Amid concerns about potential use of excessive force by police (focused most recently on the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner), police departments are being encouraged by the U.S. Department of Justice to equip officers with small body-mounted cameras.

Some preliminary studies suggest that cameras may help reduce use-of-force incidents and civilian complaints (for a variety of possible reasons), but there are also serious questions about how adding to the amount of data being automatically collected and stored affects the privacy of both police officers and civilians. (How constantly/automatically the cameras record and how long the data is stored vary widely by department.)

This issue offers a timely example of how not just individuals, but societies and governments have to make decisions that balance the projected benefits of a tool against its consequences for privacy.

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* Disclaimer: The Teaching Privacy team does not necessarily agree (nor disagree) with the ACLU’s recommendations, but we like their in-depth analysis of the issue.