404 Media has obtained a cache of internal emails, presentations, memos, photos, and more which provide insight into how Fusus teams up with police departments to sell its surveillance technology. All around the country, city councils are debating whether they want to have a system that qualitatively changes what surveillance cameras mean for a town’s residents and public agencies. While many have adopted Fusus, others have pushed back, and refused to have the hardware and software installed in their neighborhoods. In some ways, Fusus is deploying smart camera technology that historically has been used in places like South Africa, where experts warned about it creating an ever present blanket of surveillance. Now, tech with some of the same capabilities is being used across small town America.
Rather than selling cameras themselves, Fusus’ hardware and software latches onto existing installations, which can include government-owned surveillance cameras as well as privately owned cameras at businesses and homes. It turns dumb cameras into smart ones. “In essence, the Fusus solution puts a brain into every camera connected with the system,” one memorandum obtained by 404 Media reads.
In addition to integrating with existing surveillance installations, Fusus’ hardware, called SmartCORE, can turn cameras into automatic license plate readers (ALPRs). It can reportedly offer facial recognition features, too, although Fusus hasn’t provided clear clarification on this matter.
The report says the system has been adopted by numerous police departments across the United States, with approximately 150 jurisdictions using Fusus. Orland Park police have called it a “game-changer.” It’s also being used internationally, launching in the United Kingdom.
Here’s what Beryl Lipton, investigative researcher at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), had to say about it: “The lack of transparency and community conversation around Fusus exacerbates concerns around police access of the system, AI analysis of video, and analytics involving surveillance and crime data, which can influence officer patrols and priorities. In the absence of clear policies, auditable access logs, and community transparency about the capabilities and costs of Fusus, any community in which this technology is adopted should be concerned about its use and abuse.”