San Diego police had access to smart street lighting camera footage to spy on Black Lives Matter protests
What started as a way to enhance public safety in San Diego has become a mass surveillance tool to gather evidence against Black Lives Matter protesters.
A report shows that local police have collected images of smart streetlights in the city to look for evidence related to vandalism and looting hoping to make arrests.
Records show that law enforcement officers visited the streetlamps at least 35 times from late May to early June – a time when thousands marched through the streets.
Using this technology to spy on civilians may come as a surprise to some, but Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit organization that defends civil liberties, predicted the act in 2017.
“It violates privacy, cools freedom of expression, and burdens communities of color and poor people on an uneven level,” the ground shared in a blog post.
“Cameras installed for the benevolent purpose of traffic management can later be used to track individuals as they attend a protest, visit a doctor, or go to church.”
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What started as a way to increase public safety in San Diego has become a mass surveillance tool to gather evidence against Black Lives Matter protesters.
The report was shared by Voice of San Diego, which has obtained public records showing that law enforcement officers had access to the street lighting installed across the city in 2017.
San Diego City Council approved the installation of the smart street lighting in December 2016 – and there are now over 4,000.
The main purpose of the technology is to collect data to solve transport problems and weather forecasts, but the street lamps also take pictures of the surroundings.
And because the stream is stored on servers, it is accessible on request, which the San Diego Police Department did from May to June.
Records show that law enforcement officers visited the streetlamps at least 35 times from late May to early June – a time when thousands marched through the streets. San Diego City Council approved the installation of the smart street lighting in 2016 – and there are now over 4,000
A report finds that local police have collected images of smart streetlights in the city to search for evidence related to vandalism and looting hoping to make arrests
Numerous protesters have been arrested and the footage can be shown in court to help convict the suspects.
The Voice of San Diego noted that the city council provided the camera images to other agencies, but it is not clear why these were shared with the federal authorities.
The data also shows that police officers collected images of the streetlamps associated with a controversial arrest on June 4 when a plainclothes police officer put a woman in an unmarked van.
She is said to have thrown a cardboard sign at another police officer during the protest.
The incident, which took place near San iegDiego High School after a protest, was recorded on another demonstrator’s cell phone.
The main purpose of the technology is to collect data to solve transport problems and weather forecasts, but the street lighting also makes images of the environment
In 2017, the Electronic Frontier Foundation published a blog post titled “Smart Cities,” Surveillance, and New Streetlights in San Diego, “
The post was shared shortly after the city received thousands of smart street lighting.
“Now is the time for San Jose to ensure that its smart street lighting does not become another instrument for street-level monitoring,” the page reads.
“To do this, San Jose must adopt a regulation that guarantees democratic control over decisions about surveillance instruments. It should also practice privacy by design. ‘
“Otherwise, residents may discover that the new ‘smart’ technologies designed to improve their lives have instead become tools of government espionage.”
Some San Diego residents were also against the installation in 2017, as they were not sold for the benefits, but were concerned about the privacy risks.
Geneviéve Jones-Wright said in an interview with Fox 5, “For every thousandth person in San Diego, nearly two and a half look at the camera.”
“What is very worrying and disturbing is that these cameras are installed and used throughout the city without supervision.”
“With these cameras with facial recognition capabilities and audio, we don’t expect our conversations to be recorded as we walk down a public street.”
WHAT CAN PROTECT PRIVACY IN SMART CITIES?
Andrew Clement is an emeritus professor and surveillance researcher at the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto, where he co-founded the Identity, Privacy and Security Institute.
He believes that plans to build the experimental Sidewalk Toronto neighborhood “up from the Internet” should raise red flags about privacy and democracy.
Speak with the Toronto Star, he outlined a five-point plan to ensure that privacy and other rights are respected in the smart cities of the future:
1. By default, all data collected must be anonymous
2. All data processed by smart city companies must comply with privacy legislation
3. Software that has access to collected data must be publicly available under an open source license
4. Basic digital services must be accessible and affordable for everyone
5. Data, software and physical infrastructure must be secure and any breaches must be promptly reported.