Council pursues ordinances to regulate use of surveillance tech, protect privacy

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San Diego City Council

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – San Diego City Council Tuesday voted to take the next step toward establishing ordinances regulating San Diego’s use, acquisition and funding of surveillance technology and establishing a Privacy Advisory Board.

The council voted unanimously to pass the first reading of both ordinances, which are intended to increase accountability within city government and law enforcement.

“Today, my council colleagues joined me in taking the necessary next step to protect the civil rights and civil liberties of all San Diegans,” Councilwoman Monica Steppe said. “The city of San Diego has a chance to lead here, and I look forward to the continuous collaboration with community organizations, my colleagues on the council, and our city departments to ensure that we do.”

The Surveillance Ordinance will require transparency, accountability, and oversight for all surveillance technology proposals, and it ensures the public can learn about the civil rights and civil liberties impact of surveillance technology before it is acquired by the city. If acquired, the use of surveillance technology must be re-examined each year to ensure any benefits outweigh the potential civil liberties and civil rights costs.

The Privacy Advisory Board will provide residents with a public process to evaluate how the city monitors its residents. The creation of such a process is intended to allow the city to respond appropriately to concerns about civil liberties and privacy during a time of rapidly evolving technology.

Steppe said these ordinances will add the oversight required to build and maintain public trust.

San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit raised concerns about the way the ordinances were written. He said while he supported oversight, the laws were “drafted with little to no input from law enforcement, victim advocacy groups” and other parties.

Nisleit urged a more cautious, measured approach to the ordinances.

Tuesday was the first reading. Both ordinances are subject to additional discussion before a second reading later this year or early in 2021.

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