Developing Standards for New SURVEILLANCE METHODS

Article excerpt

Law enforcement officers used technologically advanced surveillance techniques to watch and record Unabomber Ted Kaczynski in his remote cabin in the woods for several days before making an arrest. They monitored his activities, over-heard conversations, and listened for any incriminating evidence. Most Americans approve using technology to capture Kaczynski, but suppose the cameras and monitoring equipment were turned on you? Is your home still your castle? How can Americans protect their constitutional right of privacy in the world of this new invasive technology?

A city street is overrun with drug traffickers and crime. The police install video cameras to record illegal activity. The cameras reduce the crime rate dramatically, and residents are free to go out and once again become part of the neighborhood. What about the innocent bystanders that are recorded--is the result worth violating their privacy? What will the police department do with the videotapes?

Recognizing that new and developing forms of technologically assisted physical surveillance can promote public safety and impinge upon privacy rights, an American Bar Association (ABA) task force has developed standards relating to law enforcement use of video technology and tracking, telescopic, illumination, and detection devices. "Advances in technology can help law enforcement do its job, but we need to keep in mind that there is a delicate balance between privacy concerns and law enforcement needs," notes Sheldon Krantz, chair of the task force that has spent nearly three years in developing the proposed standards, a process that has involved many police and privacy experts as well as prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, academics, and representatives of intelligence agencies. …

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