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Equipping cops with cameras is only half the problem

Law enforcement officers watch on during a protest on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Missouri on August 18, 2014.

Civil unrest in Ferguson has put a spotlight on the issue of excessive force by the police. One possible answer: have officers wear cameras while on the job

With video cameras and cloud storage  getting cheaper by the day, it would seem outfitting police with cameras should be easier than ever, right?

Jennifer Lynch, an attorney with the civil liberties group the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says taking videos is the easy part - the hard part is managing the data.

“What happens to the data after the fact? How long is it stored for? What’s done with the data after an investigation has concluded?” Lynch said.

Another issue: If the video is being used as evidence, how do you secure it from hackers and establish a chain of custody?

Putting those systems in place takes technical expertise and money, something many police departments are short on, said Jen King, with UC Berkeley’s School of Information.

King says that because of the sensitive nature of the videos, public agencies can’t always use off-the-shelf products.

“It’s not like they can just buy cloud space,” she said.

Some jurisdictions don’t allow public agencies to store information in the cloud and so they have to maintain their own servers - which is another cost.  

About the author

Queena Kim covers technology for Marketplace. She lives in the Bay Area.

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