What to do about all those darn videos showing cops murdering people?
They make it much harder for law enforcement to lie about their own actions, and just get everyone all fired up. Why not ask Apple (for starters) to build in a “feature” on a future generation of iPhones that will allow cameras to be disabled remotely?
A patent granted to Apple this month details technology that remotely disables iPhone cameras using infrared sensors. Someone you do not know and cannot see will be able, without your permission, to disable the camera on a phone you own and are legally using, perhaps to take video of your son’s Little League game, perhaps to take video of a police officer choking to death an innocent man.
Apple’s patent application used the example of a rock band wanting to prevent audience members from recording a concert. Nasty bootleggers and their darn YouTubing!
While the First Amendment, backed up by much case law, guarantees the right of citizens to record the actions of government employees, including the police, conducting their duties in public places, the Amendment does not guarantee corporate America has to sell you the technology to do so. It is Constitutionally unclear if a police force using such technology to block video would violate the First Amendment (hey, you could switch over to your Dad’s camcorder that’s in the basement), but knowing the way things work, the cops would try it first, worry about court cases later.
And indeed you can hear the arguments terrorism, national security event, blahblahblah. Perhaps the police could designate First Amendment Video Zones outside any large event where citizens could shoot video of each other to their heart’s content?
Another interesting legal question would be the effect of citizens using some other technology to disable the technology used by police to disable camera phones. Would that become illegal, the way some states have made the use of radar detectors in your car illegal?
So as the cops like to say, “Hey, nothing to see here folks, move along.”
Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. His latest book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent. Reprinted from the his blog with permission.