Privacy in Transition – No Kidding

I am headed up to Harvard this evening to attend the Privacy Symposium.  I am very much looking forward to this industrial-strength dose of privacy discussions.  This will also be a bit different for me as the majority of speakers are lawyers.  Usually, I sit in conferences listening to techies and the occasional auditor.  The Privacy Symposium speaker list is lawyer and professor heavy with a few representations from the tech world.  It ought to be a nice change.

The subtitle of this Privacy Symposium is “Privacy in Transition.”  Well timed.  I look around my neighborhood and my city and I can practically see those transitions in real time.  I’ve talked about the security cameras in my neighborhood before.  This weekend, the Washington Post reports that DC is planning on sing license plate readers to “fight terrorism.”  Find stolen cars – sure.  Find Osama bin laden – not so much.  The District has got to release data retention plans for this data quickly.  For now, the word is that this data will not be retained.  The systems checks plates against “Federal databases” and looks for matches.  (How long until we have a No-Fly list equivalent of license plates?)  I have to imagine that the data retention policy will change very quickly.  How long until third parties get access to this data?  I can see the District using the revenue it makes from selling access to this data to divorce lawyers to pay for school repairs.

At any rate, I’ll be in Cambridge this week mulling some of these ideas over hearing more on matters like these.  See you there.

Follow-up on “Surveillance Cameras in DC”

Just a brief follow-up to my previous comments.  DC has written its regulations for this camera consolidation.  I have copied a version here.  Nice to see that the footage will be remained only for 10 days and then destroyed.  But it also seems like anyone can gain access to this footage if they ask nicely.

Poorly spent funds: Surveillance cameras in DC

I am especially sensitive to this as one of these camera units is a block and half from my house.  Questions that come to mind are:

  • How long will the District retain footage from these cameras?
  • Who will maintain this footage: law enforcement or emergency management?
  • Can I as a citizen request to see footage as part of a FOIA request?
  • Will INS/FBI/ATF/other Federal law enforcement agencies have access to these cameras on an ongoing basis?
As I mentioned there’s one of these cameras a block and half from my house.  It sits on a very heavily trafficked corner.  People stand there waiting for the bus.  There is a huge amount of vehicular traffic that goes right by it.  There is a 7-11 right there and there is always some flavor of law enforcement officer there. There is rare street crime in the area and when it does happen it happens blocks away on darker corners.  There is no way this camera prevents crime in any way shape or form.
If the real goal is to prevent crime, instead of spending the $10 million to set this system up, put that cash to funding more neighborhood cops who walk a beat.