Surveillance Study Committee - Oct 18th, 2018

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Approval of Prior Minutes. The group approves the Sept. 20th meeting minutes, after making a handful of minor corrections. Mr. Nesterak moved approval, Mr. Funkhouser seconded.

Applicability to the School District. Mr. Funkhouser wanted to discuss if our policy proposal could be adopted by the school district, and what the process for doing so might be. Town Counsel provided information to this end.

The School Committee makes policy for the school system, and they have an extensive policy handbook. We would likely make a proposal to their procedures subcommittee. The school department is likely to have a different set of goals than the town. Students have little expectation of privacy, especially where technology is concerned. However, the school also has high expectations of privacy, particularly regarding student records and private spaces. Town Counsel suggests submitting our policy as a baseline and expecting the school committee to tailor it.

The surveillance piece should be pretty clear. Students are not the only users of school facilities, and there may be additional considerations there.

The facilities and school departments determine where cameras are installed. Camera requests often come from principals. They're usually put up in "hot spots" where unacceptable behavior tends to occur. IT isn't involved in camera installation, but they are involved with the operational aspects of surveillance cameras (along with the school and facilities departments).

The Massachusetts Association of School Committees works with the school district. We might want to see if they have any guidelines on the use of surveillance equipment.

After further discussion, the group agrees that we should flush out our draft policy and present it to the school committee when it's in a more finished state.

Note that we're working on a policy for the town manager and town staff, and our recommendations are to the town. By law, school and town governance is separate. The town manager does not have jurisdiction over the school district.

The schools may agree to a camera inventory, but camera placement might be a touchy subject, due to security issues involved (e.g., active shooter situations).

Draft Policy. We start to go through the draft policy section by section, and discuss comments made prior to the meeting.

We agree to combine the Vision and Purpose sections.

There's a question about whether this policy would apply to law enforcement's use of cameras in an active investigation. We don't intend the policy to apply to that situation. If the police department (say) installs a hidden camera after obtaining a warrant, then we don't have a problem with that. Capt. Flaherty describes a recent case where hidden cameras were used as part of a human trafficking investigation.

There's discussion about the Scope section's use of the phrase "in the town of Arlington". We are writing a policy, not a bylaw. Therefore, non-town uses aren't covered. For example, security cameras in a supermarket or drug store would not be covered by this policy.

Town Counsel asks if there's a difference between active and passive use of surveillance equipment.

A committee member wants to ensure that protecting civil liberties and respecting privacy are our main goals.

We get into a discussion about third-party information, and whether than can be used for surveillance. For example, the town recently entered into an agreement with Limebike. Limebike knows who's riding their bikes and when (Limebike needs this information for billing). As part of the town's agreement, Limebike provides aggregate usage information to the town. Is this a problem? Aggregate information doesn't identify individuals, and therefore it doesn't seem like a problem.

In general, we'd like the town to take reasonable steps to secure information they receive from third parties. We'd also like to see limits on what information the town is allowed to share with third parties. The town should not be in the business of selling data.

The draft policy has a training requirement. One comment suggested annual refresher training. There was a difference of opinion here. Annual refreshers might place too much of a burden on the town and its employees.

We've gotten through five sections, and will pick up with section six during our next meeting.

Several committee members volunteer to revise specific sections:

  • Mr. Gersh will revise the Purpose section, and incorporate material from Vision.
  • Town Counsel expressed a desire to wordsmith the Scope section. We'll invite town counsel to go ahead and do that.
  • Mr. Revilak will work on the definitions, and make Section five changes that we discussed.


Next meeting Oct 30th.