Police Abuse

David Brooks Suddenly Cares About Privacy When Cops Wear Cameras

Videotaping the police? A grave incursion on our privacy. Scooping up data on hundreds of millions? Bo-ring!

|

Even a simpleton gets it right sometimes. |||

New York Times columnist David Brooks has a piece today bemoaning "The Lost Language of Privacy." Has the anti-anti-authoritarian socio-pundit finally come around to the view that allowing the government to secretly rifle through all your digital data is antithetical to any usable definition of the word "privacy"? Nah—he's just feeling antsy about putting cameras on cops:

I've been surprised by how many people don't see the downside to this policy. Most people don't even seem to recognize the damage these cameras will do both to police­-civilian relations and to privacy. As the debate has unfolded, it's become clear that more and more people have lost even the language of privacy, and an understanding of why privacy is important.

Thus starts a five-paragraph disquisition on the importance of privacy. Some sentences therein:

Privacy is important to the development of full individuals because there has to be an interior zone within each person that other people don't see.

There has to be a zone where half­-formed thoughts and delicate emotions can grow and evolve, without being exposed to the harsh glare of public judgment. There has to be a place where you can be free to develop ideas and convictions away from the pressure to conform. There has to be a spot where you are only yourself and can define yourself. […]

There has to be a boundary between us and them. Within that boundary, you look out for each other? you rally to support each other? you cut each other some slack? you share fierce common loyalties. […]

Cop­cams chip away at that. The cameras will undermine communal bonds. Putting a camera on someone is a sign that you don't trust him, or he doesn't trust you.

Fun fact: Brooks is in favor of cop-cams.

So how did the Times columnist apply these righteous and well-articulated principles to the 2013 revelations (care of Edward Snowden) that the National Security Agency is all up in our private business? By calling Snowden a "traitor," saying "I don't think it's particularly intrusive….And so I don't regard this as a crime against our civil liberties," and celebrating poll results showing that "we'd like to see our privacy invaded to make us safer."

Ah, but Brooks did defend privacy back in June 2013. Against Edward Snowden. I kid you not:

He betrayed the privacy of us all.

For a serious attempt at working through the privacy considerations of police cameras, read Ronald Bailey's "Watched Cops Are Polite Cops" from August 2013. For an interview with an ex-cop who agrees with that sentiment, watch the Reason TV video below:

Reason on David Brooks here.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

37 responses to “David Brooks Suddenly Cares About Privacy When Cops Wear Cameras

  1. Privacy is important to the development of full individuals because there has to be an interior zone within each person that other people don’t see.

    David, when a cop is writing on a notepad outside your car window, he’s not jotting down an entry for his diary. Twit.

    1. there has to be an interior zone within each person that other people don’t see.

      No problem, then. Video doesn’t capture your thoughts, just your actions.

      Whew. I was worried there for a second.

      1. THE EVUL CAMERA, IT STEALS YOUR SOUUULLLLLl!!!! KILL IT, KILL IT WITH GOVERNMENT!!1!

        /brooks

  2. Brooks blows in the breeze like a broken branch.

    1. Not really. Identify the statist position on any issue and Brooks will happily occupy it.

  3. Putting a camera on someone is a sign that you don’t trust him, or he doesn’t trust you.

    The point. It seems to have sailed past David Brooks.

  4. Matt Welch invades the private space of David Brooks’ columns so we don’t have to.

  5. Brooks almost sounds like he’s *this close* to lamenting what society has done to the Kardashians.

    In actuality, it’s probably on the editing room floor.

  6. Privacy is important to the development of full individuals because there has to be an interior zone within each person that other people don’t see.

    There has to be a zone where half?-formed thoughts and delicate emotions can grow and evolve, without being exposed to the harsh glare of public judgment. There has to be a place where you can be free to develop ideas and convictions away from the pressure to conform. There has to be a spot where you are only yourself and can define yourself.

    And that place is certainly not the New York Times website.

    1. Half-Formed Thoughts and Delicate Emotions would be an excellent title for a collection of Brooks’s word-drivel.

    2. OK, sure. What in the hell does that have to do with a cop pulling over someone?

      1. If Brooks finds copcams to be insulting, he should disdain the New York Times privacy policy even more so.

    3. There has to be a spot where you are only yourself and can define yourself.

      No argument here.

      I don’t think performing your official duties as an agent of the state is really that spot, though.

  7. When a police officer is wearing a camera, the contact between an officer and a civilian is less likely to be like intimate friendship and more likely to be oppositional and transactional. Putting a camera on an officer means she is less likely to cut you some slack, less likely to not write that ticket, or to bend the regulations a little as a sign of mutual care.

    In case anyone is curious, this is the textbook definition of “privilege” that so many people are talking about these days.

    1. Not just privileged, detached. Remember when security cameras went in to convenience stores, gas stations, Wal-Marts, Home Depots, and Targets everywhere?

      Clerks turned in to assholes overnight and we all stopped eating junk food, buying cheap crap, and driving everywhere… modern history would record the beginning of the first ‘Prole Wars’.

    2. “less likely to be like intimate friendship”

      Heh.

    3. Brooks should be challenged for citation on his statement that cameras change the dynamics of the relationship as he states. I could just as easily state that cameras tend to make the conversation more polite.

    4. Brooks should be challenged for citation on his statement that cameras change the dynamics of the relationship as he states. I could just as easily state that cameras tend to make the conversation more polite.

  8. That is my favorite Reason cover ever, just saying. You can almost hear them-

    Brooks: “Hurr durr hurr hurr hurr.”

    Friedman: “Hurr hurr hurr durr durr hurr.”

  9. Translation of that whole article – I don’t really support putting cameras on cops, but everyone of my ideological brethren does because of racism, so I’ll reluctantly go along.

    There is one valid point he made and that’s that cops will be even less likely to cut people slack and or bend rules. Of course, coming from the NYT, that’s rich. I suppose we could just give fewer laws and regulations for them to enforce their will on everyone, but that’s not what these people believe in.

    1. We could do without the kind of rules they’re bending.

  10. Alt-text question: where is Brooks getting anything right in this piece?

    1. He probably did manage to copy his name from some birth certificate. Whether his parents gave him the right one is another question.

    2. I mean, the generalized defenses of privacy.

  11. The body cams will record hours and hours of mundane stuff. Most cops don’t use their weapons and it’s rare for criminals to shoot cops. Nothing crazy happens at a traffic stop 99% of the time.

    So there shouldn’t be many concerns about police body cams invading someone’s privacy. Even if a cop at a stop didn’t wear a body cam, no one in the car will pick his nose or casually mention that the woman on the passenger seat is his mistress. If he does that, well, that’s the choice he made. He sort of violated his expectation of privacy on his own.

    Body cams won’t be that effective though, because only show the suspect, not the police. You need someone else watching the action BEFORE the police commits to action. And for that, public cameras and surveillance drones will be much more effective. But that idea’s not kosher, even though it serves nearly the same purpose as body cams.

    1. The one place where your expectation of privacy is completely zero, null, void, absent, negated, is when you are dealing with a cop.

      1. This.

        It will also tend to settle those niggling little questions about whether they announced that they were “Police” before breaking into your house, whether the dog was truly threatening before they shot it and just how ‘furtively’ you moved.

    2. Not so sure I go along with the idea that it won’t show the police. Yes, it won’t show the policeman wearing the camera, but the police are notorious for traveling in packs of at least 2, so it’s entirely possible that one policeman will record the other, and vice versa.

  12. There has to be a zone where half?-formed thoughts and delicate emotions can grow and evolve, without being exposed to the harsh glare of public judgment.

    This should be the alt text on a photo of David Brooks’ toilet.

  13. The NYT recommended comments seem to share certain traits. They are good at adopting the terms the journalists used to fram of the issue, their opinions and, most importantly, they do not raise information the journalists conveniently left out. Absolutely disgusting.

  14. Brooks is a fine example of the difference between a conservative and a libertarian.

  15. Cameras on cops are NOT watching the cops. They’re watching us. Cameras in the hands of civilians are watching cops, that’s why the cops always try to stop the civilians from filming.

  16. Say what you will about Friedman but at least a set of algorithms can produce a pretty good facsimile of one of his columns. Brooks? Not a fucking chance.

  17. Millennials have chosen convenience over privacy. http://killingthebreeze.com/he…..nvenience/

    1. Linking to your own blog is a good way to get ignored.

  18. Moderates are not moderate in their statist immoderation. They tend to be unprincipled and power hungry. Moderation simply allows them to get what they want when they want it.

  19. If you can’t beat people up for little or no reason, if you can’t plant evidence on them to make it look like what you said is true, if you can’t shoot a fleeing person in the back or a kid playing with a toy gun in the park, then what good is there in being a cop? They’re trying to take all the fun away.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.