Spies on the corner - Page 3

San Franciscans are in the dark about the city's plans for surveillance streetlights


San Francisco's involvement in LLGA began with Chris Vein, who served as the city's Chief Technology Officer under former Mayor Gavin Newsom. (Vein has since ascended to the federal government to serve as Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer for Government Innovation for President Barack Obama.)

To find the right fit for San Francisco's wireless LED streetlights "challenge" under the LLGA program, a judging panel was convened to score more than 50 applicant submissions received through the program framework. Judges were selected "based upon knowledge and contacts of people in the SFPUC Power Enterprise," Tienken explained. The scoring system, Haselmeyer said, measures sustainability under a rubric developed by the United Nations.

Jurists for San Francisco's streetlight program were handpicked from the SFPUC, the San Francisco Department of Technology, Phillips, and several other organizations. An international jurist is designated by LLGA for each city's panel of jurists, Haselmeyer said, "so as to avoid any kind of local stitch-up."

He stressed that "the city is explicitly not committing to any procurement." Instead, vendors agree to test out their technology in exchange for cities' dedication of public space and other resources. Tienken, who manages the city's LED Streetlight Conversion Project, noted that "Paradox Engineering is not supposed to make a profit" under the LLGA program guidelines. "We'll pay them a $15,000 stipend," she said, the same amount that will be awarded to the firms that are now in negotiation for pilot projects of their own.

"San Francisco is using this to learn about the solution," Haselmeyer added. "This company will not have any advantage," when it comes time to tap a vendor for the agency's long-term goal of upgrading 18,500 of its existing streetlights with energy-saving LED lamps and installing a $2 million control system.

At the same time, the program clearly creates an inside track — and past LLGA participants have landed lucrative city contracts. Socrata, a Seattle-based company, was selected as a LLGA winner in 2011 and invited to run a pilot project before being tapped to power data.SFgov.org, the "next-generation, cloud-based San Francisco Open Data site" unveiled by Mayor Ed Lee's office in March of 2012.

The mayor's press release, which claimed that the system "underscores the Mayor's commitment to providing state of the art access to information," made no mention of LLGA.


Throughout this process of attending an international summit in Rio, studying applications from more than 50 vendors, selecting Paradox as a winner, and later issuing an RFP, a very basic question has apparently gone unaddressed. Is a system of lighting fixtures that persistently collects data and beams it across invisible networks something San Franciscans really want to be installed in public space?

And, if these systems are ultimately used for street surveillance or traffic monitoring and constantly collecting data, who will have access to that information, and what will it be used for? Haselmeyer acknowledged that the implementation of such a system should move forward with transparency and a sensitivity to privacy implications.

"Many cities are deploying sensors that detect the Bluetooth signal of your mobile phone. So, they can basically track movements through the city," Haselmeyer explained. "Like anything with technology, there's a huge amount of opportunity and also a number of questions. ... You have movement sensors, traffic sensors, or the color [of a light] might change" based on a behavior or condition. "There's an issue about who can opt in, or opt out, of what."


The NY Times, oddly, has reported the current wireless "smart" parking meters put in by the SFPark people "has been bedeviled by electromagnetic interference from overhead trolley lines." It's baffling how these were approved without some sort of EMF testing. I imagine these could run into the same problems. I also imagine they'll be as litigious as SF's stop light camera program, too.

Posted by Werther deGoethe on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 1:37 pm

little fear for law-abiding citizens. If you have a car with OnStar, a clipper card, a credit card, a cell phone or a laptop, chances are the authorities can always figure out where you are.


Posted by anon on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 1:56 pm

Can we have reliable continent-wide rapid transit and public sector health care finance as well because it is fairly standard in Europe, that should hold little fear for law-abiding oil, auto, insurance, hospital and pharmaceutical companies?

Posted by marcos on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 2:27 pm

more comfortable with a diversity of outcomes.

Posted by anon on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 2:44 pm

Libertarians in red states and counties are much more comfortable being subsidized by progressives in blue states and counties is what you're trying to say, and they've allied with corporations and religious wingnuts to screw the coasts and great lakes states and the Democrat party elites have joined in as well.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 2:49 pm
Posted by anon on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 3:23 pm

falsely accuse and convict, or violate the civil or constitutional rights of innocent people, would they?


Another reason not to have a cell phone.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 2:36 pm

Imagine the hilarity surrounding the newfound uses for the mental health databases to be used for "gun control."

Posted by marcos on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 2:41 pm

Let me guess: no car, TV or ipod either.

How about vegan too, just to fill out the royal flush of hopelessness?

Posted by anon on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 2:45 pm

No ipod, still prefer vinyl. The landline works fine. Two computers for a two person household.

Vegan, not freegan, but I have certain exceptions, like "all wedding cake is vegan," so not obsessively strict.

I have no idea what these lifestyle choices have to do with hopelessness. Do you equate personal property or spending money with happiness?

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 2:59 pm

as all TV transmissions are now digital?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 4:20 pm

over-the-air transmissions, so no.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 4:36 pm

This is off-topic.

Eddie, I'm a vegetarian (I eat eggs and rennet-free cheddar cheeses). Do you eat a vegan cheese you like and would recommend? I've looked at some and I think they all had carrageenan in them, which is controversial. It seems that carrageenan is in most things. Just thought I'd ask you. Gracias.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 17, 2013 @ 7:32 pm

I've not found any good vegan cheese.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 17, 2013 @ 8:07 pm

I worry about it every day.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jan. 17, 2013 @ 8:11 pm

Snapples: No need for you to worry about it. Eat as much of it as you can.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 17, 2013 @ 10:00 pm

I had some Daiya last night at a friend's house and it was good. Escape From New York uses it on their vegan pizza and it works for us, just a little step down from real mozzarella.

I don't know the ingredients, though.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 17, 2013 @ 8:26 pm

Concern troll,

You are a corporatized mindless sheeple. You are the problem but will likely never understand that because that's not something the sheeple have the ability to do. That's why they're called sheeple.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 17, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

What willful-ignorance! You would live most comfortably in a full-blown dictatorship while standing behind a "law-abiding citizen" shield, which the "authorities" would kick in.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 17, 2013 @ 3:49 pm

Those not aware of On-The-Media, will find these comments by Daniel Solove, law professor at George Washington University, disturbing or comforting depending on your sheeple index:


Posted by Guest on Jan. 19, 2013 @ 10:43 am

Those not aware of On-The-Media, will find these comments by Daniel Solove, law professor at George Washington University, disturbing or comforting depending on your sheeple index:


Posted by Guest on Jan. 19, 2013 @ 10:51 am

They recently installed a camera at the corner of 3rd and Evans. Big Brother is now watching you!

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2013 @ 10:12 pm
Posted by Guest on Apr. 15, 2013 @ 7:21 am

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