Demand for body-worn cameras must be met with highest standards of data security

Americans view police body-worn cameras as positively as mom and apple pie, according to a recent Cato Institute/YouGov poll.

In other words, the overwhelming majority of Americans strongly believe that body-worn cameras will protect citizens and police officers alike. The poll found that 92 percent of Americans support the use of body-worn cameras. This statistic also underscores the public’s high expectations for body-worn cameras. Police departments are still learning how to implement this new technology effectively. Given these public pressures, it’s clear that law enforcement agencies must get the deployment of body-worn cameras right.

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Getting it right does not simply mean implementing the cameras – it means designing, protecting and managing body-worn camera programs that protect the privacy and security of individuals captured in video surveillance data.

Citizens and elected officials are working together to enact policy changes to reduce crime, increasingly with bipartisan support. A recent study by the ACLU found that 87 percent of Americans – Democrats and Republicans alike – support treatment rather than imprisonment for drug addicts and those with mental illness. The Cato Institute/YouGov poll also found that 55 percent of Americans would be willing to pay higher taxes to help pay for body-worn cameras. And President Obama and Congress have started working together to enact criminal justice reforms to address the diminishing returns of incarceration on crime rates.

A group of unlikely allies came together in Washington this week to discuss the best ways to implement body-worn cameras at law enforcement agencies across the country. The event featured speakers from the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National District Attorneys Association, the ACLU and other organizations. The participants discussed creating and managing body-worn camera programs and addressed the need for the highest data security and privacy protections for body-worn camera video.

Police officers and citizens face great risks if a body-worn camera program does not adequately protect their privacy. These cameras collect thousands of hours of video surveillance footage. Law enforcement agencies using body-worn cameras become a repository for large amounts of sensitive data, which is typically stored in the cloud. Like any IT system, law enforcement data is vulnerable. While efficient and low-cost, cloud data can be hacked by an outsider, or an internal employee could abuse his or her system privileges and disclose sensitive data. To combat these threats, agencies must adhere to strict data security standards that address both privacy and cybersecurity issues.

Law enforcement agencies should look to the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) security policy for securing video surveillance data and other types of law enforcement data. The CJIS security policy is the highest standard available for data stored in the cloud. It outlines techniques for collecting, transmitting, storing and destroying sensitive law enforcement data stored in the cloud. If implemented properly, law enforcement agencies following CJIS standards will minimize the risk of hackers and insider threats, as CJIS standards require that background checks be conducted for everyone who has access to criminal justice data.

Body-worn cameras will protect the police officers and citizens who appear in video surveillance footage, as long as law enforcement agencies implement all aspects of the program effectively, along with the most robust protective standards. As the Cato Institute/YouGov poll revealed, the public’s expectations are simply too high for police departments to put the security and privacy of sensitive data at risk.

Evans has spent 28 years in the federal government and most recently was a presidential appointee as the administrator for E-Government and Information Technology at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). She oversaw the federal IT budget of nearly $71 billion that included implementation of IT throughout the federal government. She currently serves as national director for the US Cyber Challenge (USCC) the nationwide talent search and skills development program focused specifically on the cyber workforce. 

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