Workshop on Police Body-Worn Cameras a Success

Frayda Bluestein from the UNC School of Government leads a discussion during the second plenary session.

Many law enforcement agencies across the country have implemented or are considering body-worn camera (“BWC”) programs as a means to improve policing and promote transparency. Despite the ubiquity of these programs, issues surrounding the use of such cameras continue to arise. While public debate has largely focused on the tension between police accountability and privacy, little work has been done to address the practical needs of law enforcement and the media, particularly the retention, redaction and release of BWC video to the public.

To address this deficiency, the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy convened an invitation-only workshop last weekend. The workshop was a supplement to the North Carolina Law Review’s 2017 symposium “Badgecams as Data and Deterrent: Law Enforcement, the Public, and the Press in the Age of Digital Video.” It was organized to address the practical issues associated with the implementation of police body-worn camera systems, with the goals of ascertaining areas of agreement, identifying issues that would benefit from research, and developing best practices for police departments and the media.

We had a great group of experts in attendance, all with varying perspectives on BWCs. The group consisted of experts on law enforcement, news gathering, privacy, and public access, including seven police officers, two North Carolina Representatives, five attorneys, multiple access and reform advocates, and a dozen academics from across the country.

The workshop was structured to promote open and honest discussion among the attendees and was comprised of two plenary sessions with smaller breakout working groups. In the plenary sessions, the participants identified the major issues surrounding BWC usage based on a lifecycle framework developed by UNC School of Law professor Richard Myers. Attendees then narrowed the list of potential topics to four main areas of interest — creation, access, use, and privacy — that were the subject of the breakout sessions.

Adam Marshall from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press facilitates a breakout session on public access to BWC videos.

Not surprisingly, the breakout sessions did not produce many points of consensus. Nevertheless, we thought the workshop was a success. Indeed, it is rare for privacy advocates, policymakers, and law enforcement sit down together and talk about issues surrounding the use of BWC systems. The workshop allowed participants to hear from those working with BWC on the frontlines and to identify gaps in resources, research, and policy. We hope that the connections made and the conversations that started at the workshop will prove to be beneficial for everyone who came.

We are currently drafting a white paper that will describe in greater the detail the issues that were raised at the workshop. The Center is thankful for all of those who participated, and we look forward to continuing the conversation!

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Center’s Research Fellow Co-Authors Article on OnionDNS in Information Security Journal

Rachael Jones, the Center for Media Law and Policy’s new Research Fellow, is the co-author of an article published this month in the International Journal of Information Security. Congratulations, Rachael!

The article is titled “OnionDNS: a seizure resistant top-level domain.” It addresses the growing issue of Internet domain name seizures, noting the significant due process concerns that flow from this government practice. The authors propose a type of domain system, OnionDNS, that would provide a method of curtailing improper seizures by implementing safeguards in the design of the domain name system. First, the OnionDNS root services exists as a hidden service on the Tor network. Second, the proposed system is designed to protect its users by housing operations entirely outside of the United States, requiring any government seizure to pass through several hurdles—including foreign government cooperation. Thus, OnionDNS would not only curtail improper domain seizures as a tool of censorship, but also impose due process safeguards for domain name registrants.

From the abstract:

The Domain Name System (DNS) provides the critical service of mapping canonical names to IP addresses. Recognizing this, a number of parties have increasingly attempted to perform “domain seizures” on targets by having them delisted from DNS. Such operations often occur without providing due process to the owners of these domains, a practice made potentially worse by recent legislative proposals. We address this problem by creating OnionDNS, an anonymous top-level domain and resolution service for the Internet. Our solution relies on the establishment of a hidden service running DNS within Tor and uses a variety of mechanisms to ensure a high-performance architecture with strong integrity guarantees for resolved records. We then present our anonymous domain registrar and detail the protocol for securely transferring the service to another party. Finally, we also conduct both performance and legal analyses to further demonstrate the robustness of this approach. In so doing, we show that the delisting of domains from DNS can be mitigated in an efficient and secure manner.

The citation for the online version of the article is Scaife, N., Carter, H., Lidsky, L. et al. Int. J. Inf. Secur. (2017), https://doi.org/10.1007/s10207-017-0391-z.

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Police Body-Worn Cameras: Time to Roll Up Our Sleeves and Study the Issues

We are excited for the North Carolina Law Review’s symposium this Friday on “Badge Cams as Data and Deterrent: Law Enforcement, the Public and the Press in the Age of Digital Video.” The symposium will consider the legal and practical issues surrounding the use of police body-worn cameras (BWCs). Many of the nation’s leading experts on this topic will be in attendance, including:

  • Mary Fan, University of Washington
  • David Harris, Pittsburgh Law School
  • Woody Hartzog, Northeastern University
  • Margaret Hu, Washington and Lee University
  • Margot Kaminski, University of Colorado
  • Adam Marshall, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
  • Bryce Newell, University of Kentucky
  • Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst at the ACLU
  • Seth Stoughton, University of South Carolina
  • Peter Swire, Georgia Tech
  • Howard Wassermann, Florida International University
  • Michael White, Arizona State University

The symposium will consist of three panels: Professor Richard Myers will moderate a panel on collection and use of BWC video; Center co-director David Ardia will moderate a panel on privacy and public access; and Center affiliate faculty Mary-Rose Papandrea will moderate a panel on accountability. It will take place on November 3 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center. For more information about the symposium, including information on how to register, please visit our event page.

As a supplement to the symposium, the Center is also organizing a private workshop on November 4 at the UNC School of Law to address the practical issues associated with the implementation of police body-worn camera systems. The workshop will be made up of experts on law enforcement, privacy, public access, and news gathering, with the goals of ascertaining areas of agreement, identifying issues that would benefit from additional academic research, and developing best practices for police departments and the media.

We will have more to say about the workshop next week!

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A UNC Student’s Summer Experience at the Student Press Law Center

From Lindsie Trego, a fourth-year dual degree student at UNC pursuing a JD and an MA in Mass Communication, who interned at the Student Press Law Center

I had the amazing opportunity to work as a law clerk at the Student Press Law Center this last summer. I first visited the SPLC office back in January of 2013 on a college trip, before I had decided that law school was for me, and before I had even fully realized that a career in media law was a possibility. I remember the SPLC (and the Reporters Committee, with which SPLC was then sharing an office) sparking my interest, and I remember telling my professor that I thought it might be fun to work there someday. Working with the SPLC this summer felt like coming full circle on that experience.

The SPLC is a hectic (and windowless) office: With a small team of lawyers, non-legal staff, and interns, the organization helps thousands of student journalists each year with issues ranging from administrative censorship to public records requests. Because it’s such a small organization with such a big mission, there isn’t much hand-holding for interns, which meant I had the opportunity to be a true self-starter and work on a variety of projects.

My biggest project was writing an amicus brief for a First Amendment case before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Koala v. Khosla. The case began when University of California-San Diego revoked funding for five student media publications after one of those outlets published a satirical column calling for “unsafe spaces,” and it questions whether UCSD can skirt First Amendment prohibitions on censorship by cutting funding for a group of publications rather than just one publication. In the SPLC amicus brief, which was joined by seven other press freedom organizations, I pointed out the unique role of the student press in a democratic society, the historical vulnerability of the student press to censorship, and the way that expanding legal loopholes increase this vulnerability.

Other projects included subjects such as press access to college campuses, access to court records, and defamation. Another highlight of my summer was teaching media law workshops for high school journalists on behalf of the SPLC, both in D.C. and back here in Chapel Hill.

I would definitely recommend a summer with the SPLC to go-getter law students interested in media law and First Amendment issues! I owe a big thank-you to the SPLC staff for the amazing experience, and to the Center for Media Law for providing a grant to help make the experience possible.

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A UNC Student’s Summer Experience at the FTC

From Amber Lee, a 3L at UNC School of Law, who interned at the Federal Trade Commission:

This past summer, I interned for the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C. The FTC’s mission is to protect consumers by preventing anticompetitive, deceptive, and unfair business practices to enhance and inform consumer choices and public understanding of the competitive process. Specifically, the Bureau of Consumer Protection works to regulate and prevent unfair, deceptive, and fraudulent business practices by developing rules to maintain a fair marketplace, educating consumers and businesses on their rights and responsibilities, collect consumer complaints and conduct investigations, and sue companies or individuals that break the law. Over the course of the summer, interns had the unique opportunity to research the First Amendment issues of several cases the Bureau was considering pursuing, conduct our own investigations of company’s suspected of false advertising, collect consumer complaints and draft affidavits, and participate in both consumer and business education efforts.

During my time at the Bureau of Consumer Protection, I worked on projects with all five of the Bureau’s litigating divisions, including Advertising Practices, Marketing Practices, Enforcement, Financial Services, and Privacy & Identity Protection. I spent most of my summer researching and drafting memoranda on a wide variety of issues to either assist with pending litigation or assess the likely success or weaknesses of legal arguments for cases the Bureau was considering pursuing in the future. Some of my favorite projects included conducting my own independent investigation of a nutritional supplement company suspected of false advertising, assessing the legal strengths and weaknesses of a potential fraud case, researching emerging trends in the courts’ treatment of CDA immunity, and assisting an attorney with a presentation at a local senior center to educate residents about frauds and scams targeting  senior citizens.

The Bureau of Consumer Protection did a fantastic job of integrating the eight legal interns into their cases and into the agency. The internship coordinator hosted weekly meeting with the interns where we would either learn important legal skills or learn more about a division within the Bureau. We also had a mock deposition exercise with some of the best litigators in the Bureau acting as opposing counsel.  Each intern received an attorney mentor and every litigating division hosted a social gathering throughout the summer to give us a chance to meet all of the attorneys in the Bureau. Also, we were able to tour the Supreme Court and Library of Congress as a group during the summer, attend a Nationals baseball game, and attend a variety of ABA or other legal organization events focused on consumer protection or advertising law issues and interact with attorneys in private practice.

I would strongly recommend students to apply the FTC Consumer Protection internship program, especially if they are interested media law, advertising law, or emerging legal issues involving social media. The people I worked with were amazing and I could truly tell they wanted all of the interns to learn new skills and gain something from their experience at the FTC.

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