Last week, Policing Project Deputy Director Maria Ponomarenko participated on a panel at the Privacy Localism conference, hosted by the Information Law Institute at NYU Law. The panel, “Local Governance of Policing, Surveillance, and Data” highlighted the lack of public input into decisions about police use of surveillance technology, and discussed possible solutions.
Professor Andrew Ferguson, from the University of the District of Columbia Law School, talked about the rise of “big data” policing and the need for robust public debate to ensure new technologies are used effectively and in ways that respect privacy rights. He suggested annual “surveillance summits” in local communities as one possible way to foster democratic discussion around these issues.
Catherine Crump, Assistant Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Samuelson Law, Technology, and Public Policy Clinic at U.C. Berkeley, pointed out that police departments are sometimes able to acquire new surveillance technologies without getting permission from local officials by relying on federal grant programs that help fund local surveillance technology. She called this process “policymaking by procurement.”
Maria Ponomarenko pointed out that these concerns are not unique to police use of technology and that democratic input is needed across a wide variety of policing policies and practices. She highlighted the Policing Project’s community engagement efforts in New York, Tucson, and Chicago. And she pointed to some of the challenges for bringing more public input to policing, including the need to ensure that those most affected by policing practices and technologies are included in the debate.