City Wants to Fix Law That Brought Oversight to San Diego’s Surveillance Technologies, Advocates Want More Input

by on September 19, 2023 · 0 comments

in Civil Rights, San Diego

By Lyndsay Winkley / San Diego U-T / Sept. 17, 2023

A hard-won ordinance that brought oversight to San Diego’s many surveillance technologies needs critical fixes, officials say, or day-to-day operations the city relies on could come to a standstill. The new law, unanimously approved by City Council last September, stemmed from public outcry over the city’s mishandling of a network of thousands of smart streetlights.

Community members learned years after the high-tech lights were installed that police could access video and other data they captured. Over the past year, putting the ordinance into practice has been hampered by delays and legal quandaries.

The Privacy Advisory Board, a volunteer oversight group created by the law, took months to set up and begin its work. Meanwhile, departments across the city struggled to identify which of their technologies fell under the new rules. Once the review process did get underway, it was work-heavy and time consuming. So far, only one of the city’s more than 300 technologies — the police department’s smart streetlights proposal — has made it through the oversight system.

Since the ordinance requires all technologies to be reviewed before any contracts are renewed, officials say numerous city agreements could very well lapse in the near future.

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