Here’s how to find the surveillance tools police use in your city

Apr 16, 2023, 5:00 AM

(Pixabay Photo)...

(Pixabay Photo)

(Pixabay Photo)

Over a million hobby drones are registered in the U.S. You may never know when you’re being watched. Check out my guide to avoiding drone surveillance. We wrote this after one hovered over my pool while I was swimming.

Ever stay in an Airbnb? Hosts sometimes spy on their guests with hidden cameras. Yes, that happened to me too. Use these tricks to catch them in the act.

Police departments are stepping up their surveillance, adding drones to their tech collection. How closely does your local department monitor you? Here’s a searchable website you can use to see.

Atlas of Surveillance

The Atlas of Surveillance is a searchable database project from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It shows which surveillance technologies — such as drones, automated license plate readers, and facial recognition — are used by law enforcement agencies across the U.S.

The pilot program began as a collaboration between the EFF and the University of Nevada’s Reno Reynolds School of Journalism in 2019.

The information comes from public records, crowdsourcing, data journalism, news stories, social media posts, press releases, and volunteer assistance. As of November 2022, the Atlas of Surveillance has 10,000 data points, with at least partial data on 5,500 law enforcement agencies in all 50 states, plus most territories and districts.

The Atlas of Surveillance site says its information is only as good as the source and that government agencies can withhold information. Plus, there’s always the chance of misinterpretation.

While it’s impossible to fact-check every data point, each one is reviewed by multiple journalism students and staff. Let’s have a closer look at what it shows.

Types of surveillance in use around the US

Does a camera on every street corner make you nervous? Do you worry that your face is constantly being scanned against a database of who-knows-who? Some people don’t mind it, and others are really bothered by it.

The Atlas of Surveillance lets you search and view databases containing the following examples of surveillance:

● Automated License Plate Readers: Cameras attached to fixed locations or police cars that track license plates.
● Body-worn cameras: Video cameras attached to police uniforms.
● Camera registry: A voluntary registry of security cameras people have installed on their properties. Would you let police access your private security cameras any time they want?
● Cell-site simulator: Fake cellphone towers used to spy on people’s phones.
● Drones: Aerial vehicles police use to gather footage from above.
● Face recognition: Software that identifies a person from their face.
● Fusion Center: Intelligence centers that enable information sharing between local, state, tribal, territorial, and federal agencies.
● Gunshot detection: Acoustic sensors attached to street lights or buildings that passively listen for the sound of gunfire.
● Predictive policing: Software that suggests neighborhoods or people that need more police attention.
● Real-Time Crime Center: Police analyze surveillance video, intelligence, and other data from these hubs.
● Ring/Neighbors Partnership: Many police departments have partnerships with Ring. Have a Ring camera? Here’s how police can get your footage without permission.
● Video analytics: Computers automatically analyze video footage and feeds.

Interactive map

The Atlas is a map with over 10,000 data points across the country. Go to to get started.

● Toggle data points on and off from the legend and zoom in and out as needed.
● Click on a data point for more information, such as the technology being employed, which department is using it, a summary of the system, and source links.

See what’s going on in your area

Want to narrow your search? Go to to access a searchable database. Then:

● Enter a city, county, state, or agency in the U.S. and hit Update Search.
● Click more info on any result to get more information on the technology, the agency using it, the vendor, and more.
● Select or deselect the data you want to see from the list on the left.

What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch The Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.

Kim Komando

Image of a voice assistant....

Kim Komando

7 things you should never ask Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant

As technology evolves, so should our knowledge of it. Here are seven things you should NEVER ask your smart assistant!

19 hours ago

Person upset with phone....

Kim Komando

Here are the signs that you need a new phone, like, now

As time goes on, the battery level on your phone will drop. Here are the signs you should know that hint you need a new phone ASAP.

2 days ago

Woman sitting at her computer....

Kim Komando

Here are tech life upgrades smarter than the stuff on TikTok

This story delves into the pitfalls of relying solely on online guidance, particularly in the realm of finance and technology, where clickbait and hype often overshadow genuine insight.

8 days ago

Anything connected is a hacker target, and you better believe that includes all the Internet gadget...

Kim Komando

Tech security to-do: Lock down your smart stuff before it can be hacked

Anything connected is a hacker target, and you better believe that includes all the Internet of Things gadgets in your home.

9 days ago

Family siting on couch....

Kim Komando

Unlocking online safety: The secret text code every family needs

For those who don't have one yet, here's a guide to a secret text code that every family needs to be using these days.

15 days ago

Woman holds phone...

Kim Komando

Unscrupulous scammers targeting children and adolescents

Scammers pose as attractive individuals, coerce teens into sharing sensitive content, and demand payouts. Read to learn more.

16 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

Here’s how to find the surveillance tools police use in your city