Pole Cameras after Carpenter

I recently traveled to New York City to do some sight-seeing. I noticed that I wasn’t the only one doing the looking. The New York Police Department has mounted security cameras on poles all over Manhattan. They are well-marked and conspicuous. Seeing them made me wonder about challenges to this kind of surveillance in light of the Supreme Court’s decision two terms ago in Carpenter v. United States, 585 U.S. ___, 138 S.Ct. 2206 (2018), holding that a person has a legitimate expectation of privacy in the record of his or her physical movements as captured through cell-site location information (CSLI). The court based its opinion in part on a person’s reasonable expectation that law enforcement will not constantly surveil his physical movements. Though video recorded by a law enforcement camera differs from CSLI in its scope and in the type of information collected, some have argued that the privacy interests identified in Carpenter also are implicated by the government’s use of pole-mounted surveillance cameras.

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