A right to privacy. Is the tide turning against surveillance cameras in SF?

Surveillance cameras are insidious, intrusive and a violation of a right to privacy.

Invasions of privacy through omnipresent security cameras take place in public and more dangerously are utilized by ordinary citizens. Private security cameras are an epidemic in San Francisco.  Installation of  private security cameras are unregulated. There is scant enforcement of laws regulating the use of security cameras by the average citizen.

Video surveillance abuse is a terrifying reality, well chronicled in cinema. Following is a Wikipedia link to Surveillance related film.


San Francisco’s famous Castro District is now taking a look at the presence of surveillance cameras and their impact on the average citizen.

Excerpted from San Francisco Examiner 6.11.2021

Crime-fighting camera networks are springing up in commercial areas all around San Francisco. But public opinion toward the practice could be shifting following revelations last summer that one such video network in Union Square became a tool of police surveillance.

Just take a look at the vote this week from a property owner group that turned down a nearly $700,000 donation to set up a centralized surveillance camera system in the Castro, said Matthew Guariglia, a privacy advocate with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Security cameras I 6.11.2021

“I think Castro might be a line in the sand where the tide begins to turn, so to speak,” Guariglia said. “Even though each neighborhood is its own microcosm with its own political priorities, we might begin to see pushback all over The City toward this type of surveillance.”

Facing privacy concerns from LGBTQ groups, the Castro-Upper Market Community Benefit District became the first of its kind Monday to reject a proposed camera network like the ones already rolled out in Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf and other areas.

The proposal would have called for installing cameras at crime hot spots along Market Street with funding from Ripple founder Chris Larsen, the same tech investor who is paying for camera networks in other parts of The City in an effort to make San Francisco safer.


The idea is to set up cameras that are connected to the same system, rather than standalone devices owned by individual shopkeepers or homeowners, so that police can easily access the footage upon request after a crime occurs in the area.

The networks are being run by special assessment districts, known as community benefit districts or business improvement districts, that collect fees from local property and business owners to make public safety and quality-of-life improvements in their areas.

The Castro vote is the first to come since privacy advocates made the troubling revelation that San Francisco police gained direct, live access to the Union Square cameras last May and June, as looting unfolded during civil unrest over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd.

Privacy advocates worried the cameras could have a chilling effect on First Amendment activities if used to monitor protests or even events like the Pride Parade, as The Examiner later revealed.

But whether the Castro vote is more than a one-off has yet to be seen.

Surveillance street camera in city and icons
Street camera for surveillance