With the spread of advanced spying technology, such as social media monitoring and cell-phone tracking, it’s easy to forget about the most ubiquitous form of surveillance—regular old security cameras.
But the San Francisco County District Attorney’s Office sure hasn’t forgotten. Prosecutors maintain a map and dataset of thousands of privately and publicly owned security cameras. When law enforcement is investigating a crime, officers can refer to this information to identify which cameras may have caught relevant footage. And through a public records request under the San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance, EFF recently obtained most of this data—the locations of 2,753 cameras—and we are now making it available to the public.
The most obvious takeaway: the listed surveillance cameras are not evenly distributed across our community. Instead, the D.A. has collected the locations of cameras in distinct clusters. Generally, these fall into two categories: a) commercial/tourist areas; and b) lower income neighborhoods.