The Boston Globe is reporting that Massachusetts law-enforcement officers are using a state wiretapping statute to confiscate cellphones from people who use them to record outbursts of police violence. The footage is commonly destroyed, and those who captured it are arrested.
In 1968 Massachusetts became one of 12 “two-party consent” states, in which all parties to a conversation must agree to be recorded when speaking into a telephone or other audio device. Otherwise, any recording is illegal. In recent years, rogue Massachusetts law jockeys have begun using this law to snatch cellphones from people who have the temerity to use them to document police lawlessness.
“Police are not used to ceding power, and these tools are forcing them to cede power,” observes David Ardia, director of the Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.
“The police apparently do not want witnesses to what they do in public,” adds Sarah Wunsch, a staff attorney with the Massachusetts wing of the American Civil Liberties Union.