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A+E Networks
A+E Networks

How Can Live PD Show Suspects' Faces Without Consent?

A+E Networks
A+E Networks

Viewers of the hit A&E reality series Live PD, which airs in two-hour blocks on Friday and Saturday nights, have come to expect at least two recurring elements as camera crews follow around six police departments from around the country. The first is that officers will be searching for marijuana in vehicles. (And will usually find it.) The second is that civilians idling in cars or on front porches will sometimes say they are not offering their consent to be filmed. Can the show really “out” suspects by broadcasting their faces on live television without permission?

To make sense of this legal quagmire, it helps to know that Live PD is not exactly live. While the program’s control center cuts between the various participating police departments in real time, it’s not airing the same way: Producers require a delay, in the event a gruesome crime occurs or an undercover officer is accidentally filmed, among other reasons. The show’s producers won’t say exactly how long the delay is, though in 2017, executive producer David Doss told NBC that it’s typically several minutes. (A representative for A&E did not follow up with our request for comment.)

Is that long enough to acquire written consent from involved parties to broadcast their image to millions of viewers? In some cases, yes.

Tulsa, Oklahoma resident Randy Wallace was featured on the show in February 2017 and later criticized the police department for implying he was a gang member. In press interviews, Wallace admitted he signed a waiver when a production team member presented it to him. (The Tulsa PD later declined to renew its agreement to be involved with the show.) The production, Wallace said, wanted permission to use his image and likeness.

A person has his face blurred during A&E's 'Live PD'
A&E Networks

But not everyone is presented with forms to sign. In Walton County, Florida, a man who was detained on suspicion of driving a stolen vehicle and handcuffed on the show said he was never offered the option of signing any forms and was angry he had been depicted as a criminal. (The man owned the car and he was not arrested.)

Legally, the show was probably within its legal rights on both occasions, thanks to the machinations of the right to privacy laws: Namely, if you’re out in public, you don’t have those rights.

“When you’re outside in a public place, you have no expectation of privacy,” Mark Rosenberg, an attorney specializing in intellectual property law, tells Mental Floss. “You can video people and use them on television.”

Of course, there are limitations. Cameras for Live PD typically idle outside private residences unless they’re invited in. Footage of people in doorways is typically captured from where someone passing by would see them from the street.

People asked to sign waivers may have been approached by producers because they’d like to use the footage for publicity purposes—a television commercial, for example, or some other advertisement for the show. “If they’re using someone’s face for advertising, that gets outside whatever newsworthy element may be involved,” Rosenberg says.

Should you ever find yourself detained by police with a full camera crew in tow, don’t expect you need to give them your permission—or withdraw your consent—to be filmed.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Big Questions
Why Is a Pineapple Called a Pineapple?
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by James Hunt

Ask an English-speaking person whether they've heard of a pineapple, and you'll probably receive little more than a puzzled look. Surely, every schoolchild has heard of this distinctive tropical fruit—if not in its capacity as produce, then as a dessert ring, or smoothie ingredient, or essential component of a Hawaiian pizza.

But ask an English-speaking person if they've ever heard of the ananas fruit and you'll probably get similarly puzzled looks, but for the opposite reason. The average English speaker has no clue what an ananas is—even though it's the name given to the pineapple in almost every other major global language.

In Arabic, German, French, Dutch, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Swedish, Turkish—even in Latin and Esperanto—the pineapple is known as an ananas, give or take local variations in the alphabet and accents. In the languages where it isn't, it's often because the word has been imported from English, such as in the case of the Japanese パイナップル (painappuru) and the Welsh pinafel.

So how is it that English managed to pick the wrong side in this fight so spectacularly? Would not a pineapple, by any other name, taste as weird and tingly?

To figure out where things went wrong for English as a language, we have to go back and look at how Europeans first encountered the fruit in question, which is native to South America. It was first catalogued by Columbus's expedition to Guadeloupe in 1493, and they called it piña de Indes, meaning "pine of the Indians"—not because the plant resembled a pine tree (it doesn't) but because they thought the fruit looked like a pine cone (umm, ... it still doesn't. But you can sort of see it.)

Columbus was on a Spanish mission and, dutifully, the Spanish still use the shortened form piñas to describe the fruit. But almost every other European language (including Portuguese, Columbus's native tongue) decided to stick with the name given to the fruit by the indigenous Tupí people of South America: ananas, which means "excellent fruit."

According to etymological sources, the English word pineapple was first applied to the fruit in 1664, but that didn't end the great pineapple versus ananas debate. Even as late as the 19th century, there are examples of both forms in concurrent use within the English language; for example, in the title of Thomas Baldwin's Short Practical Directions For The Culture Of The Ananas; Or Pine Apple Plant, which was published in 1813.

So given that we knew what both words meant, why didn't English speakers just let go of this illogical and unhelpful linguistic distinction? The ultimate reason may be: We just think our own language is better than everyone else's.

You see, pineapple was already an English word before it was applied to the fruit. First used in 1398, it was originally used to describe what we now call pine cones. Hilariously, the term pine cones wasn't recorded until 1694, suggesting that the application of pineapple to the ananas fruit probably meant that people had to find an alternative to avoid confusion. And while ananas hung around on the periphery of the language for a time, when given a choice between using a local word and a foreign, imported one, the English went with the former so often that the latter essentially died out.

Of course, it's not too late to change our minds. If you want to ask for ananas the next time you order a pizza, give it a try (though we can't say what you'd up with as a result).

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Why Do They Build Oil Rigs in the Middle of the Ocean?
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Ryan Carlyle:

We put the rigs where the oil is!

There aren’t any rigs in the “middle” of the ocean, but it is fairly common to find major oilfields over 150 km off the coast. This happens because:

  • Shallow seas often had the correct conditions for oil formation millions of years ago. Specifically, something like an algae bloom has to die and sink into oxygen-free conditions on the sea floor, then that organic material gets buried and converted to rock over geologic time.
  • The continental shelf downstream of a major river delta is a great place for deposition of loose, sandy sediments that make good oil reservoir rocks.

These two types of rock—organic-rich source rock and permeable reservoir rock—must be deposited in the correct order in the same place for there to be economically viable oil reservoirs. Sometimes, we find ancient shallow seas (or lakes) on dry land. Sometimes, we find them underneath modern seas. In that latter case, you get underwater oil and offshore oil rigs.

In the “middle” of the ocean, the seafloor is primarily basaltic crust generated by volcanic activity at the mid-ocean ridge. There’s no source of sufficient organic material for oil source rock or high-permeability sandstone for reservoir rock. So there is no oil. Which is fine, because the water is too deep to be very practical to drill on the sea floor anyway. (Possible, but not practical.)

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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