Benoît Prieur/Victor Tangermann
Hardly Missed Ye

Oh No, Spying on Protestors Might Make the Public Distrust Surveillance

byDan Robitzski
7. 6. 20
Benoît Prieur/Victor Tangermann

Business Insider asks: Won't someone think of the surveillance panopticon?

Fool Me Once

Last month, San Diego’s police department tapped video footage from the city’s smart streetlight cameras in order to identify and spy on Black Lives Matter protestors.

It’s a chilling use of the technology: Using cameras ostensibly installed as a public safety and transit analytics tool to instead surveil protestors exercising their First Amendment rights. But the police requests may have an unintended effect, according to Business Insider — they could turn the public off so-called “smart city” developments in the future.


It’s easy to dunk on an argument like that. Won’t someone think of the poor, poor, high-tech surveillance panopticon?

But Business Insider raises a valid point. San Diego police have been using video footage from the streetlight cameras since 2018, and the myriad ways in which law enforcement surveils the public remain poorly understood and shrouded in secrecy. Upon learning about them, why would anyone ever want a camera pointed their way again?


Hands Tied

Unfortunately, in San Diego’s case, fixing the problem would prove difficult.

The cameras were first introduced in 2016, Business Insider reports, and the stated goal was to gather data that could be used to refine the city’s transit system. But because General Electric put $30 million into the program, the city can’t just take the cameras down without owing the company a whole lot of dough.

READ MORE: The San Diego police’s reported use of smart streetlights to gather evidence against protesters may turn the public against future smart-city solutions [Business Insider]

More on police surveillance: Cops Are Using Military Spy Planes To Surveil BLM Protestors


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