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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Zehnder

Recognizing what's private or sensitive in a body-worn camera recording

A short article was just published on the website with the title "Police body cam leaks suspect's seed phrase during vehicle inspection". The video has recently gone viral on Twitter and has been the source of discussion about developing and protecting crypto seed phrases. Seed phrases are a series of words that grants access to an individual's cryptocurrency wallet. Seed phrases work like a master password, so one can recover their crypto assets even if they forget a site password, lose a phone or lose a hardware device. The primary officer, a Nevada State Trooper, initially appears to be unaware of what is on the paper. An assisting officer correctly identifies it as a seed phrase.

This incident highlights the responsibility police agencies have regarding privacy and protecting sensitive information. The article doesn't state where the video came from or how it became public, but the event was recorded last April and was clearly edited from a longer recording. The video could have been made public in a number of ways but I'm going to assume that it was released subsequent to a public records request. I always stress in my training class on handling BWC public records requests, that a best practice is to have a process in place that double verifies that private or sensitive information is redacted before release. I recommend that a police officer of rank or legal consul be the final reviewer of a video prior to it being released by Records. While the seed phrase isn't "identifying" information required to be protected under most state laws, it certainly is sensitive information which should have been redacted. Yes, the suspect was irresponsible by writing the phrase down but the agency clearly should have recognized and known that the seed phrase needed to be redacted. The fact that the assisting officer identifies it as a seed phrase should have triggered someone to ask the question about its confidentiality. My collegue, Ed Claughton, President of PRI the leading police records management consulting firm in the nation, has a saying that is certainly applicable here: "When in doubt, black it out!"

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