Letter to the Editor: BPD Cam-Share program raises concerns on privacy

To the Editor:
I am a Clam Point resident who recently became aware of the Boston Police Department’s (BPD) new Community Cam-Share program. Businesses sharing CCTV footage with police after a crime has been committed – and after police have issued a subpoena or warrant for the data – has been occurring for many years. Sharing video footage of an alleged crime aids law enforcement in arresting criminals and helps keep our neighborhoods safe.

But there are privacy issues about the new cam-share program that business owners and residents should be aware of.
Police cam-share programs have been popping up across the country under different names like ‘ProjectNola’ and ‘Project Greenlight.’ These programs begin with police asking businesses and homeowners to voluntarily link their CCTV cameras to a police department site and, after a year or two, making it mandatory. That isn’t right.

These aren’t typically contracts that allow both parties access to the footage. In this program, BPD retains all rights to video footage from a business camera.

Why? Why aren’t business owners allowed to release any footage or still images at their own discretion? What precautions are in place to ensure it won’t be deleted or edited?

In November 2017, Captain Tim Connolly, commanding officer of District C-11, revealed to the Dorchester Reporter that the BPD hopes to eventually create a citywide surveillance network using community cam-share cameras.

The idea of mandatorily connecting every CCTV camera to a citywide surveillance center run by the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC) is disconcerting. It was recently revealed that the center has been secretly spying on residents’ social media since 2014 – without City Hall’s knowledge. How is that partnering with the community?

With violent crimes in Boston and across the country declining or at all-time lows, residents should be asking why we need more surveillance. Boston used to be known as the “cradle of liberty.” We need to make sure we continue to live up to that name.

Joe Cadillic is a former private investigator, member of the civil liberties groups including Digital Fourth (warrantless.org), and a privacy and civil rights blogger. (https://massprivatei.blogspot.com).