Knowing What We Now Know Of Police Behavior, Might We Limit Their Databasing?
Perhaps the Patriot Act will finally sunset. Ya know how the bad police departments will have a work / ticket/ arrest slowdown when under political pressure? I’m waiting for the NSA or FBI to do exactly the same when their extraordinary powers diminish a bit. NSA and FBI have the most authority to lose. Might they play the circumstances to advantage? Stay tuned. Let’s not stop there, we need to take a look a touch deeper. technology is increasingly intrusive and storage limits are very temporary.
There are some new and not so new technologies involving us out in public, Legally public view where it is legal to record your presence. Sidewalk, driving, out at parks etc. In one instance the police may record and database the license plates on the public roads, limited by their resources only essentially. Which enjoy cheaper cameras and electronics same as we do. The police would argue it’s all out in public so any database and any use of that data would be legal without any probable cause. Okay I’ll give them that point. Very clear legal ground.
But what about tools like fake cell phone towers? “Stingray” These can be ground based, in a vehicle or on specially equipped aircraft sniffing up cell phone data. Metadata and content perhaps. Heck of a locator tool! Again they are making use of freely transmitted radio signals. Digital of course but not necessarily secure in any way. Again I grant the point about the nature of the signals as freely transmitted and public by nature and function. Probably 1st Amendment protected.
Public cameras such as we see in London en masse and increasingly here on highways and high density traffic areas. All public areas. It all becomes digital data files. What’s the limit?
This kinda removes my argument made in a previous page about the NSA and FBI using Patriot act and FISA powers and National Security Letters, demands really sent to ISP’s. Now we are talking about long protected ground. Same as I can go use my cameras in public spaces.
Our best legal control point is the use of the public data. i’d not argue against the use in the pursuit of a terrorist. or an armed man. Somewhere a kidnapper or armed bank robber on the run might get caught with these tools. Let’s keep that advantage for public safety. Somewhere between terror attack conspiracies and parking enforcement we need to set some limits. We need to limit who can get that raw data. i’d say no commercial sale or release ever. I’d also argue that the data should have a time limit set after a public review, not storage capacity. I’d also ban the use of that data from civil suits like divorce and liability trials. Now let’s look that one step further. Legally, our legislators can limit the use of that data. Also legally a local authority like the state, county, city and even police departments can have policies.
Those checkpoints might either serve an unfiltered desire for shiny new tools and use them from traffic violations on up, or they can choose to set limits, certain protections for the use of this massive public database. After all they sure want certain protections for the use of the video from dash cam and uniform cameras right?
What about when budgets are tight and baby needs a shiny new helicopter or drone fleet? Those databases could be leased or sold to commercial enterprises. McDonald’s might want to know who drives right by one on the way home from work to hit that GoogleAd on your browser as you read this Page. or a divorce lawyer might be very interested in a plaintiffs trips to the strip club or an “Ashley Madison” inspired tryst. What if some enterprise put a lot of this on the cloud, just up there for browser access? Enter a license plate and backtrack many of us via freeway cams? We already have a kind of internet extortion going on with our old public arrest records being put on the web. Is that not bad enough?
At risk of a topic too nuanced for public interest or chancing Snowden/Rand Paul/ACLU issue fatigue I’d say we deserve a good public review of how public data can be used. Law enforcement first, and maybe set some precedents for the upcoming swarm of camera drones and that footage.
This is an awkward question for the polling feature, so please do leave your thoughts in the comments.
More: At the links above.