The Legislative Response to Mass Police Surveillance

Stephen Rushin

University of Alabama - School of Law

December 1, 2013

79 Brooklyn Law Review 1 (2013)
Illinois Public Law Research Paper No. 14-37

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.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 61

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

Open PDF in Browser Download This Paper

Date posted: October 26, 2013 ; Last revised: September 16, 2015

Suggested Citation

Rushin, Stephen, The Legislative Response to Mass Police Surveillance (December 1, 2013). 79 Brooklyn Law Review 1 (2013); Illinois Public Law Research Paper No. 14-37. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2344805

Contact Information

Stephen Rushin (Contact Author)
University of Alabama - School of Law ( email )
P.O. Box 870382
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
United States

Feedback to SSRN

Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 1,953
Downloads: 340
Download Rank: 68,343