The Legislative Response to Mass Police Surveillance
61 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2013 Last revised: 16 Sep 2015
Date Written: December 1, 2013
Police departments have rapidly adopted mass surveillance technologies in an effort to fight crime and improve efficiency. I have previously described this phenomenon as the growth of the digitally efficient investigative state. This new technological order transforms traditional law enforcement by improving the efficiency of everyday policing activities and retaining copious amounts of data on both suspicious and unsuspicious behavior. Empirical evidence shows that police surveillance technologies are common and rapidly expanding in urban America. In the absence of legislative action, police departments have adopted widely disparate internal policies. The Supreme Court had the opportunity to reign in the scope of police surveillance in Jones v. United States. But the Court could not agree on whether technological improvements in efficiency transform an otherwise legal policing tactic into an unconstitutional search. Nor could the Court agree on whether a person may have a reasonable expectation to privacy in public movement. Post-Jones, the jurisprudence of police surveillance emerged as incoherent as ever.
I have previously argued that the judiciary should regulate police surveillance technologies. While it remains possible that the judiciary will someday make such a doctrinal shift, the immediate responsibility for regulating police surveillance technology falls on state legislatures. In this Article, I offer a model statute to regulate mass police surveillance. The model statute limits indiscriminate data collection. It also caps data retention for personally identifiable information. It excludes from criminal court any locational evidence obtained in violation of the statute. And it gives the state attorney general authority to bring suit against police departments that fail to abide by the law. This legislation would give discretion to police departments to craft data policies fitting their city’s unique needs, while also encouraging consistency and fairness.
Keywords: criminal law, policing, police, surveillance, law and technology, fourth amendment, efficiency, license readers, facial recognition, biometrics, information privacy, privacy
JEL Classification: K14, K10, K19, K30, K40, K39, K49
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation