Activists call for end to ‘Smart Streetlights’ in San Diego

SAN DIEGO -- Activists are calling for the City of San Diego to stop its use of surveillance cameras that collect real-time data including video and audio.

The "Smart Streetlights" were approved by the San Diego City Council in December 2016, and there are currently 4,700 installed according to the city's website. The "intelligent sensors" on the lights collect data continuously, which the city says helps save money and increase public safety.

In a press conference Tuesday morning, activists called the technology a major privacy and civil rights concern.

"For every 1,000th person in San Diego, there are almost two and a half cameras watching," said Geneviéve Jones-Wright. "What is very concerning and troubling is that these cameras were installed and are being used all over this city without any oversight."

Jones-Wright says the perceived lack of oversight paired with the capabilities of the technology should be cause for alarm. She also voiced concern over the lack of public awareness that they are being watched and listened to when walking the streets of San Diego.

"With these cameras having facial recognition capabilities and audio, we don't expect that our conversations are going to be recorded walking down a public street," said Jones-Wright.

However the smart streetlights have also garnered positive responses from some residents, who say they don't mind the extra surveillance if it means more public safety.

"It makes me feel safe knowing that we're being watched like that," said San Diego resident Uche Chiemeka. "If anything was to happen it would be recorded."

Another resident also chimed in her support citing better resources for law enforcement to solve crimes.

"I think I'm happy to have these cameras in case, you know, situations arise and you can catch it on camera and review it," she said.

Multiple community organizations are calling for a halt on the use of the smart streetlights and for oversight to be put in place.

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