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.
I’ve written a piece for Slate Magazine’s Future Tense section, entitled Body-Worn Cameras Alone Won’t Bring Transparency to the Border Patrol, where I argue that the US Customs and Border Protection agency’s historical lack of transparency suggests that without good policies, the cameras will become another tool for surveillance.
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.
Check out the whole piece here.
A paper I co-authored with Ricardo Gomez and Veronica Guajardo, entitled “Sensors, Cameras, and the New ‘Normal’ in Clandestine Migration: How Undocumented Migrants Experience Surveillance at the U.S.-Mexico Border,” has just been accepted to Surveillance & Society. I’m really proud of this paper and the research we put into this project, which was funded by the University of Washington Royalty Research Fund. Get a pre-press PDF here.
The abstract is here:
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.
The Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy at George Mason University just released a report, Existing and Ongoing Body Worn Camera Research: Knowledge Gaps and Opportunities, outlining a variety of body-worn camera studies with an impressive number of police agencies. My ongoing research with several police agencies in Washington State is included in the report.
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.
An earlier article by Rachel is also 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!
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.