My new paper, “Collateral Visibility: Police Body Cameras, Public Disclosure, and Privacy,” on body-worn camera adoption, privacy, and public access to BWC footage has been accepted by the Indiana Law Journal! The draft (which is undergoing an update) is available on SSRN (http://ssrn.com/abstract=2740377). All comments, corrections, etc. are welcome.
The abstract follows:
Law enforcement use of body-worn cameras has recently become a subject of significant public and scholarly debate. This article presents the findings from an empirical examination of the legal and social implications of body-worn camera adoption by two police departments in Washington State. In particular, this study focuses on the public disclosure of body-worn camera footage under Washington State’s Public Records Act (PRA), provides an analysis of state privacy and access to information law, and presents empirical findings related to officer attitudes towards—and perceptions of—the impact of these laws on their work, their own personal privacy, and the privacy of the citizens they serve. The law in Washington State requires law enforcement agencies to disclose substantial amounts of footage, and options for withholding footage based on privacy grounds are very limited under the PRA and recent Washington State Supreme Court case law. Additionally, broad public records requests for body-worn camera footage have posed significant problems for civilian privacy. Police officers report strong concerns about public disclosure of their footage, largely because of the potential for such footage to impact civilian privacy interests, and officers also report high levels of disagreement with the current requirements to disclose most footage to any member of the public. However, officers are supportive of limited access policies that would allow individuals connected to an incident to obtain footage. This article concludes by making a normative argument for restricting public access to some body-worn camera footage on privacy grounds while still preserving adequate space for robust civilian oversight and police accountability.
Adopting body-worn cameras as part of a larger project to make the agency more transparent and accountable is potentially a step in the right direction. But without the implementation of proper policies for camera use and public disclosure of footage, it won’t do much to overcome the agency’s historical lack of transparency and its general resistance to releasing video footage to the public. Unless CBP commits to greater transparency and external oversight as part of its body-worn camera program, the cameras may become just another tool of government surveillance wielded by the state without adequate oversight.
This paper presents findings from an exploratory qualitative study of the experiences and perceptions of undocumented (irregular) migrants to the United States with various forms of surveillance in the borderlands between the U.S. and Mexico. Based on fieldwork conducted primarily in a migrant shelter in Nogales, Mexico, we find that migrants generally have a fairly sophisticated understanding about U.S. Border Patrol surveillance and technology use and that they consciously engage in forms of resistance or avoidance. Heightened levels of border surveillance may be deterring a minority of migrants from attempting immediate future crossings, but most interviewees were undeterred in their desire to enter the U.S., preferring to find ways to avoid government surveillance. Furthermore, migrants exhibit a general lack of trust in the “promise” of technology to improve their circumstances and increase their safety during clandestine border-crossing—often due to fears that technology use makes them vulnerable to state surveillance, tracking, and arrest.
A paper I authored, entitled “Mass Surveillance, Privacy, and Freedom: A Case for Public Access to Government Surveillance Information“, is now out in the new book Privacy, Security and Accountability: Ethics, Law and Policypublished by Rowman & Littlefield International and edited by Adam D. Moore. RLI | Amazon
The book also includes contributions from Adam D. Moore and Michael A. Katell, Anita Allen, Helen Nissenbaum, James Stacey Taylor, Judith Wagner DeCew, Dorota Mokrosinska, Annabelle Lever, Kay Mathieson, Kenneth Einar Himma, Alan Rubel, and Nadine Strossen.
I was recently interviewed by Rachel Alexander at The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington’s daily broadsheet newspaper) about my on-going body camera research with the Spokane Police Department. Read the story here.
My paper, Information Seeking, Technology Use, and Vulnerability among Migrants at the U.S.-Mexico Border, written with Ricardo Gomez and Verónica Guajardo, has just been accepted at The Information Society (a well-respected multidisciplinary journal published by Taylor and Francis). The paper’s abstract is below:
Information Seeking, Technology Use, and Vulnerability among Migrants at the U.S.-Mexico Border
Bryce Clayton Newell, Ricardo Gomez, and Verónica E. Guajardo
Through interviews with migrants and migrant aid-workers at a shelter in the border town of Nogales, Mexico, we examine how undocumented migrants are seeking, acquiring, understanding, and using information prior to, and during, migration across the U.S.-Mexico border. Our study examines migrants’ perceptions of humanitarian service and the use of so-called “border disturbance technologies” by activists to help prevent the death of migrants in the desert, finding that migrants appreciate water-caching efforts but generally distrust technologies they feel could subject them to surveillance by border agents. Exploratory in nature and based on a small sample, our findings are not necessarily representative of the broader population, but provide rich evidence of the prevalence of word-of-mouth information seeking and use of cell phones over other information technologies, and explore the ambivalent nature of information technology use in the vulnerable setting of life at the border. In particular, we find that mobile phones help migrants meet their communication needs, but also increase their exposure to crime and abuse.
I was recently interviewed by Greg Watry for an article in R&D Magazine about my collaborative work with the UW Tech Policy Lab on the legal and technological aspects of augmented reality (see our paper here).
I spent the last few days in Washington D.C. at the American Society of Criminology‘s annual conference, where I also presented some of my on-going police body-worn camera research. I presented on Wednesday (title: Policing’s Third Eye: Body-Worn Camera Adoption by Two Police Departments in Washington State) during one of a few panels devoted to body camera research – there’s a lot going on in this space right now, and it was fun to hear about all the great research being done on body camera adoption!
A policy paper I helped develop and write while working with the UW Tech Policy Lab at the University of Washington has just been featured in UW Today. The paper summarizes our research into the legal and technical implications of AR technologies, and provides some recommendations that policymakers should take into account when considering regulation.
Though still in its relative infancy, augmented reality promises systems that can aid people with mobility or other limitations, providing real-time information about their immediate environment as well as hands-free obstacle avoidance, language translation, instruction and much more. From enhanced eyewear like Google Glass to Microsoft’s wearable HoloLens system, tech, gaming and advertisement industries are already investing in and deploying augmented reality devices and systems.
But augmented reality will also bring challenges for law, public policy and privacy, especially pertaining to how information is collected and displayed. Issues regarding surveillance and privacy, free speech, safety, intellectual property and distraction — as well as potential discrimination — are bound to follow.