Sneaky surveillance - Page 2

SFPD has been quietly seeking video footage of new bars since losing a public fight over the issue

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GUARDIAN ILLUSTRATION BY EVAN WALDINGER


SFPD IS WATCHING

When SFPD first sought new video surveillance tools — back in 2005, when the department asked for 71 video cameras at high-crime intersections around the city — it was rigorously debated in public hearings for months. And when they were finally approved by the Board of Supervisors, they included an extensive set of controls on when SFPD could request footage — the department wasn't even allowed to control the cameras directly — how it could be used and when it must be erased.

The legislation also required a follow-up study of their effectiveness in deterring and prosecuting crimes. Conducted by the University of California's Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) in 2008, the report found the cameras had no impact on violent crime rates but a small deterrent impact on property crimes in the filmed areas.

As a tool for prosecuting crimes after the fact, "There has been limited success with the cameras acting as a 'silent witness,' with footage standing in for witness testimony; some anecdotal evidence suggests that the existence of CSC program footage can actually deter witnesses from cooperating under the assumption that the cameras have caught all necessary evidence," the report said, also noting that twice in the 120 police requests made by 2008, footage resulted in charges being dropped or downgraded.

But today, SFPD apparently believes that times have changed, and that the rigorous oversight and evaluation of video surveillance tactics and their implications on people's privacy rights — or even the need to notify the public that SFPD is seeking new ways to watch citizens — are no longer necessary.

"Over the last few years, we've increased the number of recommendations for video surveillance, for a few reasons," SFPD spokesperson Gordon Shyy told the Guardian, citing how cheap and ubiquitous the technology has become and the role that video footage can play in solving crimes.

Yet attorney Michael Rischer with the ACLU of Northern California, who actively opposed the SFPD's proposal in 2011 and was dismayed to hear the department secretly and unilaterally expanded its video surveillance reach after its proposal was rejected, said that reasoning is exactly why there are legal controls on the expanding police state.

"Both of those justifications are exceedingly troubling and they demonstrate why the San Francisco Police Department should not be doing this in some room sealed off from the public," Rischer said. "The police have this totally backward. The ease and cost of doing this is a reason why these protections are in place."

PRIVACY PROTECTIONS

Unlike under federal law, Californians have an explicit constitutional privacy guarantee and a body of case law defining that right in great detail. But the SFPD doesn't seem to be aware of the nuances of that case law, such as the distinction it makes between people's expectation of privacy on public streets versus in private businesses.

"When you enter a bar or restaurant, you don't have an expectation of privacy," Shyy told us.

But Rischer said that just isn't true under the law. He noted that people do indeed have a reasonable expectation that they can enter a gay bar without being outed, for example, or that police won't be able to demand video from a gathering in a bar where subversive political ideas are being discussed. And those concerns are exacerbated by SFPD's policy that bar owners must simply turn over footage "upon demand."

"The notion that the government is requiring a business to conduct surveillance of its patrons and to turn it over to the Police Department without any judicial oversight or even rules is deeply troubling and probably unconstitutional," Rischer said.

Comments

What is the mechanism behind this irony? Is it like the phenomenon of Democrats voting for imperialist wars?

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 4:55 am

Up next: random retina scans linked to databanks with names and addresses of 'undesirables', and available to LEO 24/7

Posted by pete moss on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 5:56 am

I'm sure my location is recorded on CCTV many times each day. My cell phone effectively triangulates my location constantly, my car has GPS which does the same, and my Clipper card reveals my use of transit. I often have to show ID to enter office buildings, while my own work ID records when I am at the office, and when not.

Ask me why I don't care. Answer: I am not doing anything bad, wrong or suspicious.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 6:04 am

Your an idiot, maybe a cop, and certainly you do things that can be said to be wrong everyday. just need the right agency to watch you. Your body is natural, do you run around naked just because you have nothing to be ashamed of. Your an idiot. An UN-AMERICAN as can be. Privacy is a right. Its not attached anymore to doing right than gun rights are attached to being a hunter. Its a right in the USA.

Posted by Guest guest surveilence on Jun. 03, 2013 @ 10:05 pm

I wouldn't mind some random anal probes. I'd be the first to bend over in the name of state security. If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear.

Posted by anon on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 6:17 am

Absolutely nothing wrong with that as a personal activity.

My problem is that anon seems to not only fantasize about his own anal penetration, but that of all his fellow(?) citizens. That crosses the line.

Big Troll Trope #15 is that non-criminals have nothing to fear from police attention. Nobody in their right mind believes that.

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 5:13 pm

I've never had a problem with LE.

Posted by anon on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 6:01 pm

for taking the lead on this.

I question the stance that somebody has an expectation of privacy if they go into a gay bar and get outed. But be that as it may, I don't think that this is necessarily even a question of whether the SFPD "can" do this, but whether it "should." Big Brother creep is very troubling to me, and I find the argument "oh, well if you aren't doing anything wrong then you have nothing to worry about" to be the weakest of sauces.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 11:18 am

I agree, and there's another sneaky aspect to this that I might not have emphasized strongly enough in my article, but which I will in a follow-up blog post that I'm working on now. The SFPD is requiring businesses to keep footage of the street scenes outside their stores and to make that immediately available for any reason and with no warrant. That's a huge departure from the safeguards attached to the 71 crime cameras that the city installed, and a major expansion of the SFPD's ability to spy on us without any judicial or regulatory oversight.

Posted by steven on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 11:29 am

investigation into activities that happen right outside the store?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 11:41 am

...be able to require a store to spy on its customers and give police unfettered access to footage with no court oversight? That's the issue here. Businesses already have the right to use video surveillance and cooperate with police if they choose. But not everyone shares your faith in the police to always do the right thing and safeguard civil liberties. Some of us know our history.

Posted by steven on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 2:41 pm

you do not think they should co-operate with a police inquiry into crimes in and around their premises?

Is that it?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 2:47 pm

Yes, I think Airbnb should follow the law and charge required taxes on the economic transactions it conducts, which is certainly less invasive than expecting each host to be responsible for collecting and paying that tax. And yes, I think businesses should cooperate with lawful criminal investigations, which should in no way be hindered by basic Fourth Amendment protections (such as getting a warrant when necessary) or guidelines for requesting surveillance video that the city established in 2005. What does that have to do with requiring more businesses to conduct video surveillance on their customers and surroundings and turn it over to police with no rules or guidelines?

Posted by steven on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 5:00 pm

camera's everywhere and you would be filmed dozens of times a day.

Many criminals have been caught that way, including rapists and murderers, and there is little complaint about it from the ordinary innocent person - indeed, it makes them feel safer.

I'm sorry that you do not like the argument but it really is true that I do not fear being "spied" upon because I know I am doing no wrong. I cannot say that for others and so do want them spied upon.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 11:34 am

Citizens of London don't have a constitutional right to privacy like we have in California. And England wasn't founded on principles of personal liberty and a wariness of government power like the US was, by people like Benjamin Franklin, who said, "Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Posted by steven on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 2:45 pm

After all, you think the constitutional right to bear arms is questionable, right?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 3:04 pm

Hi, thanks for sharing.

Posted by dog trainer on Apr. 12, 2013 @ 1:25 am

Many criminals have been caught every day. Security cameras and surveillance system has improved our security. Actually Surveillance is the monitoring of the behavior, activities, or other changing information. These can even allow the Remote viewing of your business from anywhere.

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