Running the Atlas of Surveillance, our project to map and inventory police surveillance across the United States, means experiencing emotional extremes.

Whenever we announce that we've added new data points to the Atlas, it comes with a great sense of satisfaction. That's because it almost always means that we're hundreds or even thousands of steps closer to achieving what only a few years ago would've seemed impossible: comprehensively documenting the surveillance state through our partnership with students at the University of Nevada, Reno Reynolds School of Journalism.

At the same time, it's depressing as hell. That's because it also reflects how quickly and dangerously the surveillance technology is metastasizing.

We have the exact opposite feeling when we remove items from the Atlas of Surveillance. It's a little sad to see our numbers drop, but at the same time that change in data usually means that a city or county has eliminated a surveillance program.

That brings us to the biggest change in the Atlas since our launch in 2018. This week, we removed 2,530 data points: an entire category of surveillance. With the announcement from Amazon that its home surveillance company Ring will no longer facilitate warrantless requests for consumer video footage, we've decided to sunset that particular dataset.

While law enforcement agencies still maintain accounts on Ring's Neighbors social network, it seems to serve as a communications tool, a function on par with services like Nixle and Citizen, which we currently don't capture in the Atlas. That's not to say law enforcement won't be gathering footage from Ring cameras: they will, through legal process or by directly asking residents to give them access via the Fusus platform. But that type of surveillance doesn't result from merely having a Neighbors account (agencies without accounts can use these methods to obtain footage), which was what our data documented. You can still find out which agencies are maintaining camera registries through the Atlas. 

Ring's decision was a huge victory – and the exact outcome EFF and other civil liberties groups were hoping for. It also has opened up our capacity to track other surveillance technologies growing in use by law enforcement. If we were going to remove a category, we decided we should add one too.

Atlas of Surveillance users will now see a new type of technology: Third-Party Investigative Platforms, or TPIPs. Commons TPIP products include Thomson Reuters CLEAR, LexisNexis Accurint Virtual Crime Center, TransUnion TLOxp, and SoundThinking CrimeTracer (formerly Coplink X from Forensic Logic). These are technologies we've been watching for awhile, but have been struggling to categorize and define. But here's the definition we've come up with:

Third-Party Investigative Platforms are cloud-based software systems that law enforcement agencies subscribe to in order to access, share, mine, and analyze various sources of investigative data. Some of the data the agencies upload themselves, but the systems also provide access to data from other law enforcement, as well as from commercial sources and data brokers. Many products offer AI features, such as pattern identification, face recognition, and predictive analytics. Some agencies employ multiple TPIPs.

We are calling this new category a beta feature in the Atlas, since we are still figuring out how best to research and compile this data nationwide. You'll find fairly comprehensive data on the use of CrimeTracer in Tennessee and Massachusetts, because both states provide the software to local law enforcement agencies throughout the state. Similarly, we've got a large dataset for the use of the Accurint Virtual Crime Center in Colorado, due to a statewide contract. (Big thanks to Prof. Ran Duan's Data Journalism students for working with us to compile those lists!) We've also added more than 60 other agencies around the country, and we expect that dataset to grow as we hone our research methods.

If you've got information on the use of TPIPs in your area, don't hesitate to reach out. You can email us at, submit a tip through our online form, or file a public records request using the template that EFF and our students have developed to reveal the use of these platforms. 

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