IE11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Watchdog Group Sues San Diego over Smart Streetlights

San Diegans for Open Government alleges the city “illegally failed to disclose” public records it sought.

A watchdog group is suing the city of San Diego for not releasing data collected through its controversial Smart Street Lights Program, which have sensors that gather a wide swath of information, including pedestrian and traffic movements, and also record video that police say they have used to solve violent crimes.

The suit from San Diegans for Open Government alleges that the city “illegally failed to disclose” public records requested by the group, which describes itself as a government watchdog.

The City Attorney’s Office said Monday that it had not yet seen the suit, which was filed late last week. Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office declined to comment on the pending litigation.

At issue is digital information collected from sensors on smart street lights throughout the city. The group, through attorney Cory Briggs, filed several requests last month asking the city to turn over all the source data collected by sensors on all its smart street lights over a 24-hour period. The group also wanted all records related to processed data.

In response to the requests, the city said it had no documents to turn over, according to the suit filed by Briggs, who is a candidate to be the city attorney. He is also among the leading critics of the controversial data-collection program.

The Smart Street Lights Program was initially presented as a cost-savings plan to replace lights on some 8,000 poles with energy-efficient LED lighting.

When they’re all installed, more than half of the lights will be equipped with cameras and technology that collects real-time data, which the city said it will use help the community, including improving traffic congestion, making parking easier.

In addition, San Diego police can access the video footage from the lights in limited situations, like homicide or other violent crimes.

Critics say the cameras are intrusive and could be used to spy on residents, although police insist they are not monitoring the feeds. Some critics also raise concerns that there is a lack of oversight, as well as the potential for data mining.

©2019 The San Diego Union-Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.