Category Archives: Freedom of Information

Paper accepted to Indiana Law Journal!

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.

Presentations at APC and PLSC-Amsterdam

It’s been a busy (but fun!) weekend.

I presented two papers at the Amsterdam Privacy Conference – one on ALPR database disclosures by police departments under freedom of information law and the other on body-worn camera adoption by police in the United States. Members of my research team at TILT also organized a panel on privacy ‘bubbles’ in public space related to our longer-term research project on re-imagining privacy for the twenty-first century.

At Privacy Law Scholars Conference (PLSC) – Amsterdam, we had our paper, A Typology of Privacy and the Right to Privacy, workshopped by a wonderful group of scholars from all over Europe and North America!  I also led a session and commented on a paper by Arno Lodder about legal regulation of police use of web-crawling technologies.

In the News: I’m featured in an NPR story on ALPR Database Analysis

I am featured in a story from today’s All Things Considered on National Public Radio (NPR) on the topic of automated license plate reader (ALPR) data. I discuss some of my preliminary data analysis using a few databases received from the Seattle Police Department under state freedom of information law.

Questions Remain About How To Use Data From License Plate Scanners (link to transcript on NPR’s website)
By Martin Kaste
May 27, 2015

Cross-Post: Metadata Surveillance, Secrecy, and Political Liberty (Part Two)

(Image: NSA slide leaked by Edward Snowden describing the PRISM surveillance program)
(Image: NSA slide leaked by Edward Snowden describing the PRISM surveillance program)

My second post in a two-part series on metadata surveillance and liberty has been posted to the Digital Media Law Project’s blog (DMLP Blog).

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a widely ratified international human rights treaty, includes provisions that relate to liberal and republican conceptions of freedom that are relevant to current discussions about mass government surveillance and communications intelligence gathering. Article 17 of the ICCPR states that, “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.”  Article 18 guarantees the freedoms of thought, conscience, and religion, and Article 19 guarantees the “right to hold opinions without interference” and the “right to freedom of expression.”  The European Convention on Human Rights, an important regional – rather than truly international – treaty, also provides similar protections, as do the constitutions and charters of many other democratic countries. The relevance of these treaties and philosophical accounts of freedom are tied directly to all three of the questions posed in my first post in this series but, I think, they are most interesting when applied to the third question: what transparency and oversight mechanisms ought to govern the collection of communications information by governmental intelligence agencies?

… [continue reading at the DMLP blog]

Cross-Post: Metadata Surveillance, Secrecy, and Political Liberty (Part One)

I have just written a new post for the Digital Media Law Project’s blog about some of the implications of government metadata surveillance.  For the full post, which was posted today, go to the DMLP Blog.

As much of the world is now undoubtedly aware, the National Security Administration (NSA), and many other signals intelligence agencies around the world, have been conducting sophisticated electronic surveillance for quite some time. Many might have expected that such extensive surveillance was occurring, both domestically and globally, prior to Edward Snowden’s release of classified information in June 2013.  Indeed, we’ve known about the existence of government driven metadata surveillance and international intelligence cooperation and data-sharing for years.  The UKUSA Agreement, which links intelligence agencies in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, was declassified by the NSA in 2011, but its existence was reported much earlier.  

What we haven’t known, perhaps, are some of the specifics… [continue reading at the DMLP blog]