Tag Archive: ACLU

City of Boston Settles Police Videotaping Suit

The city of Boston recently settled a federal civil rights suit in which the city will pay Simon Glik $170,000 for damages and legal fees. In 2007 Glik used his cellular phone to videotape Boston police officers arresting a man on Boston Common. The Boston police then arrested Glik and he was charged with illegal wiretapping, aiding the escape of a prisoner, and disturbing the peace. After a Boston Municipal Court judge dismissed the criminal charges, Glik filed a civil rights suit with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union against the city of Boston and the arresting officers in federal court. In Glik v. Cunniffe 655 F.3d 78 (2011), the First Circuit held that the First Amendment protects the right to record police carrying out their duties in a public place. Glik’s attorney, David Milton, explains that the case is highly important because there have been a number of incidents in recent years involving citizens who were arrested for recording police officers performing their official duties in public. Milton notes, “As we see all around the country and world, images captured from people’s cellphones can have a remarkably important effect on public debate of public information. It is ultimately a tool of democracy.” In addition, the case will likely cause more police departments to instruct their officers on how to handle situations involving individuals who videotape police officers performing their official duties. For example, the city of Boston has developed a training video based on facts similar to the Glik case.

Facebook and Politico: The New Primary

Historically, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has served as the “nation’s guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.”  The latest issue that has caught the attention of the ACLU is the use of Facebook’s  “sentiment analysis tool” which provides data specifically to the American political organization, Politico.

United States users of Facebook who mention a presidential candidate’s name, either in public or private posts, are fed through Facebook’s sentiment analysis tool do determine the winner of the “Facebook Primary.”  The ACLU argues that the data collected from users for the Facebook and Politico’s joint effort to “measure GOP candidate buzz” was gathered without the knowledge of the Facebook users.  The ACLU claims that Facebook “failed to reveal any mention of user consent anywhere in their announcement of the project and questions how Facebook decided that the U.S. users agreed that their personal communication can and should be used in this way.”

Whether or not Facebook failed to gain the consent of its United States users in using personal communication, the long-term effect of this marriage between social media and political websites, such as Politico, suggests the growing power of social media in American society. Political candidates will likely ramp up the use of programs like this in order to maximize their electability.

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