Additional Thoughts (Jan 2, 2021) – Dashboard Cameras & Data Storage

Jan 2, 2021 | City Council

The following was originally published in my Jan 2, 2021 Newsletter in the “Additional Thoughts” section.


At our 12/21 meeting, Council unanimously approved a purchase order for the police department: AXON dashboard cameras and cloud storage of the data collected through those cameras. At that meeting, a public commenter urged us to contemplate how we make these purchases. He pointed to the examples of Oakland and Portland, where tech purchases that raise potential privacy concerns are subject to procedural review. He proposed that our Independent Community Police Oversight Commission (ICPOC) review purchases like this one for the police department. These are ideas worth exploring.

In Portland, Oregon, every City download or purchase of software is subject to three phases of review: technology, business, and legal. If item DC-1 was proposed in Portland, perhaps the most relevant phase of review would be for “Technology-related risks.” The Portland government website explains that this review considers

Information security-related risks:

  • Are we including sensitive information? Are we storing data in places we can’t control?
  • Bureaus can only accept technology risk for their bureau

Network security-related risks:

  • Use of poorly designed software can make networks vulnerable to attack

In Oakland, California, a Privacy Advisory Commission “provides advice to the City of Oakland on best practices to protect Oaklanders’ privacy rights in connection with the City’s purchase and use of surveillance equipment and other technology that collects or stores our data.” Explanation of Oakland’s commission can be found here:

Dashboard cameras collect images of faces, which raises concerns about “personally identifying information” (PII) due to the existence of facial recognition software. Much has been written about the dangers of facial recognition software; specifically, this software has very high error rates in identifying people of color. It’s important that we are very clear and intentional about how we collect and control the use of any data that includes images of people’s faces.

Regarding DC-1 on this week’s agenda: the article below explains a bit about the AXON company, whose cameras we would be buying:

CM Song asked for reconsideration of this issue that was previously approved on our Consent Agenda. I reached out to CM Song earlier this week to ask about her ideas/reasoning in bringing it back. I haven’t heard from her yet, but I look forward to discussion at the table. I expect that by bringing this agenda item back we can talk about review policies for tech purchases moving forward or perhaps send the issue back to ICPOC for discussion. This topic might also be of interest to our Human Rights Commission (HRC).