San Diego’s Privacy Board Recommends City Reject SDPD Purchase of Smart Streetlights with Automatic License Plate Readers

by on June 23, 2023 · 4 comments

in Civil Rights, San Diego

On Thursday, June 22, San Diego’s Privacy Advisory Board recommended that the City Council reject a police proposal to buy a new streetlight camera system and pair the technology with automatic license plate readers.

As Voice of San Diego reported:

The board members who were present at the meeting voted unanimously to pass along a 15-page analysis of SDPD’s proposal that challenges the department, among other things, on its claim that the cameras don’t constitute an invasion of Fourth Amendment rights.

Two board members who drafted a contrary opinion — in favor of SDPD’s proposal — did not show up.

Here is a slightly edited version of the summary of that analysis from the Board:

The Privacy Advisory Board recommends that the City Council reject the two proposals related to Smart Streetlights and Automated License Plate Readers as written because the San Diego Police Department has not provided critical information required by the TRUST Ordinance.

Although the Board understands the need to prevent and investigate crimes, and that SDPD is short-staffed and in need of additional resources, the Board has significant substantive concerns with the proposed Smart Streetlights and ALPR Surveillance Impact Reports and Use Policies.

The Board must be able to assess the specific vendor’s privacy and security practices, in particular when an AI-enabled technology is new, controversial, and collecting information about the movement and location of the population.

The City and public cannot assess the SDPD proposals without the required information. There are also concerns regarding the processes for engaging with the City and the public and with SDPD’s mischaracterization of privacy interests.

Smart Streetlights Proposal: Significant deficiencies exist in the SDPD Smart Streetlights proposal, which does not comply with the requirements of the Ordinance.

The Surveillance Impact Report and Use Policy do not identify the vendor; Ubicquia was only identified late in the process in response to Board questions.

The proposal does not provide manufacturer specifications, and AI capabilities of the vendor(s) and risks are not addressed.

There is no meaningful information about program design, such as mitigations and security safeguards, as required by the Ordinance.

The proposal does not address third party dependencies, alternatives, or the track record for the proposed technology.

Automated License Plate Readers Proposal: SDPD has not identified the vendor or technology contemplated for use.

The City and public are unable to review the technology or program design without this 1 SDMC §210.0101 et seq. information. The Surveillance Impact Report and Use Policy also suffer from the same concerns as the Smart Streetlights above.

Other substantive concerns exist regarding the vendor contract, location of cameras, lack of clarity around AI capabilities and use, and unclear goals and effectiveness metrics.

The substantive concerns address the requirements of the Ordinance, but they are also critical in increasing trust and improving SDPD’s relationship with San Diegans.

The “contrary opinion” by the missing two Board members is not really an “opinion” as such but more of a mantra chant with a finger wag . Here is most of it:

All of our questions have been answered as requested. We are satisfied that the SDPD Team has done their due diligence with the vendor and the City of San Diego has done their due diligence in maintaining that the Surveillance Ordinance is being followed and adhered to.

The more we research regional crime statistics, the more we are shocked that more citizens are not involved in coming forward in support of this technology for Smart Streetlights and ALPR. We have heard from about 200 citizens in a city of 1.4 million and are convinced that this technology will be in the best interests of the community of San Diego when it is implemented.

The Police Department claims, in response, “that the city’s surveillance ordinance prevents officials from disclosing such documents before the use policies and impact reports for new technology go through the review process,” as VOSD said.

The next step for the police proposal and the Board’s recommendation for rejection is at the City Council.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Mateo June 23, 2023 at 3:39 pm

The response from SDPD spokesperson: “We have heard from about 200 citizens in a city of 1.4 million and are convinced that this technology will be in the best interests of the community of San Diego when it is implemented.” is laughable really.

Initially in an effort at the behest of Todd Gloria to fly under the radar and get this surveillance state proposal passed for his beneators; it was the San Diego Police Department that almost covertly and quite stealthily announced, more mentioned than anything else, they had scheduled just 7 public meetings (despite having 9 districts in the City) in order to sell us on why we should abandon our constitutionally protected rights. Conveneintly the 2 communities the Mayor and SDPD omitted from the list, are ones that would ikely become some of the communities most heavily affected by the ALPRs overreach.

None of these 7 SDPD Surveillance State meetings received any significant or even discernible public notification effort. As a matter of fact the last one was held in La Jolla and was covered only on KUSI the night before.

These were sales presentations conducted by the SDPD Brass, on the clock ,on behalf of Ubicquia and the associated black box softwares and hardware corporations at the Mayor’s behest.

If the San Diego Police Department can produce systems with open source coding, instantly accessible for review and audits secure storage, verifiable automated file purging, If the City can implement an on-call accessibility to judges for proper legal issuances 0f warrants within the realm of our constitutionally protected rights. If the Citizen’s Review Board on Police Practices and if Privacy Advisory Board becomes an elected body by the PUBLIC.

Most importantly, both bodies, the Citizen’s Review Board on Police Practices and if Privacy Advisory Board must be granted subpeona power and modest discretionary investigative budgets. Then maybe we can consider implementing something.

But once again, like every single thing in his political carreer, another attempt at another industry written proposal being hastily rushed through by the very actors trying to pass it who’s spokespeople now complain that “we only heard from 200 citizens of 1.4 million”?

If the Mayor and the City Council would like to schedule some good old fashioned townhall meetings; I mean real townhall meetings, not Scott Peters pre-fab-hand-selected-townhall-charades, then you can bet the communities of San Diego will show up, en masse.


sealintheSelkirks June 23, 2023 at 7:07 pm

The East German Stasi would have been extremely jealous of the SD cops about them getting this technology when they didn’t. As a matter of fact I can think of many many different country’s leaders in my lifetime that would, and probably do, love this stuff can’t you? Bet Price Bonesaw has it, and Nuttyahoo in Israel, and probably Modi in India ya think?

So the fiction books It Can’t Happen Here, Brave New World, 1984, and a host of others have invaded our reality to the point that our so-called leaders and enforcers are all for…a Police State. Anybody surprised? This has been a long time coming, brick by brick, step by step, and can’t you feel the water starting to boil little tadpoles?

Remember in Star Wars when Skywalker bravely said he wasn’t afraid and Yoda got this truly evil look on his face right up to the camera and softly said “You should be.”

Well, the water’s been slowly boiling for years…



Chris June 24, 2023 at 7:15 pm

From the amount of cycling I’ve been doing the past year, I’ve finally lost some weight so now I don’t have to worry as much about my “good side” the cameras will capture.


retired botanist June 25, 2023 at 6:14 pm

without even having read the deets, this is utterly ridiculous! C’mon SDPD, don’t be lazy, just do your job and be present- then you don’t need all this dumb tech.


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