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An era of “sensorveillance:” Prof. Ferguson talks smart devices & law enforcement in Wash Post

Tuesday, October 10, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Erin Looney
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Professor Andrew Ferguson speaking to UDC Law on The Rise of Big Data

In today’s Washington Post, UDC Law professor Andrew Ferguson discusses the potential effects of law enforcement’s ability to use personal data from smart devices like fitness trackers as evidence in criminal investigations.

Centering on a 2015 murder investigation in which the victim’s FitBit played a part in authorities charging her husband with the crime, the article points to several recent cases that have involved data from a host of electronic sources, including a pacemaker, cell phone records, a voice-activated assistant, and IP addresses. The use of such data has raised questions of privacy, and in what Ferguson calls an “era of ‘sensorveillance,’” courts are likely to see this issue more often. In fact, the Supreme Court is set to tackle smart-device data and law enforcement in Carpenter v. United States later this year, which Ferguson says could have significant influence on how authorities can use smart-device data. If the Court rules against Carpenter, Ferguson explains it could be a “big change, and that’s a big invasion of what most of us think our privacy should include.” In August, Ferguson and 41 scholars in criminal procedure and privacy law filed an amicus brief with the Court regarding Carpenter and how it could affect the Fourth Amendment.

With the release of his book, The Rise of Big Data Policing: Surveillance, Race, and the Future of Law Enforcement, Ferguson has been working to further the conversation about the impact of electronic data on the future of the Fourth Amendment. For him, understanding this shift is vital to the future of criminal law. Ferguson’s “hope is that people will start to recognize that big data technologies are revolutionizing criminal prosecutions and criminal trials.” The book “explores the costs to society to these changes and whether we—as citizens—want to embrace a big data future,” he says.

For a closer look at The Rise of Big Data, read an excerpt on Medium’s In Justice Today and pick up a copy of the book here. Last week, Ferguson spoke to UDC Law about his book; the program is available from UDC-TV on YouTube now and as part of the channel’s November lineup.


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