Students call on City Council to set parameters for smart street light data use

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SAN DIEGO — UC San Diego students are pushing back against the use of smart street lights in the San Diego area, joining a growing group of community members who have spoken out against the technology.

Student Alisha Saxena, chief of staff of local affairs for the university’s student government, addressed members of the San Diego City Council during a committee meeting last week.

“We’ve been following the issue of smart street lights and we’re baffled,” Saxena said. “We’re baffled by the lack of information which the public has received on this potentially far-reaching program, we’re baffled that members of this City Council, as reported by the Union-Tribune, were seemingly unaware of law enforcement’s access to this data — access which was not included in the original proposal, which the public approved.”

The street lights were approved several years ago and now exist in the thousands across the San Diego area. The smart street lights have the ability to capture video and audio, along with a wide range of other data.

Police began using footage from the smart street lights in recent years to identify and locate criminal suspects, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

One recent case in which this tactic proved successful involved finding the November Church’s Chicken shooting suspect, the newspaper reported.

“We will not stand to be baffled any longer, and as a result we have come up with some requests for the City Council to consider and act upon,” Saxena said.

She listed several items she and other UC San Diego students are calling the City Council to act upon, which include making an independent commission to review the program, hosting a town hall for residents and notifying the public whenever law enforcement officers use data from the street lights.

“The community was robbed of having a discussion with law enforcement about privacy concerns, discriminatory concerns and more,” Saxena said.

Students are calling for the town hall to happen no later than April.

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