The Latest: Streetlight Surveillance

A streetlight abutted by a surveillance device is pictured with homes and the ocean in the background

This is a Live Post that will be updated with the latest information on San Diego's proposal to install and operate "smart streetlights" surveillance devices. We will update this same page as new information becomes available.

Do you want to get involved in working on the issue of "smart" streetlight surveillance in San Diego? Head over to our Join Us page to submit your email address, and we will contact you to get started.

October 8, 2023

On Thursday, October 5, a new draft of the city's proposed contract with the surveillance vendor Ubicquia was considered by the Privacy Advisory Board. They concluded that they would form a subcommittee to analyze the contract and provide their analysis to members of the City Council. They voted to recommend that the City Council's Public Safety Committee delay any vote on the contract until the Privacy Advisory Board is able to provide their analysis.

On Friday, October 6, the City Council's Public Safety Committee met in a special session for the sole purpose of considering the Ubicquia contract and new use policies for smart streetlights and ALPR that had not previously been seen publicly. San Diego Privacy formally submitted a series of concerns in the form of questions, regarding the draft contract.

No changes to the Ubicquia contract were sought by the Public Safety Committee. However, the police department's representative at the meeting made references to significant new internal policies for protecting the systems.

The committee voted to move the item to consideration by the full City Council at a later, undetermined date. The committee did not attach a recommendation on whether the City Council should accept the contract, as the committee could have done, citing the lack of analysis from the Privacy Advisory Board.

We believe the contract and the new use policies are likely to be docketed for City Council consideration within 30 days.

August 12, 2023

San Diego City Council approved updated Surveillance Use Policies for both the streetlight surveillance camera policy and the automatic license plate tracking policy at the meeting on August 1.

The San Diego Police Department now believes that it is in the clear to negotiate a contract with the vendor Ubicquia and the ALPR vendor Flock. The department believes it will be ready to move that contract through the city's standard purchasing approval process quickly, and according to Mayor Gloria, they would like to have these tools of mass surveillance installed and operating by the end of 2023.

The next opportunity for public engagement on the "smart streetlights" will likely be when the City Council's Public Safety Committee dockets the negotiated contract with Ubicquia for preliminary approval. 

July 15, 2023

The "smart streetlights with license plate tracking" proposal from San Diego's police department is scheduled to be heard at the Public Safety Committee on Wednesday, July 19th at 2PM.

An in-person press conference, hosted by the TRUST SD Coalition, is scheduled on the same day at 12PM, in the plaza in front of City Hall, at 202 C Street, 92101.

On July 11th, San Diego Privacy requested that Councilmember von Wilpert, chair of the Public Safety Committee, allow us the opportunity to present the findings of our report, "Getting Smart", which details deficiencies in the department's proposed policies. Councilmember von Wilpert's office rejected our request, and also confirmed that only the San Diego Police Department had been invited to present.

July 1, 2023

On June 22, 2023, San Diego's Privacy Advisory Board voted to recommend that the city's "smart streetlights with license plate tracking" proposal be rejected.

The next step for San Diego's "smart streetlights" surveillance proposal is for the proposal to be considered by San Diego City Council. The first step in that process, typically, is for the proposal to be first be considered by one of the City Council's committees.

In this case, we believe the smart streetlights proposal will be heard at the City Council's Public Safety Committee. There, four members of City Council will consider the proposal and vote on whether the proposal should advance to be considered by the full City Council at a later date.

The next meeting of the Public Safety Committee is scheduled for July 19, 2023. It is unconfirmed whether the smart streetlights proposal will be on the July 19 meeting's agenda. Please continue to check this page for further updates.

June 26, 2023

A partial video recording of the Privacy Advisory Board's meeting, where the city's "smart streetlights" proposal was considered, was posted by the City of San Diego. However, the recording was missing more than 2 hours worth of the meeting's proceedings. As a result, on June 26, 2023, we posted the full video recording of the meeting on our YouTube channel.

We were pleased to find that, within hours after we posted the videos to our YouTube channel, the City of San Diego replaced their partial recording with a different version that contained the full meeting.

June 22, 2023

The City of San Diego's Privacy Advisory Board formally voted to reject the policies offered by the San Diego Police Department. The vote was 6-0 to reject the policy, with 2 members of the board absent.

The board's recommendation for rejection will now follow the proposal as it goes to consideration by City Council members, who have final authority on whether to authorize the system.

June 17, 2023

On June 17, 2023, San Diego Privacy published our report "Getting Smart: Protecting privacy while controlling and measuring the outcomes of streetlight surveillance."

The report compares the proposal's Use Policy, which was proposed by the San Diego Police Department, against standards developed by the Department of Homeland Security and by the Security Industry Association. The report identifies 43 deficiencies and 69 recommendations to bring the department's Use Policy into alignment with widely used standards and best practices.

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