San Pablo council stalls plan to add surveillance cameras citywide

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The San Pablo City Council on Monday voted to stall plans to add over 100 cameras to increase surveillance of the city, following concern expressed by the ACLU of Northern California that one of the vendors, Vigilant Solutions, has an agreement to sell data to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), according to the East Bay Express.

As we reported last week, the proposal aimed to spend $2.5 million to install 60 situational awareness cameras and 56 Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR) cameras throughout the city. The surveillance expansion, the city says, is due to the success of the existing system of 134 situational awareness cameras and 16 automated license plate reader cameras that have helped reduce gun violence in San Pablo since 2011.

On Monday afternoon, however, San Pablo City Council put the brakes on the proposed contracts after receiving a notice of concern from an ACLU of Northern California attorney. In the letter, Technology and Civil Liberties Attorney Matt Cagle expressed concern over the proposed contract with license plate reader systems provider Vigilant Solutions.

The ALPR systems “collect and store license plates of all cars that pass through ALPR cameras’ fields of view, which, after being matched to dates, times, and location, are assembled into a database that reveals sensitive information about where individuals work, live, associate, and visit,” said Cagle’s letter, which is posted in full below.

Cagle says that database could be accessible to ICE due to Vigilant Solutions’ business partnership with the federal immigration enforcement agency. The attorney said Vigilant has not been forthcoming about its relationship with ICE. Also, he said, the City of San Pablo lacks written restrictions protecting its citizens’ privacy, part of the reason the ACLU of Northern California urged the city to “withhold approval of this item.”

“No community should acquire or deploy license plate readers without proper safeguards that protect all residents, given the invasiveness of the technology and the breadth of revealing information it can collect about individuals,” Cagle’s letter added.

Cagle recommended the establishment of a policy that, in part, “explicitly prohibits the voluntary sharing of ALPR information with federal entities such as ICE.”

After the San Pablo council voted to delay approval of the contracts, the ACLU of Northern California declared victory on social media.

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