It’s not like the judiciary is going to hand down a sentence for crimes the anarchists commit that is caught on these cameras
Amid the violent riots by radical Antifa and Black Lives Matter protesters, there’s a new threat to civil liberties.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation warns the San Francisco Police Department accessed a network of business district cameras to spy on protesters recently.
“These unregulated camera networks pose huge threats to civil liberties,”Electronic Frontier Foundation
The cameras are operated by the Union Square Business Improvement District, a taxation district set up by San Francisco but run by a private group.
Records obtained by EFF revealed San Francisco officers accessed “real-time live access to hundreds of cameras” as well as a data dump of footage.
The cameras are Motorola Solutions’ Avigilon, which are high definition and can be used for facial recognition.
EFF said the system was set up in 2012 when cryptocurrency mogul Chris Larsen provided money for cameras to be run by businesses within special districts.
Footage can be shared with other entities, including individuals and law enforcement, with little oversight, EFF said. There are six districts that blanket neighborhoods and more in the area, and the largest is the Union Square BID.
Logs obtained by EFF show police regularly use footage to review activities for alleged looting and assault.
“However, SFPD has gone beyond simply investigating particular incident reports and instead engaged in indiscriminate surveillance of protesters,”EFF
For example, police got all 12 hours of footage from every camera from 5 p.m. May 30 to 5 a.m. May 31.
“While this may have coincided with an uptick in property destruction in the protests’ vicinity, the fact that SFPD requested all footage without any kind of specificity means that anyone who attended the protests – or indeed was simply passing by – could have been caught in the surveillance dragnet,”EFF
Live access to the cameras also was documented.
“These unregulated camera networks pose huge threats to civil liberties, even in times outside of the largest protest in U.S. history. In addition to cameras mounted outside of or facing private businesses, many of the special assessment district cameras also provide full view of public parks, pedestrian walkways, and other plazas where people might congregate, socialize, or protest.”EFF
While “gatherings” may involve protests of police, “law enforcement access to these cameras could open people up to retribution, harassment, or increased surveillance and ultimately chill participation in civic society,” EFF said.