Here’s a very cool TED talk on human rights activists turning surveillance on its head — using tiny hidden cameras to document atrocities for the world to see, and for the oppressors to know that the world sees their actions. It’s by Oren Yakobovich, head of the human rights organization Videre.
We should remember that in the US, we should have the right (except under very limited circumstances) to film or photograph government officials, including the police, while they are performing their duties.
A good resource for this is the Photography is not a Crime website. The Washington Post also just had a decent article on this issue. And here’s an ACLU post on it by Jay Stanley, which includes an incident that the ACLU-NJ handled where the police not only detained a student for filming them, they illegally searched her phone and deleted the video.
A related issue exists when citizen journalists and activists want to film local governmental meetings. While a government agency can place reasonable restrictions (e.g., time, place, and manner), they (at least in NJ) can’t forbid video audio or video taping. The ACLU-NJ has a PDF pamphlet on New Jersey’s Open Public Meetings Act.
Do I have the right to record public meetings? Although the Sunshine Law does not address this topic, the New Jersey Supreme Court held in Tarus v. Pine Hill, 189 N.J. 497 (2007) that members of the public have a common law right to videotape public meetings, subject to only reasonable restrictions. You also have the right to audiotape public meetings as well. A public body may adopt written policies that reasonably restrict recording to ensure that the recording does not disrupt the meeting. The policies could require you to sign up in advance to record the meeting and may limit the number of people recording and the number of cameras, as well as their position, lighting and location.