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San Francisco faces hearing for summary judgment in protestor surveillance lawsuit

San Francisco faces hearing for summary judgment in protestor surveillance lawsuit

Civil rights nonprofits this Friday will ask for a summary judgment in a lawsuit against the City and County of San Francisco, which accuses the San Francisco Police Department of illegally surveilling political protesters.

The livestreamed proceedings from San Francisco Superior court are scheduled to begin at 9:30am Pacific time, when the plaintiffs will argue that the police broke a law the board of supervisors passed  banning official use of surveillance cameras.

Facial recognition and other biometric systems are included in that ban.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California filed suit in October 2020 after they say they learned city police viewed feeds of protests from 400 privately owned cameras.

The network, in and around tony Union Square, was trained on primarily Black-led protesters angry about police brutality experienced by people of color as they moved through the area.

The spark was the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis the previous May, setting off months of demonstrations globally.

The EFF and ACLU filed the suit on behalf of protesters Hope Williams, Nathan Sheard and Nestor Reyes.

They say the case is has taken on new importance with the city’s mayor and Chris Larsen, a Board member at the Electronic Privacy information Center and tech billionaire-cum-surveillance camera enthusiast mischaracterizing the dispute.

Law enforcement agencies have tied into other video networks to surveil and use facial recognition. The Los Angeles Police Department, for example, contacted owners of Ring doorbells near protests to get footage of police violence protesters (pay wall).

Opposition to facial recognition systems used for indiscriminate surveillance seems to be irrelevant to the United Kingdom’s police minister, who says time spent coming up with best practices and use guidance for police is time wasted.

The minister, Kit Malthouse, has been quoted in Tech Monitor saying that ethics frameworks are “generally for more-mature technology.”

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