RE: law enforcement for profit

From: Billy Brown (
Date: Thu May 04 2000 - 20:08:11 MDT

Michael S. Lorrey wrote:
> Observation in person is one thing, automated pattern recognition by a
> computer and issuance of tickets by computer is another ball of wax
> entirely. Unless they man every camera with a human being, this is in
> fact unconstitutional, because it violates your right to confront your
> accuser. You can't confront a computer, it is not a person.
> Any means of gathering evidence not under immediate human supervision
> and control is mere hearsay evidence, no matter how accurate or well
> time stamped it is.

Sorry, Mike, but I think you're really reaching here. By that logic nothing
done on the Internet could ever qualify as a crime, unless someone manages
to literally look over your shoulder while you do it. With immersive VR and
personal software agents on the horizon, and most of the financial world
becoming increasingly automated, the idea that only direct observations by
human beings can be used as evidence is completely impractical. There are
just too many ways to commit theft, fraud and vandalism in ways that are
physically impossible to observe in that fashion.

The obvious solution, which has already been adopted by the courts, is to
allow evidence from log files, recording devices and forensic tests while
keeping in mind that such evidence is not necessarily 100% reliable. In
cases where a recording device is the only evidence there is a tendency to
go overboard with reliability measures, requiring that manufacturers achieve
incredibly high reliability levels before their evidence can be considered
sufficient for a conviction. In cases where the recording device merely
corroborates human testimony, such as convenience store video cameras, the
standard of reliability is of course much lower. This all seems pretty
reasonable to me.

As for the right to confront your accuser, well, we are just going to have
to face up to the fact that it is now possible for a criminal to be caught
red-handed by a completely automated system. This is going to become
increasingly common whether the government puts up cameras or not - for
example, if Amex's (existing) activity-checking AI spots you using a stolen
credit card, you have the same problem.

IMO the logical application of our current principles would be to consider
the organization that runs the surveillance device to be your accuser, and
consider the presence of their chosen representative in the courtroom to be
sufficient to satisfy the constitutional requirement. I also think it is
important that the defense be able to subpoena anyone who has anything to do
with running the system, so that you can effectively raise issues regarding
its reliability.

And, once again, that is pretty much how it works (at least in Texas).

Billy Brown

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Jul 27 2000 - 14:10:29 MDT