Smart Home – Easier Access for Law Enforcement?

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Technology in the 21st century far surpasses anything we could have imagined in the early part of the 20th.

What was once only a science fiction dream set in the distant future has become the age of smartphones, talking cars and computers that can operate on voice command. The rapid development of the digital age brings with it many benefits and conveniences. But, as with all advances in technology, it has the potential to leave you open to a whole new set of difficulties. Home security and security systems in the digital age is great, but it also provides one of the greatest areas of concern.

Smart Home Privacy


As of May 2013, according to Pew Research Internet Project, only 91% of the population in America owned a cell phone. According to the Census Bureau, nearly 80% of households have computers or other devices used to connect to the internet. Most of these devices have cameras in them.Most home security systems today offer video surveillance and storage as part of the package. This video can be accessed by you and by the security company in the event of something happening.

With so much video out in cyberspace, privacy concerns have become a major issue in recent years. More frequently we hear of government agencies accessing customer data through programs like NSA data mining, FBI warrantless wiretaps, and other various law enforcement applications. As law abiding citizens, you obviously want police and other law enforcement to be able to do their jobs well. However, you may not want them peering into your bedrooms, cupboards and living rooms.

What Does a Smart Home Do?

Smart homes can be as simple as being able to set your thermostat and DVR from your mobile phone. Or they can be as complex as having every appliance in your home wired into a matrix that allows you to turn things on, set utilities, and access your video surveillance from any place you may be. It’s important to be aware of the level of access available to you.

As technology continues to advance, there will be additional areas of control. Computers will be able to monitor environmental factors and even the habits of the people living in a home to intuitively control comfort and efficiency. As this ambient monitoring increases, so does the possibility of outside access.

Law Enforcement Privacy Regulations

Law enforcement is increasingly using technology in efforts to stop crime and catch criminals. The upside is that convictions tend to be more solid, with fewer errors due to of lack of evidence. The downside is that they are increasingly making the case that they should be allowed to invade homeowners’ privacy in their efforts to be more efficient. Home security systems, particularly systems that store video off-site, are the biggest concern.

There are three ways law enforcement can obtain access to video footage of your home security: just ask, subpoena or search warrant. For a search warrant, they must prove to a judge that there is probable cause; basically that they have reason to believe something in the footage will lead to the conviction of a specific person in a specific crime. Subpoenas don’t require such stringent specifications, only that they claim there might be something relevant present.

The “just asking” option can be touchy. You may not think you have anything to hide and then you realize they see things you really wish they hadn’t. Also, if you refuse, you’re automatically under a bit more suspicion of something than otherwise. After all, people have bought into the idea, “Well, if you have nothing to hide…” without realizing there are significant principles involved.

As law enforcement seeks to do continue to do more with fewer resources, and technology keeps making our homes smarter, it’s important for you to be aware of what your house is tracking, how that data is stored, and how it can be accessed by people other than you.

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