LA Sheriffs launch crowdsourced crowd control: LEEDIR, a surveillance app that uses your photos and videos

A monitor displaying videos and photos uploaded to LEEDIR (Large Emergency Event Digital Information Repository) on April 10, 2014. The app that allows civilians to upload material to law enforcement after a disaster or emergency. Erika Aguilar, KPCC

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department today unveiled a software program that allows US law enforcement agencies who adopt it to solicit and gather videos and photos of "emergency events" from the public.

Under the leadership of disgraced former LA County Sheriff Lee Baca, the department is said to have conceptualized the web service and smartphone app, which was built by Citizen Global with Amazon. It's called LEEDIR, an acronym for Large Emergency Event Digital Information Repository. Citizen Global brands it as "public safety through crowdsourcing."

In today's announcement, earthquakes, terrorist attacks, and the Boston Marathon bombings were mentioned as scenarios in which LEEDIR could help law enforcement respond to disasters or large-scale public security threats. One might also imagine large citizen protests like Occupy Wall Street being the focus of such crowdsourced surveillance.

From Erika Aguilar's report at KPCC radio:
[Commander Scott Edson with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department] said he realized not many law enforcement agencies have the extra bandwidth and extra storage to collect mass amounts of data in a short period of time. He reached out to Citizen Global, a private technology group that was providing uploading services to broadcast media companies seeking to collect videos and photos from eyewitnesses.

“It’s becoming part of our communication fabric,” said Nick Namikas, co-CEO of Citizen Global. “So I think this is the next phase of our see something, say something…it’s now see something, send us something.”

The LEEDIR website and app are not live all the time. A law enforcement or local government agency must send a request to Citizen Global to activate the uploading program. There’s no cost to the law enforcement agency to use LEEDIR if the emergency affects more than 5,000 people or covers five square miles and at least two public safety agencies respond.

Read or listen to the rest of the KPCC report here.

As you can see from the screengrab below, this week the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department is using LEEDIR to gather photos and videos from eyewitnesses of a chaotic street party in Isla Vista that led to over 100 arrests. Sheriff's investigators hope the images they receive will allow them to ID more suspects. According to today's announcement, agencies might typically retain uploaded content for a month or two, then delete it. But there's no requirement to delete it, nor is there a guarantee of true anonymity for uploaders, though you do not have to provide your name.

Below, a screenshot of the LEEDIR website.

Above: The LEEDIR iphone app, with which the public is invited to upload photos and video to law enforcement. Surely there could be no privacy concerns with downloading such an app to your smartphone.

Below, a promotional video released in 2013 with former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who is credited with leading the development of LEEDIR. Baca's administration was plagued by corruption and scandal, and he resigned amid ongoing investigation into possible criminal activity. Certainly no such imperfect leader would misuse LEEDIR.