Thursday, January 25, 2007

Wiretapping Statute in NH

I'm still trying to figure out what this has to do with wiretapping. It's about a foolish law that limits a private citizen's ability to use video surveillance on their own property. No wires are being tapped, not that they are really tapped any longer in any case.
Last week, Rep. Dudley Dumaine, R-Auburn, and five other sponsors introduced House Bill 97, which would add an exception to the state's wiretap law, letting property owners record their own premises, with or without warning.

"This bill creates an exception to the violation of privacy and wiretapping and eavesdropping statutes to allow any person to conduct, without notice, audio or video recordings, or both, on his or her private property and curtilage for security purposes," the bill's description states.

"It's just common sense," Dumaine said. "I can't picture anybody not believing that it's okay to protect your property."

Dumaine crafted his bill so that property owners would no longer need to post warnings of recording on the premises, as has become common in stores that use video for anti-theft purposes. Warnings only serve to invite criminals to steal the recording equipment, or find other ways to subvert it, Dumaine said.

Dumaine said he also plans to sponsor a bill to make it legal to make video and audio recordings of people in public settings, where they have no reasonable expectation of privacy. That bill was motivated by a case in the Keene area, in which a motorist was charged for turning on a tape recorder after being pulled over by police, Dumaine said.

I think Dumaine goes overboard with the public recording. I see no reasonable reason for allowing secret recordings in public. There could be a case for citizens documenting crime or police misconduct. Though making a widespread allowance strikes me as setting up for abuse.

Of course, the NHACLU is against it. Shock.
Claire Ebel, executive director of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, urged the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee not to allow audio recordings. Ebel said videotaping the person's property was less intrusive.

State law requires the knowledge and consent of both parties when an audio recording is made, not just the one doing the taping, she said. If lawmakers make an exception, the eavesdropping could be used as evidence without all the parties knowing they were being recorded, she said.

Sorry, that doesn't follow. The legislation is discussing the use on private property. Curtailing one's ability to record criminal action limits the ability of the owner to seek restitution or legal action. The original bill does nothing but restrict the ability of the property owner from using protections that governments and LEO use for themselves. That double standard is unreasonable.

The legislation will no doubt need to be carefully crafted to ensure rental owners aren't allowed to abuse recording in units where privacy is assumed by the tenant. There will also have to be clear injunctions against the recording of other peoples property to prevent abuses by the peeping-tom neighbor.

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