Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 16, 2006

Webcams at the southern border?

Filed under: Border Security — by Christian Beckner on June 16, 2006

The Associated Press reported last week on a plan in Texas to install a network of webcams along the state’s portion of the US-Mexico border:

The governor of Texas wants to turn all the world into a virtual posse.

Rick Perry has announced a $5 million plan to install hundreds of night-vision cameras on private land along the Mexican border and put the live video on the Internet, so that anyone with a computer who spots illegal immigrants trying to slip across can report it on a toll-free hotline.

“I look at this as not different from the neighborhood watches we have had in our communities for years and years,” Perry said.

At a $5 million price tag, this is a pretty good idea. It’s essentially an extension of the distributed computing paradigm to border security, taking advantage of the fact that there are thousands of people with too much free time on their hands who would be willing to monitor webcams for no compensation. There’s some risk that this could lead to an increase in false alarms for the Border Patrol; but the existing ground sensors along the border already have a very high false alarm rate, so it’s feasible that this type of application could reduce false alarms, especially if the system established some type of ‘trusted user’ status for frequent camera-watchers.

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