San Francisco Police Want Real-Time Access to Private Surveillance Cameras

Surely no one could have predicted this:

The new proposal—championed by Mayor London Breed after November’s wild weekend of orchestrated burglaries and theft in the San Francisco Bay Area—would authorize the police department to use non-city-owned security cameras and camera networks to live monitor “significant events with public safety concerns” and ongoing felony or misdemeanor violations.

Currently, the police can only request historical footage from private cameras related to specific times and locations, rather than blanket monitoring. Mayor Breed also complained the police can only use real-time feeds in emergencies involving “imminent danger of death or serious physical injury.”

If approved, the draft ordinance would also allow SFPD to collect historical video footage to help conduct criminal investigations and those related to officer misconduct. The draft law currently stands as the following, which indicates the cops can broadly ask for and/or get access to live real-time video streams:

The proposed Surveillance Technology Policy would authorize the Police Department to use surveillance cameras and surveillance camera networks owned, leased, managed, or operated by non-City entities to: (1) temporarily live monitor activity during exigent circumstances, significant events with public safety concerns, and investigations relating to active misdemeanor and felony violations; (2) gather and review historical video footage for the purposes of conducting a criminal investigation; and (3) gather and review historical video footage for the purposes of an internal investigation regarding officer misconduct.

Posted on July 15, 2022 at 6:17 AM34 Comments


Winter July 15, 2022 7:33 AM

Given this is the US, I assume there is no effective oversight nor safeguards, there is no due process for infractions and abuse, and there are no effective remedies in case of damages or violations of rights or privacy.

Q July 15, 2022 7:45 AM

Given this is the US, it wouldn’t be the individuals that give the permission for this, it would be the for-profit companies that will decide to give the cops access to “your” private data.

So even if you don’t want to allow this to happen from your place, you won’t get to make that decision.

Clive Robinson July 15, 2022 8:44 AM

@ Bruce,

Surely no one could have predicted this

You left of the sarcasm marks…

This has been all to predictable to those who study history since the 1980’s, and definately visable to anyone who cared to look up and see the glass eyes staring at them all of this century so far…

I guess the real technical questions are,

1, Who is going to pay for all this access.
2, How much more insecure systems will become because of it.

Then there are the societal questions of privacy getting stripped back even further.

You will note that there is no differentiator of public / commercial / private space.

With “exigent circumstances” never having legal oversight, that Amazon Ring system in your home is now “Big Brother on Demand 24×365.25” watching you move around your home for any of the thousands of to be brought in “neo-crimes” with large fines just waiting to be hoovered up…

Oh as a side note, as a non US resident, the only time I’ve seen Ms London Breed mentioned it has been with respect to ideas that were to put it tactfully undesirable, and I’m not just talking loss of privacy…

The first I renember was her awarding a “certificate of honour” to Martin McGuinness a life long member of the IRA terrorist organisation, and later “one of the boys” politicians for Sinn Fein.

Then further was the e-cigarette sales ban… E-cigarettes have been found as one of the most effective ways to get people to stop smoking cigarettes thus improve life expectancy and reduced load on health care services.

Oh and then there was the ethics fine mentioned, along with not wearing a mask and attending a “function” during lockdown.

sean July 15, 2022 9:28 AM

Demonstrating, once again, that property rights are an utter sham in the US.

The country is transforming from an administrative state to a banana republic with too many nukes.

Winter July 15, 2022 9:46 AM


Demonstrating, once again, that property rights are an utter sham in the US.

It just demonstrates that the religious feelings that Americans have towards Property Rights are just as elusive as Creationism and the Holiness of Church Leaders.

Property Rights are a social construct and are only valid to the extend that the community wants to recognize them.

some rando from orlando July 15, 2022 11:00 AM

Now we need for Amazon or Google etc to come up with a way to monitor peoples thoughts. Then the government can demand access to that in real time. Then we can finally have a pre-crime division without having to foretell the future.

bear July 15, 2022 11:34 AM

Honestly wouldn’t have too much of a problem with this if it also said that

A) Police must periodically request and receive explicit permission from the camera owner to use their camera in this way. (Property rights, with no possibility of “you can’t leave the program” and no obligation to join the program.)

B) Cameras in the program must be clearly marked. (Public must know when under surveillance). I’d suggest black lettering an inch high on yellow tape.

C) Police must RESPOND when the camera owner reports a crime whose evidence can be clearly seen on the camera video. If they fail to respond, they are not allowed to expand the program because they clearly don’t have enough officers to make use of the information.

For a lot of businesses getting the police to respond when they report a crime is one of their biggest, if not the single biggest, frustrations. It is high on the list of failures of public trust that can break businesses and cripple economies.

Every legit business makes more money if it’s in a safer neighborhood. If the police actually respond when you report crimes, investing some good high-resolution cameras, watching all the footage, and reporting all the crimes you see is a far cheaper way to move to a safer neighborhood than investing in real estate.

Quantry July 15, 2022 11:48 AM

@ Winter, doubtless there will be

“…no effective remedies in case of damages…”

One who employs manual or mass-surveillance-tech on video, to produce evidence, is already “hamstrung”, and will BY DEFAULT precipitate erroneous conclusions, which thereby irreparably and extremely damage persons who had previously managed to validly and functionally fit into society.

Rape by a miriad of this kind of invasion is inextricably as criminal and morally despicable and any act, given the presumption that “innate rights and freedoms” are ever defensible.

District 6 apartheid crap this. Fear of anyone who thinks or moves. Fascism, and supremacy. Amazingly based on the disgusting irrational assumption that it is superior beings who rule, and “might is clearly right”.

lurker July 15, 2022 1:32 PM

The government of the city of SF wants to save money by using capital equipment installed and operated by private citizens. Good luck with that.

There is an assumption here that the said cameras are connected to the public internet. The public internet didn’t exist when I was last installing and maintaining surveillance camera systems. A coffee machine[1] and a fishcam[2] proved anything was possible. Little did they know. But any attempt to compell connection might have to be measured against the 4th Amendment.

[1] ‘

[2] ‘

Frank B. July 15, 2022 4:30 PM

Another nail in the coffin for democracy in America. Will her people do what needs to done or will they foolishly continue to believe that they can tweet, facebook and vote their way out of fascism?

Everyone else in the democratic world knows the answer to that already. The world needs to prepare for the major changes that American fascism is going to bring to the world.

Stick a fork in them and take ’em off the grill. They’re DONE.

JonKnowsNothing July 15, 2022 9:20 PM

Do you think that could resurrect the deleted Secret Service text exchanges from DEC37?

Nah… it’s not to collect data on the police, only on the civilians…

Jonathan Wilson July 15, 2022 9:37 PM

Houston has gone further and passed laws mandating that bars, convenience stores, nightclubs, game rooms and sex businesses install CCTV cameras as well as requiring storage of footage for 30 days minumum and forces businesses to turn over footage to the cops without a warrant within 72 hours of the request.

Clive Robinson July 16, 2022 7:07 AM

@ SpaceLifeForm,

“The insinuation that the Secret Service maliciously deleted text messages following a request is false.”

Now there is a “non denial” if ever I read one 😉

Because originally the House select committee was not claiming it was “malicious”, nor did it “insinuate” anything (nor did it later from what can be seen). It simply requested what the USSS claimed it still haf, and was rebuffed no less than three times…

So why was the USSS refusing to comply with a valid request fron the House Select Committee…

Well the false assertions in the USSS response were lgically AND’d so if you invert the composite, you also have to invert “false” to “true” so you get

“The non-insinuation that the Secret Service did not-maliciously delete text messages following a request is true.”

Take out the now redundent inversions,

“The […] Secret Service did […] delete text messages following a request is true.”

Hmmm… Me thinks that somebody does protest to much 😉

Which is maybe why the USSS could not hand them over (though the message carrier might still be able to pull them from backup).

Gert-Jan July 17, 2022 3:38 AM

surveillance cameras and surveillance camera networks

Is there a definition when a camera is a surveillance camera? Or can I simply reduce this to “cameras and networks”?

for the purposes of conducting a criminal investigation

This is a blanket approval for the SFPD to get any footage ever collected in SF (with the possible exception where this might self incriminate the owner).

Who? July 18, 2022 5:57 AM

@ Clive Robinson

With “exigent circumstances” never having legal oversight, that Amazon Ring system in your home is now “Big Brother on Demand 24×365.25” watching you move around your home for any of the thousands of to be brought in “neo-crimes” with large fines just waiting to be hoovered up…

Police access is not the problem in this case. As you say, it is the Amazon Ring system. Who cares if it is the police or a private company who gets access to it? In the cryptocurrency world there is a saying (“not your keys, not your coins”) that must be applied here.

Own your private surveillance infrastructure, and never connect it to the Internet. Any other approach is broken by design.

By the way, I love the way you account for the leap years in the 24×365.25. 🙂

Who? July 18, 2022 5:58 AM

By the way, I propose enhancing this approach. I am sure police want real-time access to cell phone, desktop and laptop webcams too. Hey, Microsoft, Apple… are you listening?

Winter July 18, 2022 6:14 AM


Ignoring of property rights has brought us to where we are now.

Honoring property right does not resolve intrusion of privacy.

Every communication channel, every store, every road, in short everything outside of your house is owned by someone else, and your house too if you rent. Which means that almost everything you say or do can be recorded and used against you by those who own whatever place or channels it is you use.

In other news, ignoring property rights was what freed the slaves in 19th century America, and elsewhere.

JonKnowsNothing July 18, 2022 7:30 AM

@ Winter @Paul @All

re: Who owns the house?

The only time you “own the house” is if you have No Mortgage or Second Mortgage or any other debt financed by the pledge of the house as collateral (1).

If you have any of the above, the financial institution actually owns the property and you have a long term rental agreement (30 years) at a defined rent. (2) If you miss payments you will be evicted (foreclosed) just like apartment dwellers.

For those who cannot afford apartments or houses and live in mobile shelters, like tents, RVs, trailers and lean-to shacks, the eviction comes at the whim of the local city council and directives to the police. There is nothing financial involved as a pretext for the eviction.


1) In the USA our government support for smaller businesses, although they can be quite large employers, requires you to pledge your house as collateral for the business loan. If you have no house, you get no loan. If you object to pledging the assets of your family, you get no loan.

2) During the last economic burp, people found out the hard way that they did not own their homes, when the banks and financial institutions robo-signed sales and transfer documents and sold the property to someone else. Other than forging the signatures on the sales documents and deed transfers, it was all 100% OK with the Banking and Financial System and the US Government and State Governments.

ResearcherZero July 20, 2022 12:54 AM

Due to all the camera equipped phones it has become increasingly difficult to frame, bash and rob innocent people. Now the police can sit back and plan it out. It will also assist police in tracking down anyone who reports them.

Givon Zirkind July 20, 2022 10:56 AM

To add some satire, from the b/w movie days of yesteryear:

Cops used to jump onto the running boards of taxis and tell the drivers to “Follow that car!” when chasing criminals.

Well, if they are going to use people’s private equipment, will the owners get paid? Or is this a new form of taxation?

EvilKiru July 20, 2022 1:12 PM

@Givon Zirkind: That’s not a line item in any budget, so no, of course they won’t be paid!

JonKnowsNothing July 21, 2022 7:29 AM

@law abiding citizen

re: Ancestral DNA

I’m not clear how ancestral DNA impacts No Warrant Needed?

Clearly, by your ID, you are well aware that No Warrant Needed is now the standard legal threshold needed to obtain any and all computer telemetry. It’s all about where the comma is placed. SCOTUS is very good at reading punctuation.

Still, I am confused how a person’s DNA is involved in an Election. Elections mean people voted for a person and that person got more votes than the other persons. I don’t see a direct link to Ancestral DNA.

There is the DNA Harvesting that goes along with No Warrant Needed and that’s certainly relevant to the Collect It All and Use It As Needed policing methods in current use.

As far a “criminals” go, you might want to ask over at EmptyWheel. BMAZ is very good at clarifying this aspect of law. You are officially “innocent” until you get through the courts of law, but you know that of course.

Winter July 21, 2022 8:00 AM


I don’t see a direct link to Ancestral DNA.

Ancestral DNA is generally used to identify people who’s personal DNA they do not have.

With the DNA of (close) relatives, it is possible to identify the owner of the unidentified DNA as a brother/son/grandson/nephew/cousin etc. of someone that can be identified. With a few close relatives, it is rather easy to narrow the number of possible originators to less than half a dozen.

JonKnowsNothing July 21, 2022 2:27 PM

@Winter, @law abiding citizen, @All

re: DNA current and ancient

@law abiding citizen is saying that one’s DNA Ancestral or Not is a marker for criminality. I’m not sure I agree with this premise.

It hearkens back to Nature v Nurture views. Some of which may have shifted recently.

  • That ones parentage and DNA ancestry are indicators of future anti-social, criminal, disruptive or illegal behavior. (1)

And conversely

  • One’s DNA ancestry is a marker for civil obedience (never question higher ranked), abiding all laws regardless of circumstances (never challenge rules), never be disruptive (shouting, being drunk or obnoxious), and never encroaching minimal law breaking (traveling 30mph in 25mph zone).

All based solely on ones DNA and DNA historical profile.

… electing a DA whose parents were murderous terrorists

If there is new information on the topic, perhaps someone will share.


1) This was one justification for Operation Condor, Dirty War in Argentina, and the Enforced Disappearance of many people with opposing views to their current governments.

It was OK to kill the parents and take their infants to be raise “properly” in an “approved system”. Evidently, the children’s DNA had nothing to do with being suitable or not suitable. It was more about the age of the children: the younger the more suitable for transfer.

Winter July 21, 2022 2:35 PM


It hearkens back to Nature v Nurture views. Some of which may have shifted recently.

That is 19th century determinism, if not simple Galton racism.

SpaceLifeForm July 21, 2022 3:25 PM

@ JonKnowsNothing

The real problem is the non-genetic inheritance.

If the parents are already a mess, and they don’t care to properly set boundaries and discipline the child, bad things can happen later. See Trump.

It is difficult for a child to realize that the parents have issues. If there is only one parent around, that could be worse. Could be better also. Either one parent ot two, if there are issues, the child will not realize there is a problem due to lack of knowledge and comprehension.

The brain is plastic at an early age, and bad ideas can be formed thru no fault of the child. It is just the childs growing brain trying to make sense of their world.

Clive Robinson July 21, 2022 4:33 PM

@ SpaceLifeForm, ALL,

Re : Single Parents

In the US and UK we are encoraged to look on single parents as being some form of feckless evil. Yet praise the widows of the military or by misfortune for bringing up their children alone…

Which brings us to your point and lead in,

“If there is only one parent around, that could be worse. Could be better also. Either one parent ot two, if there are issues, the child will not realize there is a problem due to lack of knowledge and comprehension.”

Studies in EU countries where single parents especially teenage mothers have found that the issue is not realy the number of adults a child has around them or the childs ability to comprehend. But the amount of “adult to adult” interaction they see.

Thus a child of a single parent where the community treats the parent and children as a normarl part of society tends to grow up little different than the children of a two parent family held to the same social level of acceptance.

But the child who like their parent is shuned and in effect gets abused because of it does grow up differently, sometimes better, more carring, sometimes worse, more angry.

Thus the unavoidable conclusion is that in WASP countries like the US and UK where politicians deliberately encorage social outcasting, it is for rather more than political points mileage.

That is they want to encorage social decohesion as a form of “divide and conquer” way to distract away from their own failings and have socially acceptable scapegoats to blaim.

In effect creating an Orwellian Enemy not in some distant corner of the globe, but at home where they can persecute a minority of the citizens by encoraging other citizens to “hate on them” in various ways.

In effect hate crimes but of a less visable “ism” than the older more obvious ones such as “racism” which many societies are in effect ridding themselves of…

So in effect a new twist on,

“First they came for the…”

Yet “We the people…” fall for it every time. Not realising untill too late –as US middle classes are now finding out– that “The wheels of the bus go round and round” and thus there is always new room being made to throw people under… And have them ground down and stripped of all they have achieved.

Winter July 22, 2022 12:45 AM


Thus a child of a single parent where the community treats the parent and children as a normarl part of society tends to grow up little different than the children of a two parent family held to the same social level of acceptance.

The crucial part is the “community”. Humans are social animals that must grow up in a community. Ostracizing and isolation, e.g., some forms of home schooling, result in scared adults.

There is no evidence that growing up in a caring community of “immoral” adults harms children. Be they single parents, or adults in “immoral” relations.

Btw, the number of teenage mother’s is quite high in the UK (as it is in the US), considerably more than in all it’s neighbors (including Catholic Ireland). All this UK moral outrage really is effective.

JonKnowsNothing July 22, 2022 8:29 AM

@Clive, @ Winter, ALL

re: Adult outcomes from different environments

Just to throw a spanner in this topic…

Consider carefully:

Most of the general information on the topic (single parents, family, child development) comes from social science studies. Such studies include an inherent bias from the get-go. They do not reflect the outcomes of any persons other than the specific individuals and families that are in the study.

The bias is detrimental to not only the demographics but the individuals themselves in field studies. Worse is when the studies are done based on transactional records from various agencies (social services, education, medical).

The primary bias is the expectation that everyone fits into a “norm”, that they must fit into the 80% bell curve and the 20% in the tails are either “inherently criminal” or “inherently brilliant”. Such studies are more about fitting the social curve than reality.

When the 10% in the brilliant tail encounter someone in the 80% bell, we often do not know what or how to interact. We certainly do not know how to interact with the mirror 10% at all. It comes from an internal bias that everyone must be “like us” because “we are all we know” as a form of measurement. It comes as a shock once we perceive that what we “see, know, understand” is far beyond what the other 90% does.

It does not make the other 90% criminal or stupid or inept. It actually means nothing at all – other than a step up in self-awareness.

A still in effect bias example:

Many people learn to play an instrument. Sometimes in school (not much any more) or a music center or by private instruction and sometimes just DIY learning (how to work book).

We divide this group of music players into the same bell curves; great adoration awaits the upper 10% of the curve.

We also divide this group into “those who can read musical notation” (there are a number of versions of such notation) and “those who cannot read musical notation”. We even go farther: “who can sight read musical notation” (also applied to theatrical production auditions where you are handed a script to “sight read and perform”).

If you do not fall into this categories there is a social bias that you are “not a musician” and your music is “sub par, not important or banal”. These views are often reinforced by music critics and the extreme 1% elite musicians.

It’s still a bias. The music played, created, sung, strummed or plunked is still music. An individual may not enjoy a particular rendition but it is still music. (1)

Beware the bias …


1) I enjoyed an impromptu concert by an 8yo while standing in a queue. The parents were totally tuned out of course. The 8yo sang a lovely song a cappella, jazz style, riffing with spontaneous verse about why they were standing in the queue. It was not musically adept, not high quality but music it still was.

AndyJartz August 18, 2022 12:24 PM

Detroit has a real-time system (kind of, as there are so many being monitored no one can watch it all in real time), and businesses pay to join it. Called Project Greenlight, businesses pay a fee to have specific cameras provided by a supplier installed, along with a blinking green light to let everyone know that the business is part of the program.

The problem was businesses like gas stations and party stores had “issues” with violent crime and robberies of customers. The blinking green light lets prospective customers know that the police are monitoring the business and the criminals that they are being filmed.

Seems to work. I still top my tank off in the suburbs before I head into the city proper, though.

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