30 December 2014

BodyCams and other visibility

Three items on body cams and a defence by Microsoft apologists ...

'Moral Panics and Body Cameras' by Howard M. Wasserman in (2015) Washington University Law Review (Forthcoming) states that
This Commentary uses the lens of "moral panics" to evaluate public support for equipping law enforcement with body cameras as a response and solution to events in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014. Body cameras are a generally good policy idea. But the rhetoric surrounding them erroneously treats them as the single guaranteed solution to the problem of excessive force and police-citizen conflicts, particularly by ignoring the limitations of video evidence and the difficult questions of implementing the body camera program. In overstating the case, the rhetoric of body cameras becomes indistinguishable from rhetoric surrounding responses to past moral panics.
'Visibility is a Trap: Body Cameras and the Panopticon of Police Power' by Eric Anthamatten claims that
One of the responses to the recent grand jury non-indictment in the death of Michael Brown was a call to equip police officers with cameras, the idea being that somehow this “third eye” will allow us to “see” the truth in a more objective way. If only we had a camera, we would know better what happened between Officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown on that street. The human eye is not reliable, so we need a machine eye that is by its very nature disinterested and objective. The discussion of justice become not about systems and institutions of power, but conversations about vision, whether or not it is legal to film the police, whether or not it is a violation of our rights to have the police film us. If we can just police the police, watch the watchers, perhaps the asymmetry of power would be balanced or negated, and justice will somehow obtain. ...
For Foucault, the Panopticon became a symbol for “disciplinary society,” one that “called for multiple separations, individualizing distributions, an organization in depth of surveillance and control, an intensification and a ramification of power.” Power did not operate (only) by repression and overt force, but through these more subtle (and now, not so subtle) fragmentations that tear apart and recreate subjectivity and personhood, shape this “collection of separated individualities,” atomize and vaporize, a power that makes those “elementary particles” more manageable and docile. Disciplined bodies become “the object of information, never a subject of communication.”
“The Panopticon is a privileged place for the experiments on men,” “a kind of laboratory of power.”
On December 1st, amidst the varying levels of response to the non-indictment of Officer Wilson, President Obama requested $236 million to invest in body cameras and police training in order to restore trust in policing (nevermind that “trust” involves not having to watch someone at every moment). Two days later, a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, an event that was caught on camera. Many, both liberal and conservative, clearly “saw” an injustice and an abuse power. Others saw Garner resist which, in their minds, justified the response by Pantaleo. Immediately, the “solution” of increasing cameras became problematic, if not farcical — even the visual evidence was not enough to indict, belying and underlying systemic problem that shapes the way we “see.”
But it is not simply a question of interpretation and how one “judges” the events, something that inevitably occurs in and through the double-interpretation of perception via any medium (text, photograph, video). Such a solution is a fetishization of sight that evades the underlying problem, a problem that not only has to do with race and class, but also the very structures, technologies and deployments of power in modern society ...
While Foucault provides a compelling analysis of the relationship between surveillance, discipline, and the deployment of power, what he’s articulating is something that is experienced daily by people of color in the United States, namely the experience of constantly being watched while moving through public space, of being always marked by skin color, manner of dress, or physical comportment, what W.E.B. Dubois calls a “double-consciousness.” It is the experience of not only being a “suspicious” body, but of being disciplined, controlled, and already indicted in and through those surveilling eyes. It is the expiring of being incarcerated, unfree.
“The Panopticon ... must be understood as a generalizable model of functioning; a way of defining power relations in terms of the everyday life of men.” Yes, we all live in a Panopticon. But it is not only the Panopticon of Bentham or Orwell, a central tower from which the gaze operates. Rather, it is the Panopticon of Kafka, one that is everywhere precisely because there is no centralization, where we, the surveilled, are also the surveillers, we the watched are also the watchers. “Consequently, it does not matter who exercises power. Any individual, taken almost at random, can operate the machine: in the absence of the director, his family, his friends, his visitors, even his servants.”
Such surveillance has become normalized and distributed, into our own pockets, onto our own bodies. It is not a great leap to imagine the police outfitted with, alongside their peppery spray and pistols, glasses that record everything, or perhaps even cameras embedded into their own eyes. Is this the image of justice and freedom? Will this protect the citizenry and help to reduce racism, classism, and abuses of power?
Perhaps surveillance will help both police officers and citizens feel more secure because they feel they will be accountable to some disinterested third party or to the “court” of public judgment. There is some recent evidence that use of force declines when body cameras are present. But, as Foucault emphasizes, surveillance is yet another refinement of power and control, a technology, however well-intentioned, that continues to atomize our bodies in time and space as a way of examining, fragmenting, and controlling those bodies. There is no justice “behind” the way we realize it through our technologies and systems. These cameras, then, do not become the tool of justice, but a catalyst for surveillance, discipline, and punishment. The camera replaces the gun — the violence and control over a body is no less totalizing.
“Broken windows” leads to broken windows. The “riot” is, at some level, an expression of exclusion from property and meaningful participation and recognition in the life of society. Many see it as a breaking in, but it is in fact a breaking out of the “dungeon” of surveillance and control perpetuated by modern biopower. This is something that bodies that are not under siege do not and perhaps cannot understand. From the safety of their own “Panopticon,” behind the glass of the television, in the comfort of their living room chair, they watch these “animals” and only see “thugs,” “hoodlums,” “criminals,” a “prison riot,” not to mention other choice labels by which they “see” these bodies.
This is precisely the point: poor communities where most of the bodies are brown experience “public” and “free” space as surveilled space, controlled space, a space where their bodies are not their own but perpetually disciplined, fragmented, and examined by the various modes of power. Are more eyes the answer?
Visibility is a trap
'Are You Recording This?: Enforcement of Police Videotaping' by  Martina Kitzmueller in (2014) 47(1) Connecticut Law Review comments
Increasing numbers of police departments equip officers with dashboard or body cameras. Advances in technology have made it easy for police to create and preserve videos of their citizen encounters. Videos can be important pieces of evidence; they may also serve to document police misconduct or protect officers from false allegations. Yet too often, videos are lost, destroyed, or never made, often depriving criminal defendants of the only objective evidence in a case. When this happens, there is not always a consequence to the prosecution. This Essay explores this problem of enforcement by examining how different states are compelling law enforcement to make and preserve videos through a combination of legislation and judicial intervention.
'Do-Not-Track and the Economics of Third-Party Advertising' (Boston University School of Management Research Paper No. 2505643) by Ceren Budak, Sharad Goel, Justin M. Rao and Georgios Zervas argues that
 Retailers regularly target users with online ads based on their web browsing activity, benefiting both the retailers, who can better reach potential customers, and content providers, who can increase ad revenue by displaying more effective ads. The effectiveness of such ads relies on third-party brokers that maintain detailed user information, prompting legislation such as do-not-track that would limit or ban the practice. We gauge the economic costs of such privacy policies by analyzing the anonymized web browsing histories of 14 million individuals. We find that only 3% of retail sessions are currently initiated by ads capable of incorporating third-party information, a number that holds across market segments, for online-only retailers, and under permissive click-attribution assumptions. Third-party capable advertising is shown by 12% of content providers, accounting for 32% of their page views; this reliance is concentrated in online publishing (e.g., news outlets) where the rate is 91%. We estimate that most of the top 10,000 content providers could generate comparable revenue by switching to a “freemium” model, in which loyal site visitors are charged $2 (or less) per month. We conclude that do-not-track legislation would impact, but not fundamentally fracture, the Internet economy.