DHS studies PDAs for responders

The Homeland Security Department is studying a prototype software system that would allow first responders and law enforcement officers to receive live video and geospatial coordinates on their personal digital assistants (PDAs) while working in the field.

Through a research project called RealEyes, DHS’ Science and Technology Directorate will work with a federal law enforcement agency and the company that developed to the software to test its operational effectiveness, according to DHS’ privacy impact assessment (PIA) of the program, published in July. The technology already was successfully tested in the lab, according to DHS.

DHS said law enforcement organizations do not have technology that shares live, streaming video.

In addition to sending and receiving video and geospatial coordinates, the software is designed to let first responders and law enforcement officials see video from fixed or mobile cameras or from field command posts by using basic cellular technology. DHS said in its PIA that the PDAs will not store the images.

The trial will test the technology on volunteers from the federal law enforcement agency participating in the study. However, the possibility of incidentally capturing images of non-volunteer persons in the area prompted the department to conduct the PIA. DHS said all the streamed images of either participants or bystanders – will be destroyed after 24 hours.

The PIA also said the technology involved includes 128-bit encryption, The prototype technology tested was handheld PDAs equipped with cameras, not fixed camera systems that passively collect data.

DHS also said that no specific operational plans for the technology had been made and that the greatest benefit of the system would be to quickly share information between different locations.

If the RealEyes technology is deployed operationally, DHS agencies implementing it will be responsible for subsequent privacy assessments, the PIA also said.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.


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