Law enforcement use of digital surveillance seen as concern

Nov. 11, 2013 at 3:00 PM
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CHAMPAIGN, Ill., Nov. 11 (UPI) -- Use of advanced surveillance technologies by law enforcement without oversight or regulation poses significant privacy concerns, a U.S. legal expert says.

Stephen Rushin, a University of Illinois expert in criminal law and information privacy, says while adoption of digital surveillance technologies by local police departments may improve the efficiency of criminal investigations, it also creates the opportunity for abuse and misuse.

Technologies such as automatic license plate readers, surveillance cameras, red light cameras and facial recognition software, if used without oversight and regulation, have the potential to develop into a form of widespread community surveillance, Rushin said in a university release Monday.

"What's worrisome to me is that the technologies could be harnessed to monitor not just one person, but an entire community," he said. "For example, if police departments use license plate readers in concert with an extensive network of surveillance cameras, that means that they really do have the ability to monitor everyone all of the time. Legally speaking, that's troubling."

Such a possibility ought to pose significant privacy concerns to law-abiding citizens, Rushin warned.

Legislative bodies must take action to limit the retention, identification, access and sharing of data acquired by digital public surveillance technologies, he urged.

"The rate at which [law enforcement agencies are] adopting and utilizing these technologies isn't matching the rate at which they're adopting retention policies to regulate those new technological devices," he said.

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