San Francisco Police Can Access Private Security Cameras

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The US city of San Francisco has decided that a pilot project will allow local police forces to temporarily and under certain circumstances access the feeds of private security cameras. However, this requires permission from the data subjects.

In the approved Surveillance Technology Policy that was approved this week by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors explains how access to third-party security cameras can support the work of the local police. The police can only gain access if permission has been given by the parties involved, but also if a court order or subpoena has imposed access. The feeds may only be used in the event of events that pose a threat to general public safety, or when an investigation into active crimes is underway. According to the policy document, monitoring will stop 24 hours after the third party has given access to the camera feed.

The images can be used for investigations into criminal offenses, but also for internal investigations into police misconduct. The police are not allowed to use facial recognition or other biometric identification methods during the monitoring. It is also prohibited to use the images to identify people or groups based on skin color, ethnicity, origin, religion or sexual orientation. This is a pilot project that will automatically expire after 15 months. It is not yet clear whether there will be a sequel.

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