SAN DIEGO: New Surveillance Technology Protested

Photo: Slide from CityIQ presentation on new surveillance technology.

By Nélida Tello

Last week, activists from Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans (PANA) spoke out against the San Diego “Smart Streetlights” installment. An initiative passed by the City Council of San Diego in December 2016, that would turn light posts into smart infrastructure by placing 4,300 CityIQ Nodes that record video and audio 24/7.

“These intelligent sensors, or CityIQ nodes, can see, hear and feel the heartbeat of a city,” the city website page on the initiative reads.

The CityIQ Nodes implementation began in 2018, with currently 2,543 installed with a second phase proposing 1,016 more smart nodes. The data collected by each node is saved on GE’s CityIQ cloud database. Despite being behind schedule for implementation of phase two, the city has wasted no time ordering more nodes from GE. The city’s aim is to have 4,300 nodes throughout San Diego.

While under the guise of being installed to optimize public safety, these surveillance cameras have acted as the frontline for gentrification. A disproportionate amount of nodes will be placed in working-class neighborhoods of City Heights, Barrio Logan, and Logan Heights. With this initiative, the city hopes to expand the parking meter network, enhance urban and real estate development, and broaden bicycle route planning.

“In the long term […] real-estate development planning models, and small businesses and retail store location optimization tools have the potential to bring increased revenue and jobs to the region,” reads the city’s website.

Police departments will have special access to the recordings from the nodes for 5 days before they are overwritten.

City Heights residents told Incendiary that they were unaware of the implementation of the CityIQ nodes and the potential impact to their neighborhood. Juana, a long-term resident, didn’t know about the nodes at all. In response to news of the surveillance, Lolis, a local floral shop owner, said she’s concerned about the gentrification of City Heights. She was pushed out of her house in in the past because her rent went up.

These nodes represent only the latest advancement in surveillance of the oppressed. The eyes behind these cameras serve the same state that has since the dawn of capitalism kept tabs on those exploited by the bourgeoisie in an effort to snub rebellion before it starts and catch the revolutionaries that dare fight against it.