Privacy, Police, and Public Duties: Some Interesting Developments

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3 Responses

  1. It’s worth noting that the Federal wiretap law appears to explicitly permit listening to police communications. 18 USC 2511 (2)(g)(ii)(II): “It shall not be unlawful under this chapter or chapter 121 of this title for any person … to intercept any radio communication which is transmitted … by any governmental, law enforcement, civil defense, private land mobile, or public safety communications system, including police and fire, readily accessible to the general public”.

  2. Howard Wasserman says:

    Three states–Massachusetts, Illinois, and Oregon–apply their anti-wiretap laws to surreptitious or unconsented-to recording of police encounters.

    There is a chicken-and-egg problem here: Are police ramping up recording in response to the public being able to record? Or is the public recording in response to police recording, particularly traffic stops? I have argued in print that the latter justifies a First Amendment liberty to record public events. The result is going to be dueling videos–and all of Dan Kahan’s cultural cognition we can handle.

  3. I’m on the record defending the “no privacy in public” rule in part because it permits citizens to record and publicize misconduct by their government officials, including the police ( However, the concept of a 180 degree turn of the camera initially is troubling even to a “more truthful information is better at all costs” person like me. This is because shifting the director/source of the recording from the individual citizen to the police changes the pragmatic harms versus benefits analysis. For example, a new potential harm of this type of recording would be the likely disincentive to call the police out of a fear that one will be videotaped when talking with them, and possibly retaliated against later. That harm is not present (or at least is less pronounced) when the recording is made by, and owned by, the individual.

    Anyone know if the AZ police plan to offer a “live feed” of sorts from their camera-wielding officers to permit the highest level of public scrutiny?