A Massachusetts Federal District Court judge this week has ruled that it is ok to secretly record police officers and other government officials performing their duities in public. In doing so, the Court concluded that wiretapping charges levied against such offending individuals are unconstitutional. While it is not unexpected that we have come to this point given the widespread available technology, some very disturbing warnings lie within the 44 page court ruling.
In making her ruling, the judge stated that reasonable restrictions as to the time, place and manner of the recording may be imposed where the recording actually interferes with the officer’s duties, or the safety of victims or other officers is an issue, etc. (of course, it may be difficult to order someone to stop secretly recording, where the act itself is unknown to the officer). The bottom line, it seems, is that the Court expects that officers will simply assume they may be subject to recording, and then conduct business outside of public view where privacy or safety are concerns.
More disturbing is the stated intent of the folks who brought this case. This is not a group who simply wants to record an arrest taking place in public; and police officers are not the only target. This group is a so-called undercover news organization, and its strategy is to develop cover stories (usually untrue), create fake email or social media accounts, fake business cards or busineses, even make financial donations, in order to gain the trust of government officials (including police). The group also, admittedly, will use flattery, sex appeal, and romantic overtures to gain trust. Then, once they gain their target’s confidence, the group secretly solicits responses and records statements made by officials using such tools as necktie cameras, eyeglass cameras, button cameras, etc.
This decision occured at the Federal District Court level and is attached. It is worth reading.Share