Integrity and body cameras

0814_police_body_cameras_970-630x420An interesting opinion by Sarah Lustbader in the New York Times today. She argues that police body cameras are just a first step towards accountability but the camera data has to reside in a trusted third party to be of real use. 

But as currently implemented, body camera programs in the United States too often fail to serve those goals because the police own and control the footage. This is the fox guarding the henhouse. Not only can the police retain footage that they would rather not release; they can also use it for purposes that have nothing to do with transparency and accountability, such as mass surveillance. Until control of this footage is taken away from law enforcement and vested in a neutral third party, with equal access for all interested parties, body cameras will further empower the very party they were designed to check.

She as a point. Indeed, it is the same point that Steve Mann and I made earlier this year in a piece for The Conversation. Our point is that data integrity is critical and that can be achieved either by ensuring all footage resides independently of interested parties or alternatively, police surveillance is accompanied by souvelliance by the surveyed. That would mean that only data that is in ‘agreement’ would be valid.

This is important as Lustbader concludes:

In addition to bringing greater transparency and accountability to policing, third-party management of body-camera footage would actually benefit the police. Video footage would be more credible in the public eye; police officers wouldn’t be suspected of doctoring footage after every technical glitch. It would also protect individual officers, especially those, such as whistle-blowers and union activists, who had reason to fear that supervisors might comb through their footage for any minor infraction to use against them.

Planting technology isn’t a solution in of itself. You also need to ensure integrity of the data that technology is producing.

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