Police Body-Mounted Cameras: Privacy Protected And Always On?
Kind of weird that nobody seems to be talking about the potential for massive privacy violations with police body cams.— Charles Johnson (@Green_Footballs) December 1, 2014
Good point, we need them out there but not just willy nilly. Media wise he is exactly correct, there is a din of shouts for the cams and a dearth of time spent pondering unintended effects.
So lets see if we agree what they should be good for-A clear record of an encounter with a citizen, suspect or violent felon. This should hellp protect both sides of the encounter from false accusations. It should give us a solid video record of any assault on the police officer and the face and voice of the attacker. It would show police misconduct from trivial to deadly. Of course a camera makes everyone that is aware of it a bit more mindful of words and actions taken. The police could turn those in or even better upload them to a secure encrypted cloud storage. The police could use them to sharpen the accuracy of their reports. And have an opportunity to self correct any errors of memory.
But who gets to look at the tapes? Anyone via FOIA? TMZ every time a celeb gets a ticket? Probably a bad idea. Only the police? That’s no help, so we have to find a balance.
What about all that data? There are now memory cards that are quite robust and can record eight hours of 1080 dpi video. Ways to reduce that workload or storage volume include reduced resolution to 720 dpi, or cutting down the frame rate from 30 to 24 or even 15.
I’d even agree that we could compromise with the police unions who object. lets say this can not be used for minor violations of policy. Only in serious instances (like when a citizen files a formal complaint) would this video record be used to punish officers. Like if they lie about events. We don’t care if it implicates an officer in an affair at lunch. All that could be inadmissible via policy.
For an issue like this I always turn to the ACLU for a fair view. I clipped in a little here, please follow the link for the rest of a very well written article.
From the ACLU
Limiting the threat to privacy from cop cams
Most of the discussion around police recording has focused on its oversight potential. But that is only one of the significant interests implicated by recording. Equally important are the privacy interests and fair trial rights of individuals who are recorded. Ideally there would be a way to minimize data collection to only what was reasonably needed, but there’s currently no technological way to do so.
Police body cameras mean that many instances of entirely innocent behavior (on the part of both officers and the public) will be recorded, with significant privacy implications. Perhaps most troubling is that some recordings will be made inside people’s homes, whenever police enter — including in instances of consensual entry (e.g., responding to a burglary call, voluntarily participating in an investigation) and such things as domestic violence calls. In the case of dashcams, we have also seen video of particular incidents released for no important public reason, and instead serving only to embarrass individuals. Examples have included DUI stops of celebrities and ordinary individuals whose troubled and/or intoxicated behavior has been widely circulated and now immortalized online. The potential for such merely embarrassing and titillating releases of video is significantly increased by body cams.
Therefore it is vital that any deployment of these cameras be accompanied by good privacy policies so that the benefits of the technology are not outweighed by invasions of privacy. The core elements of such a policy follow.