Balance privacy with public good: Another view
Florida bill strikes the right note
Chris Smith is a Democratic state senator for Fort Lauderdale. (Photo: Steve Cannon, AP)
By Chris Smith
It’s 2 a.m. and you hear noises in your home. You dial 911. The police arrive and walk through room-by-room making sure you and all your valuables are safe and intact. When they get to your bedroom, your spouse is in nothing but a tank top. One week later, while sitting at work, you spot a Facebook post showing the entire contents of your home and your spouse in that revealing pose. The public is now on a virtual tour of your private life, courtesy of a cop cam.
Recent history shows that video evidence of police interactions with the public provides a tremendous benefit. A cellphone video of a shooting incident in North Charleston, S.C., has provided clarity that was missing in Ferguson, Mo. The more police don body cameras, the more the public has an inside view of objective evidence to better decide the truth in disputes over police actions.
But what happens when there’s no dispute? What happens when it’s a routine police response and your privacy is subject to forced public display? In the Florida legislature, we struck a terrific balance between the use of body cameras and the privacy of those depicted in the video when they’re not in a public setting.
My Senate Bill 248 provided that if a video is taken in a residence, hospital room, hotel room or any place a person expects privacy, that video is not subject to dissemination to the public without the consent of the person film-ed. It further provided that the person in the video is free to release the video or designate anyone else to release the video. Finally, it allowed a third party to get a court order if it had a legitimate public purpose for receiving private video.
Internet sites and reality TV have fueled Americans’ voyeuristic appetite. My legislation ensured that the public rightfully has access to videos such as those that document police-involved incidents on the streets of Ferguson, New York City and North Charleston. But it stops any invasion of privacy when the public has no business tagging along.