In what some privacy advocates are calling a Big Brother surveillance state move, the city of San Francisco has approved police access to private cameras in real time.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday passed legislation first proposed by Mayor London Breed in May to allow the San Francisco Police Department to access private cameras in real time without a warrant if given permission by residents and businesses that own them, The Hill reported. The measure passed 7-4.
It becomes effective 30 days after passage and sunsets in 15 months.
The legislation allows police to monitor a live feed for any "significant events with public safety concerns" or during a criminal investigation if the camera is needed. Police were previously required to request feeds for cameras based on specific incidents and time stamps after a crime or for an investigation and could access them in real time only in the case of imminent danger, The Hill reported.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which defends civil liberties in the digital world, called it a "troubling ordinance" that could harm First Amendment and other rights.
In a statement, the group said the ordinance "allows police to surveil 'significant events,' loosely defined as large or high-profile events, 'for placement of police personnel.' This essentially gives police a green light to monitor — in real-time — protests and other First Amendment-protected activities, so long as they require barricades or street closures associated with public gatherings."
San Francisco police have previously "been caught using these very same cameras to surveil protests following George Floyd’s murder, and the SF Pride Parade, facts that went unaddressed by the majority of Supervisors who authorized the ordinance," the group said.
"Make no mistake, misdemeanors like vandalism or jaywalking happen on nearly every street of San Francisco on any given day — meaning that this ordinance essentially gives the SFPD the ability to put the entire city under live surveillance indefinitely,” the organization said.
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