillance system on their trucks is probably yielding revenue for FedEx.