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Surveillance Rights for the Public?

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the why-can't-we-big-brother-them-back dept.

The Courts 273

Ian Lamont writes "Mike Elgan has an interesting take on surveillance technology, and how audio and video recordings should be used in private and public life. He cites the case of a New York City Police Detective who was secretly taped by a suspect during an interrogation that the detective initially denied took place during the suspect's murder trial, as well as a case involving two parents in Wisconsin who slipped a voice-activated recorder in their son's backpack after suspecting he was being abused by his bus driver. In the first case, even though the detective was later charged with 12 counts of perjury, Elgan notes that the police interrogation probably would not have taken place had the suspect announced to the detective that he was recording the session. In the second case, the tape was initially ruled inadmissible in court because Wisconsin state law prohibits the use of 'intercepted conversations' (it was later allowed as evidence). Elgan argues that there should be no questions about members of the public being allowed to record such interactions."

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273 comments

It seems rather cut and dried against the cop (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21902638)

A member of the public should have an absolute right to record anything said or done by a person in government or the police, when that event may later be used in evidence against him or her in court.

Re:It seems rather cut and dried against the cop (3, Insightful)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902730)

Yet in practice, business owners can and do ban you for life from their premises for operating your own video camera. Even in places that sell their own disposable still cameras for the use of patrons.

It seems rather cut and dried against the argument (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21902776)

He said government. You said private business owners. See the difference?

Re:It seems rather cut and dried against the argum (4, Insightful)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902934)

He said government. You said private business owners. See the difference?
In the US? Not so much.

Re:It seems rather cut and dried against the cop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21902790)

What does this have to do with holding those trusted with enforcing the law accountable via video and audio recording by citizens?

Re:It seems rather cut and dried against the cop (4, Insightful)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902844)

When a business owner levels charges against you for some infraction against his business, when it becomes a matter of your word against his, and when he employs his own surveillance against you, why shouldn't you have your own record for when it gets brought up before the courts later?

Re:It seems rather cut and dried against the cop (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21903188)

Because you have the right to choose to leave the premises when presented with the owner's preferences, whereas you don't generally have the right to chose to leave police custody, for starters.

Re:It seems rather cut and dried against the cop (2, Interesting)

trolltalk.com (1108067) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903096)

"Yet in practice, business owners can and do ban you for life from their premises for operating your own video camera."

Sounds like a load of BS to me. How do they "enforce" this ban?

First, they need to be able to ID you - and that's not going to happen, since you have NO obligation to give them any ID, under any circumstances.

Second, if they try to enforce the ban 6 months later, you only have to say "What are you talking about?" What are they going to do - call the cops? To do what? Throw you out for breaking some sort of "ban"? Nah - they'll let it slide instead of making a scene. Besides, with today's cell phones, everyone can take pictures pretty much undetected. Heck, I've taken pics inside Wallyworld (Walmrt) with no problem - and we all know what PITAs they can be! Hey, if they can video me, I can video them.

Re:It seems rather cut and dried against the cop (0, Redundant)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903144)

It's called private property dickhead. They ban you and put your picture up on the wall saying "Don't serve this guy". Whenever you come on their property they ask you to leave. If you refuse, you are trespassing, and yes, they will call the police - unless you're in Texas, where they'll just shoot you in the head.

As for how "unfair" this is.. blah, its their property.. they can ban you for whatever reason they like.

Re:It seems rather cut and dried against the cop (3, Informative)

trolltalk.com (1108067) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903260)

Don't be an idiot. How are they getting anything but a grainy surveillance cam picture? Ever worked with them? Even the 720x480x30fps images are pretty much useless for identification in most setups, because they have to cover too much area. So that's not going to work ...

And if they ask you to leave for no valid reason, and you're a member of a minority group (black, gay, indian, breast-feeding, whatever)? think about it - they don't need the hassles and civil suits.

Its the same as the signs that say "we reserve the right to search your packages." They can put them up all they want - diesn't give them the legal right. You can refuse, and there is NOTHING they can do about it. Even if they call the cops ... Just refuse, and tell them "Charge me first. THEN you can look. But be prepared for a false arrest charge!"

Heck, you can even refuse to show your receipt to the stupid "Walmart Greeter" when you're leaving, and they have NO legal right to do anything. Trying to keep you from leaving at that point is unlawful confinement - aka kidnapping.

Stores don't have a right to treat customers as criminals. Grow a backbone.

Re:It seems rather cut and dried against the cop (4, Informative)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903586)

Yeah, you can refuse searches and they can't do much, but if they tell you to get out, you gotta go.

Re:It seems rather cut and dried against the cop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21903200)

First, they need to be able to ID you - and that's not going to happen, since you have NO obligation to give them any ID, under any circumstances.
Where were these bars/stripclubs/adult video stores when I was a kid?

Re:It seems rather cut and dried against the cop (1)

adona1 (1078711) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902782)

Yes....one of the reasons that police etc are obliged to state that they are recording an interview is because society gives them a certain amount of power, and it is one of the ways to try and ensure that it isn't abused. However, one of the caveats of that added power is the constant vigilance to be sure it is used responsibly, and if that involves the public secretly recording police, then I'm all for it (I'm not sure how a bus driver fits in there, but hey).

It's all not ideal, of course....I'd honestly prefer that neither party can record willy-nilly, but that's not going to happen. If the threat of being taped stops a cop from doing a Rodney King, then issue everyone with a recordable mp3 player!

Re:It seems rather cut and dried against the cop (1)

Dr Caleb (121505) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902828)

"Yes....one of the reasons that police etc are obliged to state that they are recording an interview is because society gives them a certain amount of power,"

And, who exactly is 'society'? Did we say we give away that power, because we will not be utilizing it ourselves?

Re:It seems rather cut and dried against the cop (1)

Gyga (873992) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902902)

The bus driver fits in because they are in a position of power over the kid. Police are in positions of power over civilians, teachers/bus drivers over students, and so on. When you are forced by law to take the bus or be policed by police then you have the right to watch over those people. In the case of stores, you aren't being forced to shop there, therefore you have don't have the right to record what happens (private property and all).

Re:It seems rather cut and dried against the cop (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21902938)

I'd honestly prefer that neither party can record willy-nilly

Why? If I am allowed to disclose the contents of the conversation I have with you and repeat to others what you said to me, (i.e. no confidentiality contract, etc.), then preventing me from proving what you said with a recording serves only one purpose -- protecting perjury.

I tape *everything*... every phone call, and every minute of my day with a MP3 recorder in my pocket. I've busted lying salespeople, lying insurance adjusters, lying credit card "customer service" reps, lying school administrators, lying government employees, and all manner of others. Everyone should do the same, and if you live in a perjury-protecting state that doesn't let you, you need to lobby your state legislators to change the fscking law.

Re:It seems rather cut and dried against the cop (1)

chee1a1a (948680) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903454)

You know, Nixon tried that "tape-record every moment of your life" thing. Didn't work out to well for him, if memory serves [wikipedia.org] .

Legal way to record phone calls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21903602)

Very simple legal way to record a conversation. Turn down the sound on your phone, call 911 and stick the phone in your pocket. 911 always records all calls. They may radio the cop once they figure out what is going on, but it will likely take some time.

Re:It seems rather cut and dried against the cop (4, Insightful)

wish bot (265150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902786)

Even further - every 'public' surveillance camera should be IP based and available to viewing by anyone over the net.

Time for the citizens to take control of the GOV (1)

FromTheAir (938543) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903258)

I am 100% for transparency. Only criminals or those using the mechanisms of government to control the people would be against it. We have the technology, to do so collectively, we far outnumber the police and military when we act in unity.

I think every one is realizing that a lot of effort is put forth to keep us divided with fictional issues. If one can keep it divided 49 49 then they only need to control 2% of the votes.

Right National Security, why then did defense work get contracted out to programmers in China if that is such an issue, cheap labor high profits is more important than National Security I suppose? In doing so China learned of some of our vulnerabilites.

Only for Authority (1)

rustalot42684 (1055008) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902708)

I agree that "recordings can be made without permission" for people in a position of authority: your boss asks you to do something illegal, you're threatened by a police officer, etc. but it's not as easy to judge for other recordings.

Re:Only for Authority (1)

Adradis (1160201) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902740)

Agreed. Any time that people in power are in control of a situation, there HAS to be protection from abuse. Non-consenting recording of the situation, WITHOUT them aware of it, should be acceptable, if only to actually show that they will do it, given the opportunity. As for recordings in civilian on civilian: That's going to be a gray area, no matter what, depending on the situation. But, again. Anything against legal authority such as cops, it should be allowed, period.

Re:Only for Authority (1)

bcdm (1031268) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903002)

Why necessarily non-consenting? (Or, more accurately, without both parties' knowledge?)


I have no problem with everyone knowing that we're recording every situation where balance-of-power is involved. If politicians are always recorded when they meet with lobbyists, or police always recorded when dealing with suspects, then illegal/unethical behaviour will be stopped simply because they *know* that they're on camera.

I don't care about catching them in the act; I care about the act stopping.

Re:Only for Authority (1)

Adradis (1160201) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903130)

I thought about the whole "They won't do it if they know it's happening" factor. Thing is. Do you really want those people who will simply hide it when they know it's being recorded in power?

Why not reveal their true colors if it makes the police force, etc, a better place? All it takes is one non-recorded instance, and they'd go back to their normal tactics.

Re:Only for Authority (1)

bcdm (1031268) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903230)

With both parties' knowledge or no, the flaw is that they can arrange a meeting at 2AM in a swamp somewhere for secret money hand-offs. If no one knows about the meeting, then it won't be recorded, so they won't get caught.


Guess the point I'm making is that I'm happy to have balance-of-power situations always recorded, with everyone's knowledge, to stop the behaviour, and then also happily record them without their knowledge in situations like the above to catch them in the act if need be. But I think that recording them with everyone's knowledge will lower the risk of bad behaviour right then and there, so that's a good start.

Re:Only for Authority (2, Insightful)

Loether (769074) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902898)

While I agree with your sentiment, in reality you may not know your rights are about to be violated by a police officer or when your boss is going to ask you to break the law. If recordings can be made of conversations you have with people in authority then it follows IMHO that all recordings must be legal to make, not necessarily legal to use in court. Now the line must be drawn as to what is admissible. I don't know. If I was trying to catch the molester of my child and I recorded a conversation of his underage friend talking about drinking, would that be admissible in court? I don't believe it should be. But it brings up lots of interesting questions.

What makes surveillance cameras special? (4, Insightful)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902726)

If surveillance camera are allowed, then why are people not allowed to hand-hold or otherwise have a camera on them?

If you complain about hidden cameras on a person, what about hidden cameras in a building, either with a pinhole lens, one-way mirror, or a dark dome over the camera?

Why should recording anything a police officer does during his working hours be bad?

If they want to make me having a camera on me illegal, make having any kind of surveillance camera illegal first, and then we can talk.

CCTV Pinhole/hidden lens explained (3, Interesting)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902948)

I hate to reply to myself, but I am not sure that everyone knows what a "pinhole lens" is for CCTV cameras, as I didn't know when I was buying this stuff.

A CCTV pinhole lens is a lens that has a very small front opening usually 2-3mm, and a narrow lens part that can easily be embedded into the back side of a wall and then be almost invisible on the other side.

An example is here [flickr.com] , compared to a normal CCTV type lens. That lens is $20 from B&H, and the camera is $120 from NewEgg, so this stuff isn't very expensive. A "high quality" CCTV lens is $50-$100, so even the good stuff isn't that expensive.

Re:What makes surveillance cameras special? (4, Insightful)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903044)

Police Officers should be surveiled anytime they are in public whether they are working or not. They should be held to much higher standards then the public they police.

Re:What makes surveillance cameras special? (1)

vajaradakini (1209944) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903580)

Why should the police be held to higher standards than the rest of the society?
Are you saying that a police officer who behaves in a questionable (but not illegal) manner while off the job (i.e. getting drunk, cheating on his or her spouse et c) is a worse police officer than someone who has no personal problems?

Re:What makes surveillance cameras special? (1)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903616)

Why should the police be held to higher standards than the rest of the society? Are you saying that a police officer who behaves in a questionable (but not illegal) manner while off the job (i.e. getting drunk, cheating on his or her spouse et c) is a worse police officer than someone who has no personal problems?
Yes.

I mean just getting drunk or having fun is one thing. But cheating on his wife means he is happy to lie and so his trustworthiness has to be called into question.

False accusations and the dangers of edited speech (4, Interesting)

Loki P (1170771) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903572)

A friend of mine was a teacher for a while, until a student with severe attention deficit disorder decided to record lessons in order to prove that my friend the teacher was picking on him. Here's the recipe: record what someone says, edit on home computer to make it say what you want it to say, play to parents, get parents to visit school with you, get teacher in trouble. That the school took the kid's word for it without any forensic analysis of the recording shows you what's wrong with the idea of surveillance for the masses - it can be incredibly easily fabricated, edited or modified by computer-savvy kids and the adults are clueless or powerless to stop the false accusations from flying. My friend gave up teaching soon after and went to make money at a tech company instead. What's needed is integrity checks in the recordings to highlight where omissions or changes are made, otherwise it's no better than hearsay.

Spy vs Spy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21902732)

Trust. Remember that? Lost it a long time ago. No one trust anyone else. Spy, counterspy. When will it end?

Re:Spy vs Spy. (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902768)

Spy, counterspy. When will it end?
When it becomes illegal to counterspy.

Re:Spy vs Spy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21903078)

I agree. You always read about cases like the one in the video located on this page:

http://spokanepoliceabuses.wordpress.com/2007/10/15/put-a-video-camera-in-your-car-one-way-to-stop-abusive-cops/ [wordpress.com]

Where this gets interesting is where it ends. Ultimately I think I would not like to live in a society such as that depicted in 1984...and yet in some cases we do. If you use a corporate device for email or chat...you are being monitored. It cannot and should not work both ways. Either society should allow monitoring of everything all the time or nothing at any time. Personally, I like my privacy. I'm for it not being tolerated. If people are doing things unethical or illegally that is where police work should come into play. Even the police have police to investigate them. Watching people doesn't stop things from happening, it only makes it easier for those people to get caught. Society will never completely stop anything they don't like from happening. We shouldn't be in the business of trading in our rights wholesale so that we can deal with the 1-2% case.

Re:Spy vs Spy. (1)

bcdm (1031268) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903058)

Trust. Remember that? Lost it a long time ago. No one trust anyone else. Spy, counterspy. When will it end?


I love how so many people are all nostalgic about the good ol' days, like these problems just didn't exist before. Snake oil salesmen have existed ever since snake oil existed. For everyone whose word is his bond and whose handshake is his contract, there are three who will try to weasel out of what they said before, or will tell you that you didn't understand what they meant, or that they can't remember what they said, or....

I'd love a world of trust. I'd also love backup when my trust is misplaced.

Citizen Monitoring of Government Entities VOTEYES (4, Insightful)

FromTheAir (938543) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902796)

I think corruption in government by individuals (government is just a label) is far more damaging than all the other system created criminals. In the web content for Infinite Play the Movie (the movie that blends with reality) http://www.infiniteplaythemovie.com/ [infiniteplaythemovie.com] this is exactly what happens. Citizens start doing sting operations and monitoring individuals in government and major corporations. They then anonymously post it on you tube and the Internet for all to know. Transparency In Government is a requirement. Government does not own or pay for anything the citizens do. It is not the authority the citizens are, government is just a label it cannot think or make decisions. It is people with names that make the decisions that affect our lives and destroy a fair playing field. Individuals in government are the employees of each citizen.

Govenment should be under total surveillance (5, Insightful)

Butisol (994224) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902802)

I think legislative representatives should be under total surveillance by the public during the conduct of their meetings with lobbyists. Every representative should have to hold some kind of open "court" that is recorded when they are doing their work. Fuck this behind closed doors crap. If it's not a national security issue, the public ought to know exactly what politicians are up to. Corporations and interest groups shouldn't be allowed to plead their issue to representatives of the people without the ability for the people to scrutinize their stated positions.

Re:Govenment should be under total surveillance (5, Informative)

Max Threshold (540114) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902824)

If you allow exceptions for national security issues, suddenly everything is a national security issue.

Re:Govenment should be under total surveillance (2, Insightful)

QuasiEvil (74356) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902992)

I agree with your sentiment that as soon as you provide a magic hammer ("national security"), then suddenly everything starts to look like a nail, but somehow you have to make exceptions for sensitive topics. My suggestion would be that any national security discussions whose immediate disclosure would compromise an operation must still be recorded, but their release can be delayed by up to 10 (?) years, depending on the situation. That would cover things like impending bombings, when you don't want your target running away, or strategic weapons programs (not necessarily nuclear, just anything very advanced).

Otherwise, I agree. Every "on the clock" minute of a government official's behaviour should be public record, free for others to record, and open to scrutiny by all. The government feels free to watch us in all sorts of ways, yet they don't like to be watched. Funny, I think in many democracies they've forgotten that it's the populace from which they draw their power, and to whom they are always accountable.

Re:Govenment should be under total surveillance (1)

AeroIllini (726211) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903166)

An awful lot of stuff could be a "national security issue."

For reference, see: The Commerce Clause.

What's good for the goose... (1, Insightful)

KillerCow (213458) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902810)

What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

political uses (2, Insightful)

sharp3 (1195261) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902818)

"Why not use required surveillance to expose or prevent backdoor wheeling and dealing? When our representatives meet with special interest groups, corporate executives or other people out to buy influence, it's not something that's personal or private for the elected politician. There should be special lobbyist meeting rooms with cameras running 24/7. If congressmen and others meet with lobbyists outside the rooms, they go to jail for corruption. This is the people's business, and we have the right to know all about those conversations." Absolutely great idea. Who in America besides politicians and shady corporate execs wouldn't be for this idea? Public servants' dealings should be public knowledge.

Re:political uses (1)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902888)

The guy who doesn't want to go to jail because he happened to accidently bump into a lobbyist in the supermarket and start talking to them before they realize what's going on?

Re:political uses (1)

Butisol (994224) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902928)

Yep! I posted a similar idea but my karma is too low. We need this to happen.

recording (1, Insightful)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902822)

I have been thinking very seriously to introduce a recorder in my life to settle arguments with my girlfriend (yes yes, here's my geek card). Arguments often boil down to who said what. On rare occasions, there is a record of that, email for example, and I can show exhibits and win. I wish I could do it for voice, maybe something that records continuously the last half hour in my apartment.

I for one believe that greater transparency, and more information would lessen rather than increase conflicts. There is a right to keep things private, but there is no "right to privacy". More recording of information = good.

Re:recording (3, Funny)

bcdm (1031268) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902896)

So, after the breakup, can you introduce her to me?

Losing is more fun (1)

teasea (11940) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903550)

I say sorry. Reconciliation rocks.

Re:recording (5, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902914)

I have been thinking very seriously to introduce a recorder in my life to settle arguments with my girlfriend (yes yes, here's my geek card).

Believe me, this scheme fully qualifies you for that geek card, with nerd, dweeb and dork stamps on it. Producing transcripts is not going to get you a "win" in any meaningful sense of the word.

Re:recording (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21902952)

Producing transcripts is not going to get you a "win" in any meaningful sense of the word.

Seriously, because then she'll just respond with "well, I feel like you said something else"

Re:recording (1)

taustin (171655) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902942)

I have been thinking very seriously to introduce a recorder in my life to settle arguments with my girlfriend

In some states, doing that without her knowing consent is a felony.

Re:recording (1)

pizpot (622748) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903162)

In some states, doing that without her knowing consent is a felony.

So are lots of things with girlfriends...

sodomy sodomy
: anal or oral copulation with a member of the same or opposite sex; also : copulation with an animal

Re:recording (1)

taustin (171655) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903328)

Bad example, since sodomy laws have already been declared unconstitutional by SCOTUS.

recording-The shame game. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21902966)

"More recording of information = good."

You'll sing a different tune when pictures of your penis get posted to the internet.

Re:recording (1)

pesho (843750) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903004)

Arguments often boil down to who said what.

You my friend are absolutely wrong. The arguments boil down to who is "right" and who i "wrong", not who said what. You should let you girlfriend be "right" now and then, no mater what she said. Introduce the recorder in your arguments and you are going to get dumped instantly;))

Re:recording (1)

jcgf (688310) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903008)

The problem is that with women, proving that you're right doesn't always end the arguement :(

Re:recording (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21903014)

omg!!!! you mean you have a girl friend!!!

Re:recording (5, Insightful)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903102)

Umm, in those situations the only way you can possibly "win" the argument is to forfeit. Proving that you're right doesn't work with girlfriends, wives, etc. Unfortunately, this is usually only learned through painful personal experience. Ex:
Guy: Look, see, Wikipedia proves I'm right!
Girl: I don't care, I can't believe you didn't trust me.
Guy: but I knew I was right.
Girl: You never listen.
Guy: Yeah, I d...
Girl: *cry*
Guy: *crap*

Re:recording (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21903134)

Your girlfriend is a controlling bitch, dump her.

Re:recording (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903192)

You may be joking... but this is actually what I did.

I noticed that often after I was together with my ex there was less money in my wallet than there should be...

So, eventually I set up a webcam with zoneminder, and put my wallet right in its field of view...

And sure enough, who did I catch taking a 20 out of it?

So, that's why he is now my ex...

Idiot. (1)

unsigned integer (721338) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903372)

It's not about what you said, it's about what you *meant*[1]

Even if you "win" the argument, you'll lose. You don't date much, do you? ;-)

[1] Subject to HER interpretation.

cue flamebait modding ... 5 .. 4 .. 3 .. 2 ..

Re:recording (1)

naoursla (99850) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903544)

Dude, you need a new girlfriend. Life is too short to spend it in petty arguments. And whatever you do, do no marry her.

Re:recording (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903588)

I have been thinking very seriously to introduce a recorder in my life to settle arguments with my girlfriend [...] Arguments often boil down to who said what.

Do like me! Only talk to your girlfriend on MSN, and log it all!

Proportional to size (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21902826)

Large organizations (governments, corporations, etc.) can accomplish things, both good and bad, that are beyond the reach of single individuals. The larger and more powerful the organization the more oversight and restrictions are necessary to insure that the organization accomplishes good things rather than bad things.

This goes for surveillance, too.

A single individual should be able to record pretty much whatever he wants for his own use with minimal oversight or restrictions. A larger government, on the other hand, should have massive oversight and restrictions.

Other organizations fall between these extremes. A neighborhood watch organization requires more oversight and restriction than a single individual but less than a large corporation.

Legal question (1)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902848)

From the article about the bus driver:

Wisconsin state law generally prohibits the disclosure of intercepted conversations, leaving the appeals court in a bit of a tight spot.
Why is it wrong to use such evidence? Provided the jury can tell nothing is being taken out of context, why can evidence like that be so easily dismissed?

Re:Legal question (2, Informative)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903056)

Disclosure is balanced against the unwary. Privacy, while not a specific right in the US Constitution, has many theories of protection, starting with the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 14th Amendments. These include right of association (do not give my conversation to someone I don't want to associate with), freedom of speech protections, right of denial of self-incrimination, and others.

The evidence in the suspect's discussion might criminally confess either party. The evidence in the school bus case also, with the additional onus that a private individual (e.g. not a government employee, a contractor in this case) has further protections.

Re:Legal question (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903074)

I can't speak for Wisconsin, but in many states you must be a party to the conversation or have the consent of at least one party to the conversation to record it. On the face, if they snuck the recorder in the child's pack, they didn't even have consent of the child. The child may be a not-legally consenting but willing participant in the abuse and protective of the abuser (often the situation in a statutory rape case). A fuller look at the facts on appeal and you could have the consent requirement negated by minor-guardian relationship or consent given by the child after the fact.

IANAL.

Re:Legal question (2, Informative)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903526)

Provided the jury can tell nothing is being taken out of context, why can evidence like that be so easily dismissed?


Um, the "Provided..." part is impossible to meet, to start with: you never can tell from the tape itself what is excluded that might change the context (especially if it is an audio tape.) And the reason the evidence can be dismissed is the same reason illegally obtained evidence used by the government is dismissed in criminal trials: the rule exists because without that sanction, there will be a strong incentive to engage in behavior which has been deemed undesirable (the surreptitious recording of private conversations, in this case.)

That's not to state that I unconditionally agree that the behavior is undesirable or that excluding the evidence is always the right way to discourage the behavior, at least when its not an overstep by the government.

Mike Elgan's take isn't that interesting (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21902858)

Steve Mann's been talking about this for years [wikipedia.org] . Let's not waste time treating this approach as novel.

A no-brainer (3, Insightful)

Stanislav_J (947290) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902924)

Since public employees are paid using my tax dollars, then I and every other tax-paying citizen have an absolute right to know what they are up to. Period. End of discussion.

A lot of police departments are starting to tape all formal interrogations to cover their asses, but what we don't get to see or hear are the "pre-interrogation interrogations" -- you know, those "he's not a suspect, he's not under arrest, we're just trying to get some information" interrogations?

Re:A no-brainer (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903050)

Since public employees are paid using my tax dollars, then I and every other tax-paying citizen have an absolute right to know what they are up to.

I fail to see why you would couch your argument in an argument about money rather than civil rights vs. the governement. If you visit a different state do you expect to have fewer rights than the citizens of that state?

Re:A no-brainer (1)

KillerCow (213458) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903450)

Since public employees are paid using my tax dollars, then I and every other tax-paying citizen have an absolute right to know what they are up to.


That argument doesn't wash. My local butcher is "paid" by the money I give to the store in patronage. That doesn't mean that I should get to watch him on a webcam. Just because someone is a public servant, it doesn't mean that they have less rights then the rest of us.

A lot of police departments are starting to tape all formal interrogations to cover their asses, but what we don't get to see or hear are the "pre-interrogation interrogations" -- you know, those "he's not a suspect, he's not under arrest, we're just trying to get some information" interrogations?


I'm more concerned about what happens when the tapes "malfunction" or are "lost." [wikipedia.org]

The police don't like public evidence. (3, Insightful)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902932)

With the advent of the cell phone cam, have you noticed the ever increasing number of police brutality videos? [wcbstv.com] When a cop is caught breaking the law, do the other police officers maintain their vow to uphold the law or do they react like thugs in a turf war? [thenewspaper.com] This is a fundamental problem if we are truely a nation of free men who consent to being governed for the common good. If we are just a oligarchy with a happy facade then it's just the truth showing through.

"It's critical that we retain the right to record, videotape or photograph the police while they're on duty. Not only for symbolic reasons (when agents of the state can confiscate evidence of their own wrongdoing, you're treading on seriously perilous ground), but as an important check on police excesses."http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,284075,00.html [foxnews.com]

Re:The police don't like public evidence. (1)

FromTheAir (938543) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902960)

The criminal justice system is a big profit center. That is why the system creates an environment to incubate them. Monitoring could hurt their profits.

Re:The police don't like public evidence. (1)

mixmatch (957776) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903136)

Shouldn't the US and state governments be accountable to any and all public scrutiny? Certainly individuals who are employed by the government should have the same protections as ordinary citizens under the law, but not in their role as an official representative of the government. Opposition to complete government transparency only leads to a loss of legitimacy in the public eye. How hard is it to do the right thing as a representative of government?

Ridiculous (3, Interesting)

DCBoland (700327) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902954)

Your average slashdotter would be the first to cry foul at surveillance by authorities, and yet raise the idea of performing your own surveillance and they start licking their lips and rubbing their palms together...
A policeman might be part of the big govermental boogeyman, but they're also an individual, with an individual's rights. Nobody would like it if a person came into their workplace and recorded them all day. Privacy is a right, and not being american I don't know if its in your constitution or not, but it doesn't matter, its a right nonetheless and one every person should be entitled to.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903082)

Privacy is a "right" when you are in private. The US Consitution actually prohibits any silliness of Privacy in public though through its freedom of the press.

Re:Ridiculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21903086)

I disagree... public servants (such as police -- anyone whose salary is paid for with my tax dollars) has no right to privacy while performing their public job. When they're on break they can have private time. When they're in the bathroom they can have private time. When they're engaged in their work, they do not deserve privacy.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903114)

A policeman might be part of the big govermental boogeyman, but they're also an individual, with an individual's rights.

The average slashdotter is contending that the policeman be watched, not to punish him, but because he is performing official duties. He is, while on duty, an agent of the government, and during so, he has different rights and privledges. He can speed/run red lights/etc. He has a lower standard for using force. He has arrest powers. He becomes immune to some forms of torts. He also has fewer rights. First and foremost, if he invades your privacy, the evidence cannot be used in court. I actually don't understand it all (IANAL), but many people would contend that his actions need to be recordable to act as a check on abuses.

Re:Ridiculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21903236)

Also, the average policeman is recording you... and a lot of people are recorded while at work, you forget they're even there after a while. Police are most assuredly not people while they are on duty, they're fucking nazis.

Re:Ridiculous (4, Insightful)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903204)

Your average slashdotter doesn't have the opportunity - the responsibility (according to some) - to taze, beat, shoot, and otherwise injure or subdue citizens. Additionally, most employees are monitored by their boss because their boss works in close proximity to them. This isn't the case with police officers. They travel all over the city, county, state, etc, on their own. As taxpayers and citizens within their jurisdiction we are collectively "their bosses". It's our responsibility to speak up when things aren't being handled correctly. *That* is why you should have the right to record what they do on their job.
When they go home they can do whatever they like. I have no desire to watch them eat, sleep, whatever. But when they have a gun on their hip, I don't think it's unreasonable to hold them responsible for their actions. When you lose the ability to audit your government and the forces it uses to control its citizens you will quickly find your freedoms taken away.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

sinthetek (678498) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903214)

There is a big difference between observing individuals who have a right to expect privacy and anyone in public who has authority over all of those individuals. Public officials and authority figures make decisions and take actions that affect, and supposedly represent, entire cities/towns/communities/countries. We have a much higher responsibility to seek out/hunt down those who would undermine all of our fundamental philosophies than to indiscriminately invade private lives of every citizen whose crimes affect very few or noone at all.

What I don't understand is why it is so hard for some people to grasp that as a society, we have a responsibility to hold those in charge to a higher standard than any individual as their actions have a much greater impact. I don't think many/any on here advocate invasive personal surveillance of anyone, but for public/authorative figures who are supposed to be acting in official/authorative capacity... they need it way more than anyone else

Re:Ridiculous (1)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903238)

Your average /.er would also be smart enough to recognize the difference between recording a public official in the performance of their job and recording the private life of a private citizen.

Your above average /.er would probably also be smart enough to realize that we already expect servants of the public to place on hold or willingly suspend certain rights they have as private citizens when they are performing their public duties, as part of the necessarily higher standard we hold them to.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903556)

A policeman might be part of the big govermental boogeyman, but they're also an individual, with an individual's rights.


Yes, and if the tape is used against them personally, rather than against the government when it attempts to prosecute another person, most people who favor unlimited surveillance by the public targetting the government would be happy to see the police officer have the protections available to any member of the public.

A 'simple' test for evidence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21902974)

Canada has an interesting test for evidence. Would admitting it bring the administration of justice into disrepute. Maybe the principle could be extended to not admitting evidence. If not admitting evidence would bring the administration of justice into disrepute, then it should be admitted. That would mean that evidence could not be excluded on a technicality.

http://www.ei-ae.gc.ca/en/board/tribunal/chapter_3-3-2.shtml [ei-ae.gc.ca]

As far as I can tell, the test of a recording's admissibility is: Was the recording device placed in such a place that a member of the public could have been in the same place? Could the member of the public have seen and heard what was recorded? In other words, the cops can't bug my bedroom without a warrant. OTOH, I can bug my own bedroom because I belong there. Telephoto lenses and shotgun mikes are sketchy. People have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Again, otoh, if one of the participants is wearing a 'wire' that may be fair game. The participant will testify to what happened. The recording will corroborate his story.

officer... (1)

pizpot (622748) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902976)

Guy: Officer, do you mind if I now turn on my voice recorder and record our conversation?

Officer: No go right ahead. Is it on? Good. Smack! Now listen you punk...

Obligatory (1)

bcdm (1031268) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903118)

Guy: Don't taze me, bro!

The only thing illegal should be how you use it (1)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 6 years ago | (#21902978)

Recording speech should be like handling a firearm. If you are not harassing others with it, or using it to commit a crime, you should not be stopped from carrying it in public or using it in self-defense against anyone--even cops when they are behaving violently and illegally. You want to know why there is little justice today? I'll tell you why. Legal technicalities. The bus driver was breaking the law in a serious way. She had no good argument for why she should not have to deal with the recorder. Under a just system, the fact that her "privacy rights" (what bullshit, privacy in **plain view of the public**) were violated would be no defense nor would it be an argument for why she shouldn't be serving jail time.

The most specious argument along these lines is the one that if we didn't drop cases where the police really screw up, they'd have no incentive to not break the rules to get evidence. Excuse me? Anyone who believes that stupid line hasn't been paying attention, nor do they give two shits about the victim's right to justice. So what if another party screwed up? The fact is, the person still committed a crime against a private citizen. What's next? We allow a serial killer to get off because he "went good" for a while by mopping up a few child molesters? That's where this line of thought ends up going.

Recording Conversations with Customer Service Reps (1)

FromTheAir (938543) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903038)

I think we should start recording customer service reps as they try to impose their fictions on us. If your really smart you can really burn through their illusions and expose their foolisheness. Then post it online for all to hear. They can also be very entertaining, I have recorded a few since they give us permission to do so for quality control purposes.

Re:Recording Conversations with Customer Service R (3, Funny)

jcr (53032) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903104)

I think we should start recording customer service reps as they try to impose their fictions on us.

Like this [youtube.com] ?

-jcr

Some State Laws Already Address This (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903060)

Elgan argues that there should be no questions about members of the public being allowed to record such interactions.
IANAL, but in California I am reasonably certain that the conversation may only be recorded if (a) both parties know the conversation is being recorded and (b) both parties consent to the conversation being recorded. If both conditions are not met then the recording is not admissable as evidence in state court (i.e. the conversation never took place as far as they are concerned). This is why many customer support lines inform callers to the effect: "your call may be monitored or recorded and you agree to these terms by continuing with the call otherwise please hangup now...". Even if the recording was consensual it could still have been altered after the fact so the evidence may be circumstantial at best.

Re:Some State Laws Already Address This (1)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903170)

Yes, and that California law is complete shit. If I was on a jury and I eventually found out that such evidence was being withheld or was told it was "circumstantial" I would take that completely into consideration and act on that factual information instead of this made up fairy fantasy land created by the stupid courts! Facts are facts. You can't act like something didn't happen because people didn't consent to it happening.

in the UK (1)

tristian_was_here (865394) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903066)

(aside all shit laws) there is a freedom of information act, does the US have this?

Re:in the UK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21903362)

Sure we do. But... your new around here aren't you? http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22491589/ [msn.com] You can't request what doesn't exist.

Intercepted conversations? (1)

TheLazySci-FiAuthor (1089561) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903120)

Let us say that theoretically it is possible to extract some kind of evidence from an advanced neurological scan that would show an event or even a conversation had indeed happened. Let's go further and imagine that some of the details of this conversation could be extracted. Further than that even, let us speculate that it can be possible to distinguish between false memory and real memory to such a degree as to make human memory admissible as evidence.

I bring up this situation because I think that one day, perhaps in the not to distant future, there will be human memory enhancements which will essentially record every moment of an individual's life. Blue tooth headsets now, data monocles not to far off.

Where does the line become drawn in this case.

Golden Rule, Punishment, .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21903132)

This is good as far as the Golden Rule does not apply. However, as far as the Rule applies, this can be bad. People are generally trustworthy. We need better (more efficient) ways of preventing crime than surveillance. In fact, surveillance has a way of creating mistrust. I believe that good (re)actions have a way of permeating the populace in such a way that it discourages crime. As far as surveillance helping to prevent crime, it does so primarily through deterrence. This deterrence is simply the threat of punishment. Since punishment itself doesn't necessarily do any good, and since it (punishment) can be painful, punishment itself can be criminal. Hence, the end of surveillance does not always justify it. Surveillance itself is a one-way flow of information. One-way flow of information is the same kind of thing as what happens when one is front of an interrogation mirror in an isolation room. Do you really want this? I hope not.

The Golden Rule (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21903272)

This is good as far as the Golden Rule does not apply. However, as far as the Rule applies, this can be bad. People are generally trustworthy. We need better (more efficient) ways of preventing crime than surveillance. In fact, surveillance has a way of creating mistrust. I believe that good (re)actions have a way of permeating the populace in such a way that it discourages crime.

As far as surveillance helping to prevent crime, it does so primarily through deterrence. This deterrence is simply the threat of punishment. Since punishment itself doesn't necessarily do any good, and since it (punishment) can be painful, punishment itself can be criminal. Hence, the end of surveillance does not always justify it.

Surveillance itself is a one-way flow of information. One-way flow of information is the same kind of thing as what happens when one is front of an interrogation mirror in an isolation room. Do you really want this? I hope not.

The Golden Rule keeps its own. As far as it forbids one kind of behavior, it encourages another doubly.

This is good as far as the Golden Rule does not apply. However, as far as the Rule applies, this can be bad. People are generally trustworthy. We need better (more efficient) ways of preventing crime than surveillance. In fact, surveillance has a way of creating mistrust. I believe that good (re)actions have a way of permeating the populace in such a way that it discourages crime.

As far as surveillance helping to prevent crime, it does so primarily through deterrence. This deterrence is simply the threat of punishment. Since punishment itself doesn't necessarily do any good, and since it (punishment) can be painful, punishment itself can be criminal. Hence, the end of surveillance does not always justify it.

Surveillance itself is a one-way flow of information. One-way flow of information is the same kind of thing as what happens when one is front of an interrogation mirror in an isolation room. Do you really want this? I hope not.

The Golden Rule keeps its own. As far as it forbids one kind of behavior, it encourages another doubly.

11th ammendment? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21903606)

...the rights of the people to perform surveillance shall not be infringed...

Recording devices (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903612)

I've been thinking about a number of situations in which you might want to surreptitiously record what you say and hear, which makes me want to ask, what are the best suited devices and setups for wire-tapping yourself?

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