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When Marquise Rosier joined hundreds of Black Lives Matter protesters on May 31 in downtown San Francisco, he knew that the police would have their eyes on him.
“My thought process going in was ‘Yeah, I know for sure they’re watching,” said the 25-year-old software engineer. Still, he felt compelled to take the risk and attend the demonstration. “I’d rather fight to feel human than live feeling like I’m not,” he said.
As they gathered in Union Square, it turns out that the protesters were being observed — and in a way that few suspected. According to a report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the San Francisco Police Department obtained access to private surveillance cameras at the end of May and beginning of June that indiscriminately filmed footage of the protests. The cameras were owned and managed by the Union Square Business Improvement District (USBID).
It is not uncommon for police to use video captured by private cameras in their investigations. The San Francisco District Attorney’s office maintains a database of about 2,400 such devices, owned by individuals and businesses or attached to public buildings across the city. Usually, police will ask for footage from specific cameras at a …
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