Much like SPD's acquisition of two unmanned "drones" through funding secured via the Department of Homeland Security, the quiet installation of surveillance cameras in West Seattle along Alki - ostensibly intended to monitor the waterways for nefarious terrorist-type activities - is causing concern among Seattleites, many of whom fear the cameras will be used to invade citizens' privacy and could lead to infringements on civil liberties.
The latest expression of concern comes from the ACLU of Washington, which in a letter signed by Executive Director Kathleen Taylor sent to Mayor McGinn and the City Council Thursday urges city leaders to thoroughly scrutinize the use of surveillance cameras and similar technology. The ACLU letter calls for robust public comment and participation in such decisions, and firmly states that the organization is opposed to "devices that collect, store, and share data about legal behavior and innocent conduct."
In the letter, the ACLU states: "We expect our city leadership to carefully scrutinize the purchase and use of surveillance devices to ensure that they are necessary to good policing and are controlled to protect the privacy of law-abiding people. ... Without clear policies and protections, technology can move us step-by-step toward the creation of a 'surveillance society,' where government has the unrestricted ability to track where we go, what we do, and with whom we associate."
As KOMO reports, Mayor McGinn has gone on record as saying he doesn't want the surveillance system activated until it has been more thoroughly vetted, and councilmember Bruce Harrell has called for a meeting to create regulation for use of the cameras.
As you'll recall, after an intense committee meeting last week - which included a blistering public comment period - McGinn scrapped plans to use SPD's drones, instead saying the unmanned aircraft would be returned.