back to article San Francisco cops can use private cameras to live-monitor 'significant events'

San Francisco police are now set to use non-city-owned video cameras for real-time surveillance under a rule approved by the Board of Supervisors. The controversial policy [PDF] allows the US West Coast city's cops to use privately owned surveillance cameras and camera networks to conduct investigations as well as to live …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is not a policy that the SF board, or any city board should be driving

    The results of their attempt are clear, appeasement of upset businesses, appeasement of the police, and an unworkable hodgepodge of rules that guarantee prompt abuse of the access they are being granted. The arm waving about this weeks buzzword problems aside, this far far from a comprehensive framework to govern rules of access, what is an emergency, who can declare one, who may view the feeds, how the footage may be retained, what is admissible in court, how people privacy will be protected, what the penalties for violations are, etc etc etc.

    To the council, if you thought that this would be easy, you are incompetent, and need to stop creating policy you don't understand.

    1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

      Re: This is not a policy that the SF board, or any city board should be driving

      "To the council, if you thought that this would be easy, you are incompetent, and need to stop creating policy you don't understand."

      You're talking about people that decrimialized crime. Been robbed? Cops won't even make a report. Now they're allowing the cops access to privately owned cameras. What's the point of letting the cops use your camera to witness a crime they won't respond to?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: This is not a policy that the SF board, or any city board should be driving

        From a UK perspective, it all seems a little strange that individual towns and cities have their own Police forces and can decide what they can and cannot do. I suppose from a US perspective, it all feels normal and just "the way things are".

  2. Auntie Dix

    Warrantless Candid Camera

    "Police should not be given access to the thousands of private surround communities, protests, or city blocks with live surveillance."

    Bingo. I am surprised that radical-left SF would approve of such overreach.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Warrantless Candid Camera

      A good number of the radical left of old are now the pro big government authoritarians. Being anti govt overreach is now seen as far right domestic terrorism.

  3. Potemkine! Silver badge
    Big Brother

    All your camera are belong to us

    We are watching you, wherever you are.

    Those who obey don't need to worry. They won't be hurt.

    Most of the time.

    == Bring us Dabbdy back! ==

  4. MyffyW Silver badge


    Is it just me who finds it funny that news of SF police over-reach is on the same day Salesforce take over San Francisco for their cartoon-furry trade-fest.

    Just leave Astro alone, you b'stards!

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Well whaddya know

    Person Of Interest is becoming a documentary.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Well whaddya know

      Person of Interest was hopelessly optimistic – positing the inventor of an ML-based crime prediction system would make some effort to keep it out of the hands of the police.

      What we're seeing in SF and elsewhere is a populace that, in the main, is only too happy to be surveilled. That will, in fact, shell out quite a bit of money for surveillance on their own property. That will encourage and support the growth and overreach of the police state. For a while politicians needed to deploy scare tactics ("superpredators", "terrorists", "child abusers") to persuade the foolish into supporting these programs, but now US citizens (and many others) are into it and go along willingly.

    2. Al fazed

      Re: Well whaddya know

      Or Minority Report.


  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Have I missed something, or am I truly thick? (Please be kind)

    From the article, "The policy's supporters hope it will help the cops tackle future similar outbreaks of crime, and boost public safety, without treading on people's privacy."

    How can it not tread on people's privacy?


    1. EvilDrSmith Silver badge

      Re: Huh?

      Sort of my reaction.

      If I understand this right:

      The private cameras already exist and thus are already filming people - seemingly a privacy issue there already, but it's existing.

      SF plod can already access camera records for specific dates and times (Is this only with a warrant? I assume so).

      I inferred from the article that SF Plod can access real time camera feed if they have a warrant (not sure if that is correct).

      Now (i.e. the new rule), they can access real time camera feed by asking, if the camera owner says yes. But if the camera owner says no, presumably they could then force the issue, if they got a warrant? So if they want to get access to real-time camera feed, they already can.

      So isn't the underlying issue how many privately owned cameras are pointed at publicly accessible areas?

      Because if the fear is that the police will mis-use this, if they can do it anyway with a warrant, what gives you confidence that the process of getting a warrant won't be just as readily subverted?

      Possibly easier and more reliable to control the cameras than to control the people that would seek to mis-use them.

      1. jvf

        Re: Huh?

        "So isn't the underlying issue how many privately owned cameras are pointed at publicly accessible areas?"

        Nailed it.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seen the same happen in Belgium

    With intervals of some years:

    "We will only use these cameras for special events"

    "We will never use these cameras for speed control"

    "We also use them for speeding fines"

    I speculate that the only outstanding announcement is:

    "We have bought the Australian software that allows scanning for handheld mobile phone use"

    That's all "official" cameras, mind. Not sure when they feel brave enough to go the whole way to (ab)use private cameras like the SF cops but I'm sure that the announcement is already making politicians with dictatorial tendencies salivate..

  8. low_resolution_foxxes

    I am surprised.

    I almost expected this to include Ring doorbells.

    It strikes me that this is a 'rubber stamping' of the use of commercial live video feeds, assuming the businesses want to share it.

    There is a major difference between 'peaceful civil protest' and uhh.... 'violent anarchy', for which theoretically both sides of the political tribes can be guilty of.

    In San Francisco mind, I suspect it leans heavily in one direction.

  9. bondyboy

    A boon for non cloud connected surveillance systems?

  10. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

    "significant events with public safety concerns;"

    ... which is euphemistic code for "political protests."

  11. tekHedd

    "For review..."


    "The rules sunset in 15 months after they go into effect, at which time the legislation comes back to the Board of Supervisor *to be made permanent without any serious examination of the results*."

  12. Marty McFly Silver badge

    What does this mean on the tech side??

    Lots of camera systems out there. IP-based cameras that are Internet connect are the easy ones - give the cops credentials and they are in.

    What about cameras not connected to the Internet? Do they let the cops in the building and provide them a comfy chair to sit in while they watch? And how far does that go?

    "I see you have a camera facing the street. Under SFO law, I demand immediate access to your facility to watch the camera feed."

  13. bertkaye

    not open to misuse at all

    Yes, this will certainly not ever get misused by a city with a terribly corrupt government, and cops who will not arrest a catalytic converter thief caught in progress, and a street fenced off by the city for openly injected drugs use, and homeless defecating on the sidewalks all over. And hello, Winston Smith. What are you writing?

  14. William Higinbotham

    A lot of county law enforcements are doing this:-)

  15. Al fazed

    UK here we come ?

    I read recently that Amazon has turned the footage from privately owned security cameras (door bell cameras etc) into "Prime time" TV (pun not intended) for our entertainment.

    I therefore surmise that some media company (saying nowt) has paid off what I assume are grown up hippies, who now make up the local government of Cali.

    I also surmise that Hollywood is going to lose more of it's shine as your local neighbourhood, budding "film directors" also rise to meet the new opportunities, in order to get more ad income via the Internet where there must be plenty would be consumers of their products - memed or not.

    Looking forward to a new series of "Jack Arse".............


  16. William Higinbotham

    Is this is a bit creepy?

    Local police like to help parents monitor their children's computer usage

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