State Legislators Discussing Laws That Will Put Law Enforcement Surveillance Cameras Inside Private Businessesby Tim Cushing
Jun. 17, 2014
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The government does enjoy installing cameras pretty much everywhere it can do so with a minimum of complaints. If it thinks there might be some controversy, it just buries the details until after the fact.
Eugene Volokh has a roundup of new places state governments are planning to install cameras -- only the government won't be buying the cameras… or maintaining them… or even installing them. That's left to the private businesses these bills are pushing additional surveillance requirements on.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed an ordinance that would compel all gun dealers to video-record sales (“to discourage traffickers and buyers who use false identification”). Presumably the video recordings would have to be kept for an extended time, since future investigations that would use the video recordings could happen years after the sale. A similar New York state bill would require that the videos be kept for one year.And all the government asks in return for its impositions is total, at-will access.
Minnesota's bill targeting cell phone resellers stipulates this:
Recordings and images required by paragraph (a) shall be retained by the wireless communications device dealer for a minimum period of 30 days and shall at all reasonable times be open to the inspection of any properly identified law enforcement officer.New York's bill mandating surveillance in gun shops says this:
THE STORED IMAGES SHALL BE MAINTAINED AT THE PERMITTED BUSINESS LOCATION FOR A PERIOD NOT LESS THAN ONE YEAR FROM THE DATE OF RECORDATION, AND SHALL BE MADE AVAILABLE FOR INSPECTION BY A POLICE OFFICER UPON REQUEST.It's not just phone and gun dealers. Minnesota's scrap metal dealers are also included:
The scrap vehicle operator shall also photograph the seller's vehicle, including license plate, either by video camera or still digital camera, so that an accurate and complete description of it may be obtained from the recordings made by the cameras. Photographs and recordings must be clearly and accurately associated with their respective records. Any video must be shown to law enforcement, upon request.The problems with legislation like this are numerous. While many of these businesses may record these transactions for their own safety, being compelled to do so is a completely different matter, especially when it's bundled with open, warrantless access by law enforcement.
Then there's the issue of mission creep. Should these laws pass unaltered, the government will find itself unable to resist the pull of other businesses it feels are on the "sketchy" side, or that possibly cater to people who may have other, less legal habits.
I suspect that, especially if the gun sales videorecording bills are enacted, similar laws will be proposed for sales of alcohol (which is often sold to underage buyers who have fake IDs, or to straw purchasers who are buying on behalf of an underage buyer), for sales of marijuana in places where it has been legalized, for sales of legal substances that are nonetheless potential drug or bomb precursors, and so on.Given the government's penchant for equating nearly everything with its two favorite Wars (Terrorism/Drugs), a vast cross-section of retailers will find themselves legislatively "encouraged" to oblige the government's "collect it all" excesses.