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Living Freedom by Claire Wolfe. Musings about personal freedom and finding it within ourselves.

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Claire Wolfe

The twists and turns of privacy

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

The topic of recording police and other members of the Authoritah class has arisen hereabouts. Specifically the legality (or otherwise) of recording them.

Sad fact is that, although it’s clear as shiny Windexed glass that any citizen ought to be able to record any activity performed in public by “their” government, state laws are often ambiguous at best, lunatic at worst.

Most laws about recording were written before half the planet carried video equipment in its pockets and were written in a panic over the horrors of “illegal wiretapping,” to boot. Perfectly innocent people have been threatened with serious prison time, like the Maryland motorcyclist who accidentally caught a crazed, non-uniformed cop via his helmet cam. (And thugs are still at it.)

Anyhow, now comes a perfect example of how an activist, operating in the open, has become a victim of so-called privacy laws: Adam Meuller is going to jail.


Speaking of privacy, earlier this month I mentioned CryptoCat, the encrypted chat site, in passing and said it looked worth some investigation as a potential privacy tool.

Investigation, indeed. Via security maven Bruce Schneier comes a handful of links debating CryptoCat and the journalism around it.

“Tech Journalists: Stop Hyping Unproven Security Tools”

“Security Researchers: How to Critique a Tech Story Without Being Arrogant and Exclusionary” (A reply to the above)

“When It Comes to Human Rights, There Are No Online Security Shortcuts”

Much food for thought. Bottom line: CryptoCat has the advantage of being open source and being the work of an honest young developer who listens to suggestions and improves his product. But if you can’t see or control the security measures for yourself, don’t trust anybody else’s word that they really are secure.


(Tip o’ hat to JG for today’s links.)

5 Responses to “The twists and turns of privacy”

  1. MJR Says:

    Taping the Police…

    One of the nice things about be up here in the ‘Great White North” is our privacy laws. For video with the exception of places where there is the assumption of privacy e.g. change rooms and washrooms you can video anyone including the Police and there is nothing that can be done against you. As for recording voice, so long as one party in the conversation is aware and consents it is OK. What this means is that should a police officer stop me I can record the conversation without his/her knowledge because I am part of the conversation and I consent to it being recorded. Add to this that there are cameras in Police Cruisers that you have access to via Criminal Code of Canada section 337* This section of the code puts the responsibility for showing why, under law, they cannot provide a copy of a video of your being stopped. This video could be used against the very Police officer that took it.

    *Public servant refusing to deliver property

    337. Every one who, being or having been employed in the service of Her Majesty in right of Canada or a province, or in the service of a municipality, and entrusted by virtue of that employment with the receipt, custody, management or control of anything, refuses or fails to deliver it to a person who is authorized to demand it and does demand it is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.
    R.S., c. C-34, s. 297.

    With regard to private encrypted chat rooms…

    I really don’t think there are any such animals. Anything put on line in any form can be eventually hacked should someone or some agency want to. The best bet for anyone is to hope for the best but plan for the worst. One rule I have had for a lot of years is never to put anything on line that you would not place in a newspaper on the front page.

  2. Ken Hagler Says:

    MJR, that’s actually the way the laws are in most of the US (with the exception of Illinois and possibly Massachusetts). The problem is not so much that the laws are ambiguous as it is that US cops ignore the law whenever it suits them and are never punished for doing so. Usually the local prosecutor won’t file charges, but it doesn’t matter because the cops have already stopped the person with the camera and seized it as “evidence” so that any awkward footage can “mysteriously disappear” before they’re forced to return it.

    Every so often you’ll get a case where the prosecutor will file charges of wiretapping, but it’s actually pretty rare to get that far because of the obvious absurdity of a cop assaulting someone on the side of the rode having any expectation of privacy. While prosecutors are never punished for filing obviously bogus charges either, their near-100% conviction rates are important to them for career reasons and they recognize that even the carefully-selected-for-blind-obedience US juries would be likely to laugh at them for arguing that.

  3. Scott Says:

    I think it’s legal here(Kentucky)so long as it’s on public property, or my property.I can video anything on the street, if I want-or set up as many cameras as I want on my property. As far as voice recordings, one side of the conversation must be aware(I can legally record,say, a threatening phone call or some such)it’s being recorded. Don’t most cop cars have dash cameras? There’s a company here that equips cop cars, and some have 360 deg. video..

  4. Ellendra Says:

    When my brother was going through an ugly divorce he learned that in Wisconsin it’s illegal to record anyone without their consent. That’s why stores have to have signs in the windows letting customers know that there’s a security camera watching them.

  5. Jim B. Says:

    Hey Claire,

    Given your love of dogs, I thought you might like this.

    This is not Parkour, this is Barkour. Oh, BTW, you can tell there’s no fencing in this dog. Heh, Heh, Heh!

    *This dog can walk on walls*

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