Gunfire detection system plants sound-monitoring systems in public spaces

The Oakland Police Department (OPD) has deployed an algorithmic tool called ShotSpotter to fight and reduce gun violence (ShotSpotter 2018). The system detects gunshots through sound-monitoring microphones (Gold 2015). The gathered data are processed by an algorithm that identifies the type of event and alerts the police. According to the developer, the tool has been credited a reduction of gunfire incidents by 29% from 2012-2017 in Oakland (ibid). The software has also been implemented in several American cities to similar degrees of success, including New York City, Cincinnati, Denver, Chicago, St. Louis County, San Diego, and Pittsburgh.

The system faces controversy regarding the installation of its sensors in public spaces and their capacity for surveillance activities. For example, ShotSpotter has been found to erroneously record private conversations in various instances  (Goode 2012). While ShotSpotter has been placed on university campuses all across America due to the prevalence of US mass shootings, students worry that the system undermines their fundamental right to privacy (Gold 2015).