vievu121The Seattle Police Department has delayed a pilot program that would have allowed police officers to wear cameras that can record video and audio.

Crosscut reports that concerns over privacy led the SPD to put a hold on the cameras, which are manufactured by Seattle-based Vievu and used by more than 3,000 agencies worldwide.

The main concern dealt with a Washington state law that prohibits recording conversations in a private residence without permission, expect for emergency responders. Whether or not body-worn cameras used by police officers fall into that realm has yet to be decided, so the SPD elected to wait until the state attorney general’s office offers up an opinion.

SPD vehicles actually already have in-car cameras installed, which are exempt from state privacy laws. Originally, the plan was to have traffic stop officers start using silent audio from the in-car cameras and match that footage with video from the Vievu cameras to avoid any privacy issues.

But as Crosscut notes, once the SPD wanted to test the cameras with officers dealing with 911 calls, the city attorney recommended the delay until further opinion from the state.

Video surveillance and privacy have also been a hot topic for the past few years, with the advent of gadgets like Google Glass and people like the Creepy Cameraman. Vievu founder Steve Ward told us last year that his company isn’t focused on masked surveillance, but rather about accountability for police officers.

“We don’t make cameras that are inconspicuous and our cameras are easily seen,” Ward said in September. “As a company suggestion, we advise all of our customers to announce to people that they are being recorded.”

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  • Jane

    Privacy concerns can be minimised by using encrypted devices which ensure only those with permission can access the recordings. The public can be reassured that footage is not being shared indiscriminately and is only viewed by those who need to.

    Encrypted body cameras are available from UK manufacturer Edesix.

    • Kary

      Encryption won’t get around state law. Interesting though that Seattle cares about state law or an AG opinion. Usually Seattle just flaunts state law until a court tells them that they can no longer do so.

  • burrito

    Interesting article – it’s funny to think that you can go to an ATM, walk into a supermarket, or walk down a street in front of a Federal building, and you have zero access or ability to control whether or not you’re being filmed.

    In this instance, a camera on an officer could presumably capture all the instances leading up to an officer entering a home or private residence. Including, most importantly, 4th amendment violations.

    Why, of all things, would the city of Seattle Attorney take offense to this? It would be nice to read the reasoning behind the debate on this issue. Perhaps the City Attorney could write something for GeekWire about this.

    If I remember correctly (and I could be remembering this wrong) Seattle was one of the few jurisdictions in the US that objected to the television program COPS. Which was curious because Kerlikowske had been a big supporter of the program when he was in Buffalo. When he came to Seattle he was told flatly that the Seattle PD didn’t support, philosophically, the idea of television cameras following police around.

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