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Is the Cloud Ready for Body-Cam Video? (Industry Perspective)

Let’s hold cloud storage for law enforcement video to the highest security standards.

Picture a routine event in a police officer’s day: She’s called to a hospital to investigate a suspected case of child abuse. She interviews a school social worker, who accompanied the injured child to the hospital; the child’s parents; the doctors and nurses who are treating the child; and the child himself. The discussions touch on the child’s performance in class, previous incidents of suspected abuse, and the fact that the mother’s paycheck is being garnished by the Internal Revenue Service because of a tax dispute. The officer thinks she has enough information to pursue a criminal investigation, but knows she needs to collect and document solid evidence that will be admissible in court.

Now consider this: The police officer is equipped with a body-worn video camera, set to record by default during her entire shift — and she has just captured video whose storage, retention and investigative use are affected by several complex and overlapping sets of local, state and federal regulations. If that video is not properly stored, managed or disclosed, its value to the investigation can be compromised, which in turn can have devastating consequences for the people involved in the case.

Not every officer is clipping on a body-worn camera along with a badge, but these cameras are quickly becoming more common. Further prompting this adoption is President Obama’s most recent federal budget, which proposed funds for the purchase and deployment of 50,000 body-worn cameras by state and local police departments across the U.S. In fact, many departments throughout the nation are already implementing these solutions to help in their daily routines. Whether federal, state and municipal departments are using the cameras to monitor police behavior, respond to the concerns of citizen groups, or follow the directives of local officials, the digital video data that is collected must be carefully handled.

On top of this, the volume of data presents its own unique storage challenges — from both a space and a cost perspective. For instance, a camera set to record by default for an officer’s full shift will capture eight to 12 hours of video in a single day. Multiply that by potentially hundreds of officers in a single department, and then by the days in a month — that is a lot of footage.

Since all of this data is valuable, the question is not whether law enforcement agencies should turn to cloud storage to manage their digital video; the sheer volume of data makes the cloud an essential part of an agency’s data storage strategy for either a hybrid or full private cloud solution. Rather, the question is how to ensure that law enforcement data is stored, processed and protected with the highest regulatory and security standards in mind. Law enforcement agencies across the U.S. should ask these questions when evaluating trusted cloud storage options:

Does the cloud solution comply with applicable standards and requirements?

For law enforcement data, cloud technology should enable compliance with the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Service (CJIS) standard. But in scenarios such as the child abuse investigation described above, standards such as IRS 1075 Encryption Requirements, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), and others may also come into play. A cloud service provider should be able to confirm compliance with all necessary standards, including the ability to keep up with changes to these requirements, and be willing to attest to this in writing.

What automated tools are available for searching and analyzing the video?

No police department wants to assign staff to spend hours scanning through the video record of an officer’s shift. Cloud solutions for video data storage should include automated tools for content searching and facial recognition, making it easy to zero in on the small amount of relevant footage that needs to be watched and evaluated by authorized personnel.

How does the storage solution enable redaction and privacy protection?

In addition to capturing investigative scenes, body-worn cameras can capture uninvolved bystanders, confidential informants or private settings such as the home or workplace of a witness. Trusted cloud storage solutions should support the redaction of visual material unrelated to the investigative scene to protect the privacy or anonymity of the people officers interact with, or even simply walk past, while on the job.

A technology solution provider must be prepared to safeguard this data by complying with the highest standards, regardless of whether any particular minute of video will become part of a formal investigation or proceeding. While we all have a part to play in keeping our citizens safe, cloud service providers should be taking responsibility to help protect this information and provide the tools and features necessary to help officers more quickly and effectively deliver on their public safety mission.

stuart mckee, microsoft 365, government apps, CJIS
Stuart McKee is the chief technology officer for state and local government at Microsoft.

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