Tag Archives: privacy

Rights groups urge Justice to investigate police use of face recognition

Fifty national civil rights, civil liberties, faith, and privacy organizations sent a letter to the U.S. Justice Department urging it to investigate the increasing use and impact of face recognition by police.

The letter, sent in partnership with the ACLU and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, comes amid mounting evidence that the technology is violating the rights of millions of Americans and having a disproportionate impact on communities of color.

Also, Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy & Technology has released a report finding that police departments across the country are frequently using face recognition technologies to identify and track individuals — whether crossing the street, captured on surveillance cameras, or attending protests.

The report highlights that existing deficiencies are likely to have a disparate impact on African-Americans.

“We need to stop the widespread use of face recognition technology by police until meaningful safeguards are in place,” said Neema Singh Guliani, ACLU legislative counsel. “Half of all adults in the country are in government face recognition databases, yet the vast majority of law enforcement agencies using this technology lack clear policies, audits to ensure accuracy, and transparency.”

The letter, sent to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, was signed by 50 diverse organizations.

The letter explains how federal, state and local police forces use driver license photos to identify suspects — without warrants, accuracy tests, or audits.

“This technology supercharges the racial bias that already exists in policing,” said Sakira Cook, counsel with The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “For the good of the nation, we can’t afford to let these inherently biased systems operate without any safeguards.”

 

Auto intelligence: What happens to the info autos collect about drivers?

Your car knows more about you than you think. Newer cars that connect to the internet can collect vast amounts of data about drivers, such as where you went to dinner, if you broke the speed limit or if your seat belt was buckled.

When you buy a car, you cede data control to your car company. Most automakers say they won’t sell information without an owner’s consent. But they’re not legally required to inform you if they do.

Car data is about to become big business. A new report from consulting firm McKinsey says automotive data could be worth $450 billion to $750 billion globally by 2030. Automakers, insurers, high-tech firms, city planners and advertisers are among those who could use data to refine services. Drivers could share data in exchange for navigation systems, or they could pay extra for perks like a parking spot finder.

Here’s a primer on the emerging issue of connected-car data:

Q: Which cars collect data?

A: Just under 20 percent of new cars sold globally now can be linked to the internet, according to BI Intelligence. That figure is expected to reach 75 percent by 2020.

For example, General Motors Co. will have 12 million connected vehicles by the end of this year worldwide, which it says is the most for any automaker.

Q: Do I own data that’s collected?

A: That’s unclear. Under federal law, drivers own data stored in event data recorders, or “black boxes,” which monitor vehicles in a crash. Police and insurers need a driver’s consent – or a court order – to get that data. But there are no laws addressing data collected by automakers through vehicle internet connections.

Q: How do automakers use the data?

A: It depends on the vehicle and the manufacturer. Some turn data into notifications. Cars can automatically signal for help if an air bag deploys, for example. Some will send a message if oil needs to be changed or a vehicle is being recalled.

Tesla Motors has used data to reveal – sometimes within hours of a crash – how fast the driver was going and whether or not the company’s semi-autonomous Autopilot system was engaged.

Q: Can automakers sell data without my knowledge?

A: They could, depending on language in owners’ manuals. But under voluntary principles established by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers in 2014, most agreed to get permission before sharing anything about a driver’s location, health or behavior with third parties.

Twenty companies – including GM, Toyota, Ford, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz – signed that agreement, which is effective by the 2017 model year.

The policy doesn’t require consent for automakers to share data with emergency workers or to share it internally for research.

Q: Can I stop an automaker from collecting my data?

A: Most automakers let owners opt out, but that’s usually buried in fine print, says Khaliah Barnes, former associate director of the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center, who now works on privacy issues for the federal government.

Under the 2014 agreement, automakers committed to providing clear notices about data, the reasons for collecting it and where it can be shared. But that’s not always happening. For example, some GM owners’ manuals tell people about data storage, but they must track down separate policies to learn more, Barnes says.

Q: Are there benefits to sharing data?

A: Yes. Upon a driver’s request, GM will send driving data to insurance companies like Progressive and State Farm to see if the driver qualifies for lower rates. OnStar will send coupons to your phone for businesses along your route.

Tesla collects data in order to improve cars via software updates.

There’s evidence people aren’t fretting about data sharing. McKinsey found 79 percent of the 3,000 customers it interviewed in the U.S., China and Germany were willing to share. More than 70 percent were willing to pay for data-enabled services that would save time, like a parking spot finder.

Q: What’s the downside to sharing data?

A: Insurance companies could require drivers to let them monitor driving before they grant a policy. They could see if you go fast around curves, accelerate too quickly or if you don’t wear a seat belt. That could raise rates. You could also get overwhelmed with unwanted coupons.

Q: What’s the future of car data sharing?

Mark Thomas, head of connected car marketing for Cisco-Jasper, predicts automakers will eventually go from charging monthly internet fees to monetizing the service other ways, perhaps by selling data. Internet costs could be split, with part going to an insurer, music provider or other data user. Without a monthly charge, more drivers would sign up, he says.

Currently, data charges can be steep. New GM vehicles come with a free OnStar Guidance Plan trial. It automatically calls emergency services after a crash, tracks and slows down a car if it’s stolen and provides hands-free calling. But it costs $34.99 per month when the trial is over.

EEOC issues fact sheet on bathroom access

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on May 2 issued a fact sheet on bathroom access rights as guaranteed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The fact sheet comes as lawmakers in a number of states and some municipalities advance measures intended to bar transgender people from using the bathrooms appropriate to their gender identity.

Here’s the fact sheet from the EEOC:

  • “Transgender” refers to people whose gender identity and/or expression is different from the sex assigned to them at birth (e.g. the sex listed on an original birth certificate). The term transgender woman typically is used to refer to someone who was assigned the male sex at birth but who identifies as a female.  Likewise, the term transgender man typically is used to refer to someone who was assigned the female sex at birth but who identifies as male.  A person does not need to undergo any medical procedure to be considered a transgender man or a transgender woman.
  • In addition to other federal laws, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, and sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation). Title VII applies to all federal, state, and local government agencies in their capacity as employers, and to all private employers with 15 or more employees.
  • In Macy v. Dep’t of Justice, EEOC Appeal No. 0120120821, 2012 WL 1435995 (Apr. 12, 2012), the EEOC ruled that discrimination based on transgender status is sex discrimination in violation of Title VII, and in Lusardi v. Dep’t of the Army, EEOC Appeal No. 0120133395, 2015 WL 1607756 (Mar. 27, 2015), the EEOC held that:
    • denying an employee equal access to a common restroom corresponding to the employee’s gender identity is sex discrimination;
    • an employer cannot condition this right on the employee undergoing or providing proof of surgery or any other medical procedure; and,
    • an employer cannot avoid the requirement to provide equal access to a common restroom by restricting a transgender employee to a single-user restroom instead (though the employer can make a single-user restroom available to all employees who might choose to use it).

  • Contrary state law is not a defense under Title VII. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-7.
  • In G. ex rel. Grimm v. Gloucester Cty. Sch. Bd., — F.3d –, 2016 WL 1567467 (4th Cir. 2016), the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reached a similar conclusion by deferring to the Department of Education’s position that the prohibition against sex discrimination under Title IX requires educational institutions to give transgender students restroom and locker access consistent with their gender identity.

  • Gender-based stereotypes, perceptions, or comfort level must not interfere with the ability of any employee to work free from discrimination, including harassment. As the Commission observed in Lusardi:  “[S]upervisory or co-worker confusion or anxiety cannot justify discriminatory terms and conditions of employment.  Title VII prohibits discrimination based on sex whether motivated by hostility, by a desire to protect people of a certain gender, by gender stereotypes, or by the desire to accommodate other people’s prejudices or discomfort.”

  • Like all non-discrimination provisions, these protections address conduct in the workplace, not personal beliefs. Thus, these protections do not require any employee to change beliefs.  Rather, they seek to ensure appropriate workplace treatment so that all employees may perform their jobs free from discrimination.

  • Further information from other federal government agencies includes: A Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers, issued by the U.S. Department of Labor’s  Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3795.pdf, and Guidance Regarding the Employment of Transgender Individuals in the Federal Workplace, https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/diversity-and-inclusion/reference-materials/gender-identity-guidance/, issued by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

  • If you believe you have been discriminated against, you may take action to protect your rights under Title VII by filing a complaint:

    • Private sector and state/local government employees may file a charge of discrimination by contacting the EEOC at 1-800-669-4000 or go to https://www.eeoc.gov/employees/howtofile.cfm.
    • Federal government employees may initiate the complaint process by contacting an EEO counselor at your agency; more information is available at https://www.eeoc.gov/federal/fed_employees/complaint_overview.cfm

New lawsuit marks 46th anniversary of Kent State killings

On the 46th anniversary of the Kent State massacre, attorney Michael Kuzma will bring a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the U.S. Justice Department, demanding records related to the FBI’s role in escalating situations on the campus.

In the years since the killings on the Ohio campus on May 4, 1970, survivors, witnesses and victims’ families have sought to establish the FBI’s involvement.

Kuzma wants that the Justice Department produce all responsive records related to Terrence Norman, reported at the time of the massacre to be a young FBI informant.

Norman is believed by families and observers to have fired the first shots from a revolver and, in the chaos that immediately followed, Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire at unarmed Kent State student protesters, resulting in the deaths of Allison Beth Krause, Jeffrey Glenn Miller, Sandra Lee Scheuer and William Knox Schroeder and injuries to nine others.

“The time to tear down the veil of secrecy surrounding the involvement of the FBI and Terrence Norman in the assassinations of four Kent State University students is now,” Kuzma said in a news release.

Attorney Daire Brian Irwin, who is handling Kuzma’s complaint filing, said, “Through this lawsuit we hope to learn if the Kent State killings are another example of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program, specifically their ‘New Left’ project targeting student dissent, run amok.”

COINTELPRO was a secret FBI program designed to monitor and neutralize non-violent protest groups and political dissidents deemed by the agency to be a danger to national security.

The FBI has refused to release Norman’s dossier on privacy grounds.

The government will have 30 business days to answer the complaint.

Terry Norman, in mask, takes pictures of the May 4, 1970, antiwar demonstration on the Kent State University campus before the shootings that day. Though Norman was highly visible during the protest, he has remained a shadowy figure in the events. The girl holding a white rag near her chest in the background is Mary Vecchio, who soon would become part of probably the most memorable picture taken at KSU that day. She was photographed crying over the body of Jeffrey Miller, one of four students killed. John Filo won a Pulitzer Prize for that photo. — Kent State University Libraries
Terry Norman, in mask, takes pictures of the May 4, 1970, antiwar demonstration on the Kent State University campus before the shootings that day. Though Norman was highly visible during the protest, he has remained a shadowy figure in the events. The girl holding a white rag near her chest in the background is Mary Vecchio, who soon would become part of probably the most memorable picture taken at KSU that day. She was photographed crying over the body of Jeffrey Miller, one of four students killed. John Filo won a Pulitzer Prize for that photo. — Kent State University Libraries

Republicans vow to obstruct anyone Obama nominates to fill Scalia’s seat

Antonin Scalia, who was considered one of most conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, died Friday night while staying at a hunting resort in the Big Bend area of Texas. The caustic firebrand complained about feeling ill the night before he was found unresponsive in his room.

The cause of death was not immediately known.

Scalia was part of a 5-4 conservative majority — with one of the five, Anthony Kennedy, sometimes voting with liberals on the court. In a tie vote, the lower court opinion prevails.

Scalia’s death leaves a 4–4 split between liberal and conservative justices on the bench, which means many important decisions will be tied. An even split between conservatives and liberals on the Supreme Court will leave nearly an entire year in which many major upcoming decisions, including cases involving abortion, affirmative action and immigration policy, will be resolved by lower courts

After offering his condolences to Scalia’s family and paying tribute to him as a “towering figure,” President Barack Obama vowed to nominate a successor to Scalia “in due time.”

Republican congressional leaders, hoping to win the White House next year, fired back that they would refuse to approve anyone Obama nominates — a ploy in which they are well versed. They insist no nomination should be made until the next president takes office, which is nearly 11 months away.

Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate’s top Democrat, said it would be “unprecedented in recent history” for the court to have a vacancy for so long a time.

The Supreme Court will now become a major issue in this year’s presidential race.

Dozens of federal positions remain unfilled due to Republican obstructionism, including the nomination of Eric Fanning to be the next secretary of the Army. The Senate refuses to approve Fanning due to his sexual orientation. He’s stepped down from his post as acting secretary because of the political turmoil.

Last year, Sen. Marco Rubio, R–Fla., scuttled Obama’s nomination of Judge Darrin Gayles, an out gay black state court judge, to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Scalia, who was selected in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, seemed to have a mission to move the court to the right. He was a strict constructionist who adhered to legal“originalism,”which he called “textualism.” In other words, judges had a duty to give the same meaning to the words and concepts as they were understood by the Founding Fathers. Because same-sex marriage was not mentioned in the Constitution, written over 200 years ago, Scalia believed that the issue was not a Constitutional one.

A challenge to a Washington, D.C., gun ban gave Scalia the opportunity to display his devotion to textualism. In a 5–4 decision that split the court’s conservatives and liberals, he wrote that an examination of English and colonial history made it exceedingly clear that the Second Amendment protected Americans’ right to have guns, at the very least in their homes and for self-defense. The dissenters, also claiming fidelity to history, said the amendment was meant to ensure that states could raise militias to confront a too-powerful federal government if necessary.

But Scalia rejected that view. “Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct,” Scalia wrote.

Scalia carried his rifle in a case on the New York City subways. Decades later, he taught the Upper West Sider Kagan how to shoot a gun and the two went together on excursions hunting animals.

Scalia was a strong supporter of privacy in cases involving police searches and defendants’ rights. But, a devoted Roman Catholic, he also voted consistently to let states outlaw abortions, to allow a closer relationship between government and religion, to permit executions and to limit lawsuits.

In 2002, however, he surprised SCOTUS observers by opposing the court’s decision to outlaw executing the mentally disabled, despite the church’s rejection of the death penalty. The framers of the Constitution didn’t think capital punishment was unconstitutional and neither did he, he said, adding that judges who follow the philosophy that capital punishment is morally wrong should resign.

A longtime law professor before becoming a judge, Scalia frequently spoke at law schools and to other groups. Later in his tenure, he also spoke at length in on-the-record interviews, often to promote a book.

He betrayed no uncertainty about some of the most contentious legal issues of the day.

“The death penalty? Give me a break. It’s easy. Abortion? Absolutely easy. Nobody ever thought the Constitution prevented restrictions on abortion. Homosexual sodomy? Come on. For 200 years, it was criminal in every state,” Scalia said during a talk that preceded a book signing at the American Enterprise Institute in 2012.

Scalia was in the court’s majority in the 2000 Bush v. Gore decision, which effectively decided the presidential election for Republican George W. Bush. “Get over it,” Scalia would famously say at speaking engagements in the ensuing years whenever the topic arose.

The justice relished a good fight. In 2004, when an environmental group asked him to step aside from a case involving Vice President Dick Cheney after reports that Scalia and Cheney hunted ducks together, the justice responded with a 21-page memorandum explaining his intention to hear the case. He said “the nation is in deeper trouble than I had imagined,” if people thought a duck-hunting trip could sway his vote.

Two years later, The Boston Herald reported that Scalia employed an obscene hand gesture while leaving a church in response to another question about his impartiality. Scalia penned a scathing letter to the newspaper, taking issue with the characterization. He explained that the gesture —the extended fingers of one hand moving slowly back and forth under the raised chin — was dismissive, not obscene.

“From watching too many episodes of The Sopranos, your staff seems to have acquired the belief that any Sicilian gesture is obscene,” he said.

A smoker of cigarettes and pipes, Scalia enjoyed baseball, poker, hunting and playing the piano. He was an enthusiastic singer at court Christmas parties and other musical gatherings.

Born in New Jersey, he was the only child of an Italian immigrant father who was a professor of Romance languages and a mother who taught elementary school. He attended public schools, graduated first in his class at Georgetown University and won high honors at the Harvard University Law School. He taught law and served in Republican administrations before Reagan made him an appeals court judge in Washington in 1982. Scalia and his wife Maureen had nine children.

Scalia’s impact on the court was muted by his seeming disregard for moderating his views to help build consensus.

The friendship between Scalia and Ginsburg inspired the opera Scalia/Ginsburg by composer Derrick Wang. The two once appeared on stage as extras in a performance art the Washington Opera.

In one aria, the Scalia character rages about justices who see the Constitution evolving with society.

The operatic Scalia fumes: “The justices are blind. How can they spout this? The Constitution says absolutely nothing about this.”

The real-life Scalia certainly agreed.

Florida judge refuses to unseal records in Hulk Hogan sex video case

A Florida judge has rejected motions for a group of media outlets asking to make records in the Hulk Hogan sex video case public.

The judge responded to motions on Sept. 25. They had been filed a day earlier.

Hogan, a former WWE wrestler whose real name is Terry Bollea, is suing the news website Gawker for posting a video of him having sex with a woman who at the time was married to Hogan’s friend.

The tape was leaked to Gawker, and the FBI investigated. Gawker filed a public records request in federal court for more information about the investigation, and the judge ordered it released. But when it was put into public record in the civil lawsuit, the judge sealed the records.

Media companies, including The Associated Press, were asking to open those records.

Florida school no longer requiring tech students to undergo vaginal procedure

A Florida community college will no longer have ultrasound technician students practice an invasive vaginal procedure on each other, school officials said this week, after two former students sued the college.

Valencia College’s president said in a statement that students instead will use simulators when practicing the invasive ultrasound scanning that is used to check on fertility problems.

“Demonstrating our respect for and commitment to students is paramount,” Valencia College president Sandy Shugart said.

An independent expert reviewed the program last summer after the students complained about having to undergo the procedure and concluded it was done safely and professionally at the school, Shugart said.

“As part of our commitment to creating and nurturing a caring, inclusive and safe environment that improves student preparedness for professional success, Valencia will continue to review and evaluate all of our educational programs on a frequent basis,” he said.

The two former students sued in federal court earlier this month, claiming they were punished when they objected to undergoing the procedure. Instructors told students the procedure was voluntary but those who refused were browbeaten and their academic standing was threatened, the lawsuit said.

“Plaintiffs would disrobe in a restroom, drape themselves in towels, and traverse the sonography classroom in full view of instructors and other students,” the lawsuit said.

The two students experienced “discomfort and embarrassment” during the sessions, the lawsuit said. They are seeking an unspecified amount of money in damages.

Federal appeals court strikes down North Carolina ultrasound law

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit unanimously permanently blocked a 2011 North Carolina law to force women to undergo a narrated ultrasound before receiving abortion care.

The ruling on Dec. 23 states that “the state cannot commandeer the doctor-patient relationship to compel a physician to express its preference to the patient.”

The law, which requires abortion providers to display the ultrasound and describe the images in detail to every woman before performing an abortion, even if the woman objects, was preliminarily blocked in October 2011 after several North Carolina physicians and medical practices sued, represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, Planned Parenthood and the firm of O’Melveny & Myers.

A district court struck down the law in January.

In a news release, the ACLU said the law violates the First Amendment rights of physicians by forcing them to deliver politically motivated communications to a patient even over the patient’s objection.

The appeals court ruling affirms that “transforming the physician into the mouthpiece of the state undermines the trust that is necessary for facilitating healthy doctor-patient relationships and, through them, successful treatment outcomes.”

“This law is about trying to shame a woman out of having an abortion, pure and simple,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director for the ACLU. “Politics don’t belong in the exam room, and a doctor shouldn’t have to humiliate a woman because some politicians disagree with her decision.”

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said, “We’re thrilled that the appellate court rejected this unconscionable attempt to intrude on the doctor-patient relationship. Exam rooms are no place for propaganda and doctors should never be forced to serve as mouthpieces for politicians who wish to shame and demean women.”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America also responded. “Today’s ruling marks another major victory for women and sends a message to lawmakers across the country: it is unconstitutional for politicians to interfere in a woman’s personal medical decisions about abortion,” said Cecile Richards, PPFA president. “Politicians are not medical experts — but politicians have written this law with the ultimate goal of restricting access to safe, legal abortion.”

The mandatory ultrasound law, which the General Assembly passed in 2011 over the veto of then-Gov. Bev Perdue, is one of the most extreme ultrasound laws in the country.  In November 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a similar law from Oklahoma, allowing the ruling from the Oklahoma Supreme Court blocking the measure as unconstitutional to stand.

While the law would allow the woman to “avert her eyes” from the ultrasound screen and to “refuse to hear” the explanation of the images, the provider would still be required to place the images in front of her and describe them in detail over her objection. The North Carolina law applies even if a woman does not want to see the ultrasound, and makes no exception for rape, incest, serious health risks or severe fetal anomalies.

Wisconsin agency preps for big jump in DNA testing

The Wisconsin Department of Justice has hired nearly 20 more workers and begun a pricey renovation of its Madison crime lab so that it will be able to handle tens of thousands of additional DNA samples when new collection requirements take effect next year.

Wisconsin currently takes DNA samples from anyone convicted of a felony and certain sex-related misdemeanors. A Republican-backed law set to take effect on April 1 dramatically expands the grounds for collection.

The measure requires local police to take DNA from anyone arrested for a violent felony and to ship the samples to the DOJ, although the agency won’t be allowed to process them until a judge finds probable cause that a crime was committed in each case. The law also requires anyone convicted of any misdemeanor to submit a DNA sample.

The law’s supporters say collecting DNA samples will help solve more crimes.

Civil rights advocates, though, contend the expanded collection is an invasion of privacy.

The law means the DOJ will have to handle tens of thousands of additional samples. The agency already collects about 12,000 DNA samples from convicted felons annually and expects to receive 25,000 samples from felony arrests and 40,000 samples from misdemeanor convictions next year.

The DOJ operates crime labs in Madison, Milwaukee and Wausau, although only the Madison and Milwaukee facilities handle DNA testing. All the samples from the collection expansion will go to the Madison lab, said Brian O’Keefe, administrator of the DOJ’s Division of Law Enforcement Services.

Using money generated through DNA surcharges on offenders, the DOJ has hired and trained eight additional analysts and 11 technicians to handle the new samples. The agency also has tapped the surcharges to cover $5 million in renovations at the Madison lab to house the new workers and all the new samples. Construction began in July and is expected to be completed by March.

The DOJ’s crime labs struggled in the mid-2000s to keep up with extracting DNA profiles from crime scene evidence as police and prosecutors submitted more samples in hopes of finding enough DNA to identify the suspect. Evidence in nearly 1,800 cases was sitting on crime lab shelves waiting for testing when Van Hollen took office in 2007.

Van Hollen convinced lawmakers to let him hire 31 additional analysts and in 2010 declared he had eliminated the backlog. Currently, evidence in fewer than 500 cases is waiting for testing and the average turnaround time is 35 days, DOJ officials say.

O’Keefe said the new law shouldn’t extend waiting times.

The new personnel will be devoted to handling arrestee and misdemeanor convicts’ samples exclusively and they won’t have to spend time extracting DNA from them.

The agency plans to forward the samples to a private Texas lab that it already uses to extract DNA from samples from felony convicts. For $20 per sample analysts there will pull DNA from the saliva, build profiles and ship them back to Madison. Analysts here will upload them into state and national databases and look for hits with profiles of unknown suspects. If they get a match they’ll process the sample themselves to verify the profile, O’Keefe said. 

Milwaukee committee to discuss body cameras for police

The Milwaukee Public Safety Committee may take up the issue of body-worn cameras for the Milwaukee Police Department and the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin is weighing in on the issue.

The city committee could consider the issue as early as Oct. 2.

In mid-September, Police Chief Edward Flynn indicated that MPD wanted to move forward with a pilot program to test body cameras, with the use of 50 cameras. Flynn, according to an ACLU announcement, suggested that policies “would be rolled out over time.”

In a letter this week to Ald. Terry L. Witkowski, ACLU of Wisconsin executive director Christopher Ahmuty said such equipment, when used properly, has a role in increasing police accountability.

However, Ahmuty said, the civil liberties group has two suggestions for city officials:

• MPD should be encouraged to develop protocols for the pilot program and for standard operating procedures that take into account “serious privacy considerations affecting both police officers and subjects. Privacy can be protected without significantly diminishing the potential body-worn cameras hold for enhancing police accountability.”

• The MPD should conduct its pilot program in “a timely fashion and move to deploy more than 50 body-worn cameras (and adequately train substantial numbers of officers in their use) within a year. The pilot should determine which system, cameras and policies best suit the MPD and emerging best practices.”

Ahmuty added, “In my opinion, the MPD is budgeting too much for data storage. The ACLU-WI will urge the Finance and Personnel Committee to move more funds from data storage to body-worn cameras.”

The letter continued, “Robust police accountability improves police community relations. Good police community relations are essential if we are to work together to make our neighborhoods safe. Body-worn cameras should be used to enhance police accountability. They must not be used for surveillance. The data collected by body-worn cameras (and MDVRs as well) should not be used alone or matched with other databases for forensic purposes unless there is a warrant. It should also not be analyzed in a way that impinges on the First Amendment, associational and free speech, rights of law abiding Americans, such as anti-abortion demonstrators, politicians, or demonstrators protesting police misconduct. 

“The ACLU-WI believes that body-worn cameras have an important role to play in increasing police accountability. However, as with any law enforcement technology, we cannot let human values and civil liberties become subservient to the technology. We should put the technology to work for us. You and your committee have an important oversight role to play. We urge you to thoroughly review this complicated issue to make sure that the residents of Milwaukee will benefit from this expenditure.”

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