12 February 2009

Could Surveillance Cameras be Used to Protect Civil Liberties?

The use of surveillance cameras by the state is something I tend to oppose almost instinctively, so in order to challenge my assumptions, I started to think if there might be any new uses for surveillance cameras which could keep the state in check rather than extending it's power. This story got me thinking that there might be.

If we have police officers wearing head cameras some of the time, why not go the whole hog and make them wear them all of the time? If we required every officer to wear a camera from the moment they go on duty until the moment they go off duty, there would be a complete record of every shift worked. It would serve, not only to record the actions of the people the police interact with, but also the police themselves. Any attempt by an officer to interfere with the recording of his camera could be made an offence. The end result would be that any wrongdoing by the police whilst on duty would be recorded.

In order to protect privacy, the recordings could be encrypted using a public key system and fed into a server, with the private keys controlled by the courts and the recordings only made accessible with a court order.

I'm aware of a scheme that goes part of the way along this route in New Zealand, where cameras are fitted to Tasers so that every deployment is caught on camera.

So, if the police have special privileges when they are performing their job, why not make them conditional on their actions being recorded when they are in a position to exploit those privileges?

2 comments:

marksany said...

Some police forces are rolling out cameras for policemen. Cameras are commonly fitted inside police cars.

Sadly this is being done, not to improve the arrest rate or lead to safer convictions, it is being done to protect coppers from malicious false claims of assault etc.

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