Your Source for Security Cameras & Other Security Equipment

public safety

California Surveillance Laws

When it comes to surveillance, there is a fine line between privacy and public safety. Because of this, surveillance laws are often scrutinized by both sides. A new bill was introduced at the end of 2016 which requires any local law enforcement agency in California that uses surveillance technology to submit a plan to local officials on how it uses equipment and information collected. This would need to include surveillance plans for any facial recognition software, drones, and even social media monitoring, and would be presented at an open hearing.

While this disclosure from law enforcement may put some worries at ease, others may want more. Privacy advocates believe that this is still not enough to cover spying equipment and technology that is continuing to evolve and expand. On the other side, law enforcement officials argue that creating plans and policies for each device may be unfeasible and interfere with investigations.

But state Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) says that it was introduced “to create transparency and a check and balance.” Without regulations on these devices and technology, they can easily be abused and infringe on our privacy rights.

With fairly comprehensive digital privacy laws, California has been actively working toward disclosure when it comes to law enforcement surveillance. State laws require a probable cause warrant for access to digital content and devices (ex. cell phones) and law enforcement must catalog information and make it publicly available.

The new bill gives agencies until July 1, 2018 to draft policies detailing all the types of surveillance technology used and the authorized reasons for using them, along with the types of data collected, who can access them, and a description of their training. It also prohibits an agency from acquiring new technology unless approved by local officials at a regularly scheduled public meeting.

Last year, two surveillance laws went into effect, one of which requires to draft and publicly post privacy and usage policies for operating automated license-plate recognition software. The other requires the same for the use of cell-site simulators (“Stingrays” or “Dirtboxes”). These are powerful tracking devices that function as fake cellphone towers to collect information. However, their ability to collect information from innocent people not under investigation has sparked outrage and court battles.

Despite current surveillance laws, privacy advocates believe that not all agencies are complying and that not enough is being done to ensure that they do. To evade the disclosure requirements, agencies could borrow technology from other federal agencies, which is not subject to state law.

In an effort to check compliance, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other nonprofits and watchdog groups searched through numerous California government websites to make sure surveillance policies were posted. While many were easily located, policies for at least 90 agencies (which, based on public records, were believed to use surveillance technology) could not be found. Since this task in April 2016, more agencies have posted their policies online.

While the new bill is meant to be inclusive and comprehensive, concerns remain. Some worry that criminals may figure out how they are being tracked, others bring up issues of time sensitivity when it comes to buying or borrowing new technology, and privacy advocates are still skeptical about the cost, risks, and enforcement.

There are obviously mixed feelings about this new bill, and other surveillance laws. What are your views? Share your thoughts and opinions with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

Keep an eye on your home or business with quality CCTV surveillance systems. Find a great selection at SecurityCamExpert.com or call 888-203-6294 to speak with a representative.

Police Body-Worn Cameras

With everything that has been going on lately, public safety is a main concern. In an attempt to increase public safety, several police departments are adopting body-worn cameras. While improvement on basic guidelines is still necessary, body-worn cameras are a major step forward.

Supporters of body-worn camera programs applaud the increased transparency and accountability that these tools provide. Because these cameras can record officer interactions with the public, this helps to bring clarity to day-to-day situations. This footage becomes even more helpful when details are unclear and stories conflict. Aside from this, officers and civilians alike can be held accountable for their actions, thus promoting public safety.

While these are in place with the public in mind, they can also help officers defend their actions when complaints are filed. An interim report by the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing from March 2015 found that there were fewer incidents of force and fewer complaints with officers donning body worn cameras than those without.

Criticism of these programs is related to privacy issues, footage review and public viewing policies. Many say that without public access to the footage, officer accountability will remain unchanged. For example, a North Carolina law makes dash cam and body cam footage exempt from public record. Also being argued is the fact that some jurisdictions allow officers to review the footage before they write their reports. This, combined with no public access to footage, creates an upper hand for the officers as they can shape their story based on the available evidence.

While this is an important concern, this is not the case for all departments as rules and regulations vary. Since the outlook for these cameras seems promising, guidelines regarding use and public access must be improved.  Making these policies available for the public to review allows for better trust for law enforcement.

What are your thoughts on body-worn cameras for police? Share with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. If you would like to browse our selection of security cameras, CCTV surveillance packages, DVRs, NVRs, and more, please visit SecurityCamExpert.com. If you have any questions, please call 1-888-203-6294 Monday-Friday 8:00am-5:00pm.

Recent Comments