A US-based communications and surveillance company. Leading supplier of license plate recognition software. Sells surveillance products for use at US prisons, at the US-Mexico Border, and by US police agencies. Its equipment is installed in illegal settlements and in the separation wall in the West Bank and is used by the Israeli military, police, and prison service.
Motorola Solutions is a publicly-traded corporation based in Chicago, Illinois. It’s historic main line of business is providing customized private communications networks for governments and corporations, although it has expanded into mass surveillance, as described below. The company is the legal successor of Motorola Inc., which split in 2011 into two companies, Motorola Solutions and Motorola Mobility. Motorola Mobility, which assumed the company’s consumer products, like mobile phones and modems, was acquired by Google in 2012 and by Lenovo in 2014. Motorola Solutions operates in over 100 countries, with more than 17,000 employees. Its 2019 annual revenue was $7.9 billion. The U.S. federal government is Motorola’s largest client, representing approximately 9% of its total 2019 sales.
Between 2016 and 2019, through a series of acquisitions, Motorola Solutions has transformed from a communications company into a mass surveillance company. This has deepened the company’s already strong relationship with law enforcement and immigration government agencies. Within these four years, Motorola spent more than $1.8 billion to acquire multiple surveillance companies:
- Avigilon Corporation - a manufacturer of surveillance cameras that scan and analyze video footage for specific people and vehicles in real time.
- Spillman Technologies - a provider of records management software for prisons and law enforcement agencies.
- VaaS International Holdings - the parent company of Vigilant Solutions, which makes automated license plate readers, and of Edesix, a body camera manufacturer.
- Watchguard - sells in-car and body cameras to police.
Motorola markets and sells these surveillance systems and technologies to militaries, detention centers, jails, prisons, border patrol, and police. The American Civil Liberties Union described the concentration of all these capabilities in the hands of one corporation as “a scary prospect.”
US Mass Surveillance of Immigrants
Motorola Solutions’ subsidiary Vigilant Solutions is a leading supplier of license plate recognition software and data used in the U.S. by police agencies, who in turn share this information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to facilitate deportations. In addition, Vigilant provides facial recognition technology to law enforcement agencies. Vigilant Solutions was established in 2005 in Livermore, CA as a law enforcement intelligence provider. In January 2019, Motorola Solutions bought VaaS International Holdings, owner of Vigilant Solutions, for $445 million.
Automated license plate readers (ALPRs) are high-speed, computer-controlled camera systems that automatically capture all license plate numbers that come into view, along with location and timestamp data. These cameras are mounted on street poles, street lights, highway overpasses, and police cars.
Vigilant Solutions’ law enforcement ALPR database is called LEARN-NVLS, or the Law Enforcement Archival Reporting Network and National Vehicle Location Service. It receives ALPR data from more than 500 government agencies in the U.S., mostly police departments, and includes some 1.5 billion records as of 2019. The data is automatically shared with all law enforcement agencies that have access to the system, including ICE, which uses it to conduct investigations. With this database, ICE can map people’s travel patterns and schedules, their home and work addresses, and their social networks. In its marketing materials, Vigilant claims that sharing data through its database is “as easy as adding a friend on your favorite social media platform.”
In addition to government ALPRs, Vigilant’s database is increasingly expanding through data collected by private sources, such as repossession and towing companies, insurance companies, and parking lots. Vigilant’s commercial database contains over 5 billion records as of 2019 and grows by an average of 150-200 million scans each month. Such commercial license plate data is collected in the “most populous 50 metropolitan areas” in the U.S., which means about 60 percent of the U.S. population is under constant surveillance by private actors. In one example, Vigilant’s cameras collected ALPR data from a shopping mall in Orange County, and local police then shared this information with ICE.
ICE has access to Vigilant Solutions’ LEARN-NVLS ALPR database through its contract with West Publishing Corporation, a subsidiary of Thomson Reuters. Since 2017, West Publishing Corporation has been integrating Vigilant Solutions’ license plate data into its Consolidated Lead Evaluation and Reporting (CLEAR) service. Later that same year, ICE signed a $6.8 million contract with West Publishing to gain access to Vigilant’s license plate reader database. ICE uses this database to surveil immigrants and carry out deportation operations. Less than four months after signing the contract, more than 9,200 ICE employees had accounts on the Vigilant database. As part of its contract, Vigilant gave ICE training materials including an interactive map of law enforcement agencies that use Vigilant’s software and a step-by-step guide to request access from local police.
Integrated into the ALPR systems Vigilant provides to law enforcement is facial recognition technology and an image database. Facial recognition technology has been demonstrated to yield false matches disproportionately for people of color leading to wrongful arrests.
In addition to its contract with Vigilant Solutions, ICE has additional contracts with Motorola Solutions worth a total of $27 million as of 2020, primarily for radio systems and other communication equipment.
Border Monitoring and Surveillance
Motorola Solutions has supplied U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with several technologies that support and expand the militarization of U.S. border. Between 2016 and 2020, CBP awarded $101.4 million worth of contracts to Motorola Solution. The majority of these contracts are for radio communication systems that Motorola provides to border patrol agents and the coast guard.
Another product Motorola markets to CBP is Border Protect, which is a part of its CommandCentral system, and is advertised for use at border crossings, checkpoints, ports, and airport customs. This system consists of video surveillance, radar, sensor, cybersecurity, and identification systems that use biometrics and facial recognition. This system was specifically created to facilitate surveillance at the border, build cases for deportation, and easily share information across state and local law enforcement agencies. We have no indication whether or not CBP actually uses this system.
Involvement in the Israeli Occupation of Palestine
Motorola Solutions has decades of close relationships with the Israeli government and its security agencies. The company entered the Israeli market in 1964, and in 1972 established a R&D center in Israel, its first outside the U.S.
Motorola Solutions’s surveillance equipment has been installed in Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, the separation walls and checkpoints in Gaza and the West Bank, and Israeli military bases. In 2005 Israel’s Ministry of Defense awarded the company a contract to provide a “virtual fence system,” called MotoEagle Wide Area Surveillance System, to dozens of illegal settlements. The system includes radars and cameras that can detect movement outside settlements. It was installed as part of Israel’s “Special Security Area” plan, under which Palestinians are prevented access to areas around certain illegal settlements, even if it is their land. In some cases, Motorola’s radar stations themselves were erected on privately-owned Palestinian land. The MotoEagle system is installed in at least 25 settlements as of 2016, according to Who Profits.
Beyond MotoEagle, Motorola is involved in other projects in Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank. It has provided communication systems and maintenance to several of the largest settlements, including Modi'in Illit and the Mateh Binyamin Regional Councils in 2019, and before that Beitar Illit, Efrat, and the Gush Etzion Regional Council. In 2018, the company was contracted to provide technological security products to the settlements of Ariel and Kiryat Arba.
Because of its involvement in illegal settlements, Motorola Solutions was included in the 2020 database produced by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights of companies involved in Israel’s settlement industry. The U.N. database identified Motorola as a company that supplies surveillance or identification equipment to settlements, the separation wall, or military checkpoints. The U.N. database only includes companies whose involvement was verified during 2018-2019.
Motorola Solutions also has two contracts with Israel Railways, one from 2012 for providing Wi-Fi internet servers in all of Israel’s train stations and cars, and another from 2019 for the provision of an internal communications system. Israel Railways’ Tel Aviv-Jerusalem line goes through the occupied West Bank, including on privately owned Palestinian lands. Any use of occupied Palestinian land and resources for an exclusively Israeli transportation project is illegal by international law.
In addition to its business in the occupied Palestinian territory, Motorola Solutions Israel has developed customized encrypted communication systems for Israel’s security forces. In 2014, Motorola signed a 15-year, $100 million contract with the Israeli Defense Ministry to develop an encrypted smartphone system for the Israel military and security forces. Half of this contract is funded using the U.S. Foreign Military Sales Program. The system, based on Motorola’s Lex M20 smartphone, became operational in 2016 and works on a private LTE (4G) cellular network provided by Motorola, in partnership with Ericsson and Partner Communications. It replaced the Israeli military Mountain Rose communication system, which was also provided by Motorola since 2002. As of 2020, Motorola is reportedly lobbying the Israeli military to upgrade its communication system to 5G for almost $500 million.
Motorola Solutions also provides the Israeli Police with its main tactical communication system, called Nitzan, which includes designated communication towers, an internal wireless network, and Motorola’s ASTRO 25 two-way radios as the end-point devices. In 2013, the system was documented being used during a police arrest of Palestinian protesters in occupied East Jerusalem. Motorola Solutions was first selected as the system contractor in 2010, and has since been contracted repeatedly for system upgrades, enhancements, and maintenance, as well as to add other security forces to the network, including some military units and the Israeli Prison Service. In 2020, Motorola’s contract was extended until the end of 2021.
The company has additional contracts with the Israeli Prison Service and the Population and Immigration Authority, which both play critical roles in Israel’s occupation apparatus. Motorola Solutions has been providing communication systems to the Israeli Prison Service at least since 2007, including for Ofer Prison, which is located in the occupied West Bank and holds Palestinian political prisoners.
In the past, Motorola Solutions Israel developed military technology components, including electronic fuses for aircraft bombs and guided munitions for the Israeli Air Force and other major Israeli defense industries. The company’s Government Electronics Department, which was responsible for these business activities, was sold to Aeronautics in 2009.
US Prison Security and Surveillance
Motorola Solutions provides several surveillance, security, and communications services to U.S. federal, state, and county prisons and jails. The company’s flagship product for the prison industry is the CommandCentral Jail System, previously known as OffenderTrak, which automates tracking and activity alerts within prisons and shares information about the people incarcerated in them between police agencies and prison officials. The system uses biometrics and facial recognition to verify identities and monitor people’s activities within the prison.
CommandCentral Jail System is based on a product developed by Spillman Technologies, which Motorola acquired in 2016. A year after the acquisition, Spillman Technologies was providing its surveillance software to over 1,900 law enforcement agencies in 43 states. Prison and jail authorities that have used OffenderTrak, Motorola’s legacy prison management system, include the states of Hawaii, Mississippi, Virginia, and many cities and counties across the U.S.
In addition, Motorola’s subsidiary Avigilon provides prisons with video surveillance systems. Avigilon sells video cameras that have alarm and sensor systems as well as audio recording, facial and vehicle recognition, indexing, and search capabilities that can track specific people. Motorola acquired Avigilon in 2018 for $974 million.
Avigilon typically does not have direct contacts with prisons, but it serves as a subcontractor in other companies’ contracts. For example, Johnson Controls Security Solutions, which was contracted to provide surveillance systems for prisons, county jails, and detention facilities in New York State until August 2024, uses Avigilon’s system. In another example, Kansas City-based company Sound Products provided surveillance systems equipped with Avigilon cameras to three prisons in Kansas and Missouri as of 2018. One of these prisons was in the Shawnee Department of Corrections, which used Avigilon’s video surveillance system to collect evidence in order to build cases, reportedly tripling the number of people it was able to prosecute.
At the federal level, between 2016 and 2020, Motorola had $42.6 million dollars worth of contracts with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, primarily for radios and other communications equipment. Furthermore, Motorola has sponsored the Deputy Sheriff of the Year Award at the American Correctional Association's annual conference, and Motorola’s subsidiary Avigilon was one of the corporate sponsors of the 2019 Western Region Jail Association.
US Police Surveillance and Militarization
Motorola provides police agencies with a number of technologies for mass surveillance. According to company publications, Motorola has been partnering with police departments since the 1930s. In addition, Motorola Solutions has sponsored both the California Police Chiefs Association and the National Sheriff’s association. Furthermore, Motorola facilitates the militarization of police through encouraging local police departments to apply for Department of Homeland Security grants to receive military-grade Motorola equipment while bypassing the oversight that comes with state/local funding.
One of the main technologies Motorola provides to police is in-car and body cameras. In 2019, Motorola acquired Watchguard, a body-camera manufacturer which has provided body cameras to multiple police departments in the U.S., including the Houston and Detroit police departments. After the 2019 acquisition, Motorola began providing at least three more police departments with body cameras. Motorola has been working to integrate facial and vehicle recognition into its police cameras since 2017, which would allow police to search for and track people in real time.
Additionally, Motorola sells surveillance drone software to police departments. The company developed drone-specific intelligence software that enables real-time video screening and license plate recognition to track and surveil people’s movement. The company has sold these drones to the Chula Vista Police Department in California, the Brookhaven police department in Georgia, and the municipal police in Tijuana, Mexico, among others.
Another service that Motorola provides to police is data analysis and cloud storage software that can aggregate, index, and organize mass amounts of information from social media, video surveillance, license plate readers, computer-aided dispatch (CAD), facial recognition information, and other police data. Motorola has two such products that it markets for police use: the Real Time Operations Center (RTOC) and CommandCentral Aware, which is in use, for example, by the Dallas Police Department and the Michigan State Police.
Motorola Solutions also offers cities a product called CityProtect, which allows the public to register cameras installed in homes and businesses with police departments to make the footage available for police investigations. Motorola provides this service to over 170 police agencies, including the Chicago, Cleveland, and Maricopa police departments.
In addition, Motorola manufactures computer-aided dispatch (CAD) and communication systems, including Astro25 radios and LTE smartphones, made exclusively for police to share and access information. These CAD and communication systems are used by police departments across the US, including the City of Oakland Police Department and the Nashville Metro Police Department.
- In December 2019, the Brown University Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Practices passed a recommendation that the University divest from companies facilitating human rights abuses in Palestine including Motorola.
- In October 2019, the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church adopted and implemented a global human rights investment screen, with criteria for Israel/Palestine conflict, including divesting immediately from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and the Israel Discount Bank.
In June 2019, Richmond City Council voted to end the city’s five-year contract with Vigilant Solutions over concerns that the company was sharing data with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
- On April 23, 2019 Berkeley City Council passed Sanctuary Contracting Ordinance on Tuesday after months of postponement. It is designed to prevent the city from entering into contracts with businesses that act as data brokers or provide extreme vetting services to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Motorola is likely to be included in the ordinance as Motorola is listed as an ICE Data Broker by the #DeportICE Data Broker public campaign.
- On May 23, 2018, student government of the California State University- East Bay unanimously endorsed a divestment resolution calling to divest from corporations profiting from the occupation of Palestine. The companies listed include Motorola Solutions, G4S, Hewlett Packard, and Caterpillar.
- On May 23, 2018, the student senate at the University of Oregon passed a resolution to divest from companies including the Strauss Group, the Osem Group, Hewlett-Packard Company, Ahava, General Electric, Eden Springs, Motorola, G4S, Elbit Systems. The resolution also prohibited the purchase of products from Sabra, Tribe, Sodastream, and the companies listed above.
- On March 7, 2018, Sampension, a Danish pension fund, divested from Motorola over its ties to Israel's illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian Territories.
In February 2018, Alameda City Council voted against a proposal to install Vigilant Soultion’s license plate readers over concerns that the company was sharing data with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
- On March 15, 2017, the De Anza College Associated Student Body (DASB) passed a resolution to "divest from companies that violate international human rights law" in Palestine, naming specifically Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, G4S, and Motorola Solutions. This was the first community college to pass a divestment resolution related to human rights violations in Palestine. Students for Justice, the group that presented the resolution, told DASB that "by asking De Anza to divest, you are asking them to no longer take a side in this conflict."
- On April 12, 2016, the College Council of the University of Chicago passed a resolution to Divest University funds from apartheid, urging the university “ to withdraw, within the bounds of their fiduciary duty, investments in securities, endowments, mutual funds, and other monetary instruments with holdings in companies profiting from human rights abuses and violations of international law in Palestine, including, Motorola Solution."
- March 25, 2016, The Unitarian Universalist Association and its endowment fund have implemented a human rights screen and divested from companies complicit in human rights violations, including Motorola Solutions.
On March 9, 2016, Palestinian activists led by Bassem Al-Tamimi filed a $34.5 billion civil lawsuit in D.C. against individuals and companies that have been "funding violent settlement activities in occupied Palestine." The lawsuit names several defendants, including G4S, RE/MAX, Africa Israel Investments, Motorola, Volvo, Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories, Oracle Corp., and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
- On March 6, 2016, the Vassar Student Association voted to support the international BDS movement and to divest from companies profiting from Israeli human rights abuses, including Motorola Solutions.
- November 2015 the student government at San Jose State University voted to divest from "companies that play an active role in the human rights violations committed by the Israeli Government in the Occupied Palestinian Territories" including Motorola.
- In October 2015 the Human Rights Council of the city of Portland, Oregon demanded that the City Socially Responsible Investments Committee Motorola Solutions on the city's "Do Not Buy" list due to its complicity in "serious human rights violations in the ongoing illegal and brutal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land."
- In April 2015 the Student Senate of Earham College passed a resolution in support of divestment from companies "directly involved in the Israeli Occupation of Palestine," including Motorola.
- In February 2014, Luxembourg's national pension fund excluded Motorola from its list of investments because of its “association to financing illegal settlements in occupied territories.”
- In June of 2014, the Presbyterian Church's General Assembly voted to divest from Motorola, citing ten years of unsuccessful engagement with the corporation on its involvement in home demolitions and other human rights violations in Israel/Palestine.
- Wesleyan University's student senate in 2014 voted to divest the student endowment from Motorola, declaring the company “complicit in the illegal occupation of Palestine.”
- In 2012, Swedish pension funds AP 1-4 began an engagement with Motorola over the surveillance systems it provides to West Bank settlements that “contravene international humanitarian law.”
- Graduate students at Canada’s Carleton University voted in a 2012 referendum to divest the university’s pension from Motorola, citing its involvement in “illegal military occupations and other violations of international law.”
- Undergraduate students at Arizona State University, in June 2012, voted to divest from and blacklist Motorola due to its “complicit[y] in human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian Territories.”
- The Board of Trustees at Hampshire College, following a two-year student campaign, approved divestment from Motorola due to “human rights concerns in occupied Palestine.”
- Dutch Triodos Bank, in 2008, stated "Triodos explicitly excludes companies that contribute to the continuation of occupation, like Motorola."