A new court case has been brought against the City and County of San Francisco for the use of surveillance cameras by the San Francisco Police Department, in violation of a 2019 city ordinance, to control protests in early June following the killing of George Floyd. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California are representing the three plaintiffs in the suit, community activists who participated in the demonstrations, alleging a chilling effect on freedom of speech and assembly. The surveillance apparatus belonged to a third party, the Union Square Business Improvement Distric, and its use was granted voluntarily to law enforcement, following a request.
Use of surveillance and facial recognition technology is widespread among California law enforcement, but such policies are often opaque and unacknowledged. Police Departments have been able to evade legislative and regulatory curbs on their surveillance activities through third-party arrangements. Such potential for non-compliance strengthens the case for approaches such as that taken in Portland, OR, where facial recognition technology is banned for all, not simply for the public sector.