Police to Gain Access to Private Home Security Cameras in…

When George Orwell was fleshing out his idea for 1984, his seminal novel about the dangers of “Big Brother” and unfettered surveillance, even he didn’t dare to imagine some of the heinous overreaches that we’ve seen in America today.

Thanks largely to the advent of the internet, it has become ever simpler for the powers that be to invade our lives.  Between social media, email , and phone records, our every move is detailed in some way, in some report, at a data center for a company whose lawyers are very, very good at justifying the whole thing.

Now, in one of California’s most prominent cities, another Orwellian nightmare is emerging.

In a 7-4 vote on Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors agreed to test Mayor London Breed’s controversial plan to overhaul the city’s surveillance practices, which will allow police to access private security cameras in real time.

Supervisors Catherine Stefani, Aaron Peskin, Gordon Mar, Matt Dorsey, Myrna Melgar, Rafael Mandelman and Ahsha Safaí voted to approve the trial run, while Connie Chan, Dean Preston, Hillary Ronen and Shamann Walton voted in dissent.

The retort was stern, to say the least.

“I know the thought process is, ‘Just trust us, just trust the police department.’ But the reality is people have been violating civil liberties since my ancestors were brought here from an entirely, completely different continent,” Walton — the board president and District 10 representative — said.

The police added a few salient guardrails into the program.

Under the new policy, police can access up to 24 hours of live video of outdoor footage from private surveillance cameras owned by individuals or businesses without a warrant as long as the camera’s owner allows it. Police must meet one of three outlined criteria to use their newfound power: they must be responding to a life-threatening emergency, deciding how to deploy officers in response to a large public event or conducting a criminal investigation that was approved in writing by a captain or higher-ranking police official.

Still, this is precisely the sort of thing that would have Orwell not only rolling in his grave, but kicking at the lid of his coffin as well.


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