San Diego Approves Privacy Board, Addresses Public Concerns

The City Council of San Diego has approved the creation of a Privacy Board which will advise on the protection of resident and visitor privacy, the acquisition and use of surveillance technologies, and the security of the data collected. 

The Privacy Board will be made up of nine volunteer members, six of whom must be city residents, appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the council. It will also include at least one attorney or legal scholar with expertise in privacy or civil rights; a certified auditor or public accountant; a computer hardware, software or encryption security professional; and a member of an organization or researcher that focuses on open government and transparency. At least four members must be from equity-focused organizations “serving or protecting the rights of communities and groups historically subjected to disproportionate surveillance.”

The city has created the Privacy Board to address the public’s concerns regarding privacy and the use of the collected data. These concerns came to the forefront a few years ago when the city installed 3,000 streetlights equipped with cameras, microphones, and sensors as part of the Smart Streetlights program. In September  of 2020, the administration deactivated the smart systems until surveillance ordinances were in place.

Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe said: “I want the public to know that oversight is a good thing. Technology is imperative in the way that we conduct city business but that does not mean that we get a blank check to do so. That does not mean that we can do so without a check and a balance, and I do see that this board is helping to provide that.”

The board will provide advice and technical assistance to the city on best practices to protect privacy rights, conduct meetings and use other public forums to collect and receive public input, review all new and existing surveillance technology’s Surveillance Impact Report and Surveillance Use Policy and submit annual reports and recommendations to the council regarding surveillance technologies.