Transparency must be treated as a fundamental pillar of our justice system.
Police bodycams are an essential piece of equipment for modern law enforcement. The evidence contained on these cameras can be the difference between someone spending the rest of their life in jail or walking out of the courtroom a free man. The authenticity of bodycam videos must be protected to the highest possible degree.
The importance of the videos is unquestionable, but is the threat of video alteration real? Very.
Researchers have found that bodycam videos are vulnerable to undetectable alteration, and malware has been found on shipped bodycams. Police departments have also been caught editing bodycam videos to skew the narrative in their favor.
This isn't remote speculation, it's already a serious problem.
To combat the problem, some bodycam manufacturers are teaming up with camera component manufacturers to develop more advanced digital fingerprinting technology. This works by embedding markers directly into the video feed as it comes out of the camera.
The markers to the video are undetectable by the human eye, but make it easier to detect video forgery. Only the camera manufacturer knows the algorithms used to create the markers. If you don't have the algorithms, changing the video without detection becomes much more difficult.
Herein lies the problem. If you know the algorithms you can defeat the security. The algorithms could be stolen by hackers or bad actors. A government could demand the algorithms. It's a trust-based system with a single point of failure.
History has shown that trust-based systems can and have been repeatedly defeated. There was no alternative in the past, but this changed in 2009 with the advent of Bitcoin. A blockchain can be used to ensure that data isn't changed or deleted. Unlike other systems, a blockchain operates completely transparently, without trust.
In my last article (published on Medium December 19th 2019) we demonstrated that we could build a proof of concept blockchain bodycam quick and inexpensively. This solution is not theoretical. It can be built today.
Even with blockchains, there are still two challenges:
- Software transparency
- Cost of usage
Bodycams can cost up to $2,000 per camera, placing a hefty burden on police forces that are already cash strapped. Unexpected overages and recurring costs have forced some police forces to abandon bodycam usage entirely.
Open-source can help with both of these challenges. Open-source software is inherently transparent and often produces higher quality code at a lower cost. This will open the door for greater adoption both domestically and abroad.
Open-source blockchain bodycams are a solution that can help secure our justice system today, by minimizing trust and eliminating central points of failure in a way that is more transparent and lowers costs.
Written by Jordan Mack
Thanks for reading. Please feel free to reply with any comments or connect with me on Twitter! 😃