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Critics Pan San Francisco Surveillance Video Monitor Plan

A plan by the San Francisco police to monitor surveillance video captured by businesses and residents is stoking concerns that it will erode citizens' privacy and endanger the rights of protesters and members of marginalized groups. The proposed policy shift highlights the risk that technology installed for one purpose can easily be adapted for others, Axios reports. The proposal would give the police broad power to use a wide range of cameras they don't own, including a large network of cameras operated by neighborhood business improvement districts as well as those owned by individuals and stores. The proposed policy is backed by the mayor as well as District Attorney,Brooke Jenkins, who replaced Chesa Boudin after his recall last month.


An existing San Francisco law requires city agencies to ask for approval from the supervisors before they can acquire or use any new surveillance technology, except in life-threatening situations. The proposal has been heard by a committee of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, with amendments proposed that would add limits, including when police can view live feeds, how the data are stored and shared and what consent is required from camera owners. Police leaders argue the cameras will serve as additional eyes and ears at a time when San Francisco faces a perceived rise in crime as well as complaints that the police are not enforcing laws. The proposal is thin on details, including which cameras it will and won't access as well as the process it will use to gain consent and access the data. Critics want to see all that spelled out clearly. They also want real-time access limited to the most extreme circumstances.