Mar 152013
 

I previously wrote about Seattle City Council Bill 117730, which would require city departments to receive Council approval before acquiring most surveillance equipment. In the few days between the time when I received a copy of the bill and the introduction of the bill at the March 6, 2013, meeting of the Council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology Committee, the bill was revised. When I wrote to a commitee member’s legislative aid for advice on how best to provide my feedback, I was pleased to learn that it had already been received via the aforementioned blog post.

At the March 6 meeting, the committee heard related public testimony and discussed the bill, specifically referencing the then-new version, which I later learned to be number 10. At least a half-dozen people, including Jennifer Shaw of ACLU-WA and I, spoke in favor of the bill during the public comment period of the meeting. No one expressed opposition. Clark Kimerer of Seattle Police Department was in attendance, and when this item of business was up for discussion, he relayed that with changes included in the latest version of the bill, SPD did not oppose it. It is now scheduled for discussion and possible vote at the March 18, 2013, meeting of the full council. I believe it is likely to pass.

I compared the two versions of the bill and will discuss each of the changes here. While I believe further revision would be good, I support all of these changes, and I support passage of the bill even as-is.

In the first whereas statement, concerns raised about recent incidents with SPD’s acquisition of drones and with their installation of surveillance cameras on the waterfront was expanded to also reference cameras installed downtown.

In the second whereas statement, in addition to the weighing of benefits of surveillance equipment against its potential downsides, the bill now expresses the desire to balance those benefits with the need to protect privacy, anonymity, free speech, association, and equal protection. It’s great to see City Council formally acknowledge the need to protect privacy and anonymity.

The definition of “surveillance equipment” is broadened by altering “capable of capturing and recording data” to “capable of capturing or recording data.” Additionally, “Airborne vehicles” is changed to “unmanned aircraft.”

In the section describing information that must be included in proposed operational protocols provided to City Council before deployment or installation surveillance equipment (SMC 14.18.20), paragraph ‘D’, a requirement for disclosure of “whether the equipment will be installed permanently or temporarily” is added.

The following paragraph, ‘E’, was altered to add a requirement to provide description of the privacy and anonymity rights affected, and to stipulate that proposed operational protocols must include not only a description of privacy protections and limitations of risk of potential abuse of surveillance equipment, but also a plan for mitigation of such.

The paragraph about public outreach was replaced. Instead of a description of the nature and extent of outreach performed, the bill now requires (in paragraph ‘H’) plans for public outreach for each community in which the surveillance equipment is intended to be used, including opportunity for public meetings, opportunity for comment periods, and written agency responses to public comments.

Two new paragraphs are added, requiring disclosure of whether a department intends to share access to surveillance equipment and data collected with other government entities and a description of training to be provided to operators or users of the equipment.

The last four paragraphs of the bill are now designated as SMC 14.18.40. One of them is new, making exemption for surveillance equipment other than cameras on unmanned aircraft “that will be installed or used on a temporary basis for the purpose of a criminal investigation pursuant to a lawfully issued search warrant, or under exigent circumstances as defined in case law.”

A unified diff of the bill versions I compared follows:

--- cb_1177370_previous	2013-03-13 18:35:58.417704565 -0700
+++ cb_1177370_v10	2013-03-13 18:41:10.063396322 -0700
@@ -8,13 +8,14 @@
 and establishing a new Chapter 14.18 in the Seattle Municipal Code.
 
 WHEREAS, recent incidents involving the City's acquisition of drones and
-the installation of video cameras along Seattle's waterfront
+the installation of video cameras along Seattle's waterfront and downtown 
 have raised concerns over privacy and the lack of public process leading up to
 the decisions to use certain surveillance equipment; and
 
 WHEREAS, while surveillance equipment may help promote public safety in
 some contexts, such as red light cameras, the benefits of such
-technologies should be 
+technologies should be balanced with the need to protect privacy and
+anonymity, free speech and association, and equal protection;
 weighed against the potential downsides, including impacts on privacy; and
 
 WHEREAS, while the courts have established that people generally do not
@@ -57,13 +58,13 @@
 comprising operational protocols includes, at a minimum, the information
 required in Section 14.18.20.
 
-"Surveillance equipment" means equipment capable of capturing and
+"Surveillance equipment" means equipment capable of capturing or
 recording data, including images, videos, photographs or audio operated
 by or at the direction of a City department that may deliberately or
 inadvertently capture activities of individuals on public or private
 property, regardless of whether "masking" or other technology might be
 used to obscure or prevent the equipment from capturing certain views.
-"Surveillance equipment" includes drones or airborne vehicles and any
+"Surveillance equipment" includes drones or unmanned aircraft and any
 attached equipment used to collect data. "Surveillance equipment" does
 not include a handheld or body-worn device, a camera installed in or on
 a police vehicle, a camera installed in or on any vehicle or along a
@@ -97,10 +98,13 @@
 
 #. How and when a department proposes to use the surveillance equipment,
 such as whether the equipment will be operated continuously or used only
-under specific circumstances.
+under specific circumstances, and whether the equipment will be
+installed permanently or temporarily
 
-#. How the department's use of the equipment will be regulated to
-protect privacy and limit the risk of potential abuse.
+#. A description of the privacy and anonymity rights affected and a
+mitigation plan describing
+how the department's use of the equipment will be regulated to
+protect privacy, anonymity, and limit the risk of potential abuse.
 
 #. A description of how and when data will be collected and retained and
 who will have access to any data captured by the surveillance equipment.
@@ -109,9 +113,10 @@
 is being captured and the extent to which monitoring of historically
 recorded information will occur.
 
-#. A description of the nature and extent of public outreach conducted
-in each community in which the department intends to use the
-surveillance equipment.
+#. A public outreach plan for each community in which the department
+intends to use the surveillance equipment that includes opportunity for
+public meetings, a public comment period, and written agency response to
+these comments.
 
 #. If a department is requesting to acquire or use drones or other
 unmanned aircraft, it shall propose the specific circumstances under
@@ -126,6 +131,12 @@
 and city personnel, these responsibilities and associated departments
 and personnel shall be clearly identified.
 
+#. Whether a department intends to share access to the surveillance
+equipment or the collected data with any other government entity.
+
+#. A description of the training to be provided to operators or users of
+the surveillance equipment.
+
 Upon review of the information required under this Section 14.18.20, and
 any other information deemed relevant by the City Council, the City
 Council may approve the acquisition and operation of surveillance
@@ -171,6 +182,17 @@
 compliance with Section 14.18.30 and when and how compliance audits will
 be conducted.
 
+SMC 14.18.40 Acquisition and Use of Surveillance Equipment Related to
+Law Enforcement Investigations
+
+Notwithstanding the provisions of this Chapter, City departments may
+acquire or use surveillance equipment that will be installed or used on
+a temporary basis for the purpose of a criminal investigation pursuant
+to a lawfully issued search warrant, or under exigent circumstances as
+defined in case law. This exemption from the provisions of this
+ordinance does not apply to surveillance cameras mounted on drones or
+other unmanned aircraft.
+
 Section 2. Unless Council previously approved operational protocols by
 ordinance for department surveillance equipment, each City department
 operating surveillance equipment prior to the effective date of this