This post has been updated to provide additional context about patents and patent applications, which are indications of an entity’s interest in a particular product but not proof that the product is currently in development or available for use. You can read more about the role of patents in this series in our post, “The Catalog of Carceral Surveillance: Patents Aren't Products (Yet)”
Prison technology and telecom companies such as Securus and Global Tel*Link are already notorious for their ongoing efforts to extract every last penny from incarcerated people and, in the process, destroying any shreds of privacy they have left. These companies now operate in thousands of prisons and jails in every state in the U.S., and they are often the only way for thousands of inmates to call home.
Securus and GTL are more than just prison phone companies, though. In the last several years, both companies have moved to diversify their products, dreaming up new ways to extract money from incarcerated people, violate human rights, and surveil not only prisoners but their families and friends, too.
Over the coming weeks, EFF will be shedding light on some of the patents and technologies these companies have devised. Some are already actively in use and others may one day be used in prisons across the country. This series is based largely off of patents filed or obtained by Securus and GTL. Patents often precede the actual creations of technologies and do not, by themselves, indicate that the products will ever become reality. Some companies never follow through on the ideas in their patents.
By exposing some of the horrifying technologies that Securus and GTL have envisioned in their patents, our hope is that most of these ideas never move from concept to reality, and that they remain visible only in obscure patent documents. Indeed, this already appears to be the case, as Securus’ parent company has told EFF that it will not build one of the patents featured in this series.
But if the companies do end up building the dystopian tech described in their patents, we hope that this series, which also details technologies already in use, leads to greater public scrutiny of the tech being contemplated and actively deployed against incarcerated people and their families.
View the Catalog of Carceral Surveillance below.
- Monitoring the Online Purchases of Inmates' Friends and Family.
- Mobile Correctional Facility Robots
- Prison Gaming and AR/VR Services
- Voice Recognition and Surveillance
- Tablet Advertising That Can Also Issue Discipline
*Do you have experience with these technologies? We'd love to hear from you. Get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.*