Questions & Answers

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What is the TRUST SD Coalition?

The Transparent and Responsible Use of Surveillance Technology San Diego (TRUST SD) Coalition was originally formed to address the widespread and secretive use, installation, and acquisition of the Smart Streetlights technology that is being deployed all over San Diego County. TRUST SD is now leading the call for community oversight of the use of all surveillance technology and a strong, legally enforceable ordinance to address privacy and civil liberty issues. To that end, we wrote a community-focused ordinance that will put in place community oversight and transparency essential for our Democracy. We educate community members through community forums and workshops around the county as well as city council members and other government and elected officials through our lobbying efforts. We advocate for community-led solutions to all problems we face as a city. We are 100% community-centered and community-driven.

TRUST SD is made up of 30 local community organizations that represent various sectors of our communities.

Q.Does the TRUST coalition oppose all mass surveillance?

TRUST SD has authored an ordinance that brings transparency and community oversight to all mass surveillance technologies currently in use in San Diego, as well as all surveillance technologies that will be used in the future. The ordinance establishes a community-led board that will recommend whether any particular mass surveillance technology should be used or rejected. The San Diego City Council will have final say.

Q. What do you mean by mass surveillance technology?

Some examples of mass surveillance technology include: cameras and microphones that surveil the public, facial recognition software, devices that collect biometrics such as DNA, and systems that track the electronic activities of the public.

Q. Doesn't mass surveillance technology help solve crime?

Many differing opinions exist on whether mass surveillance is effective or appropriate, and to what extent it should be used. Our ordinance establishes a public commission to hear from the community and work to find the best outcome.

Q. What is the difference betweeen TRUST SD's ordinance and ordinances written by others?

TRUST SD's ordinance was developed with the input of 27 community organizations in San Diego, taking into account the opinions expressed at community forums held throughout San Diego. Our ordinance was also modeled on successful efforts from other cities, such as Oakland and Seattle. In comparison, other proposals did not undergo this same process, and may represent more narrow interests.

You can read the complete proposed Surveillance Ordinance and Privacy Advisory Commission here. You can read the ordinances as passed unanimously by City Council in November 2020 here.

Q. What is San Diego's "Smart Streetlight" surveillance system?

By 2019, more than 4,000 cameras and microphones were installed on or inside streetlights throughout San Diego. In 2020, the number will climb to 8,000. San Diegans were not consulted during the acquisition or installation of this system. Police now operate the camera system with no oversight, following a usage policy they write for themselves.

Q. How can I support TRUST SD's ordinance?

Please make your friends and neighbors aware of this issue. In addition, please contact your city council representative, community group, and your favorite news organization. Let them know you support the TRUST Coalition's ordinance.

Q. Why should I care about mass surveillance, if I have nothing to hide?

San Diegans have a 4th Amendment right to privacy, but it is under constant challenge from over-reaching government agencies. Much as some people rely on their right to free speech or right to practice religion, others rely on their right of privacy. We must defend all these rights in order to keep any of them.

Q. How will TRUST SD's proposed privacy commission improve San Diego?

A privacy commission will bring to bear members of the community with expertise from a variety of sectors. The commission will hold public meeetings to consider new and existing surveillance technology. The commission can assist the city's councilmembers with understanding multiple facets of a particular technology. For example, a commission may report on the costs, legal requirements, or technical limitations of a surveillance system. The commission can also make councilmembers aware of potential civil rights or community group concerns.