San Francisco’s ballot initiative Proposition E is a dangerous and deceptive measure that threatens our privacy, safety, and democratic ideals. It would give the police more power to surveil, chase, and harm. It would allow the police to secretly acquire and use unproven surveillance technologies for a year or more without oversight, eliminating the hard-won protections backed by a majority of San Franciscans that are currently in place. Prop E is not a solution to the city’s challenges, but rather a threat to our rights and freedoms. 

Don’t be fooled by the misleading arguments of Prop E's supporters. A group of tech billionaires have contributed a small fortune to convince San Francisco voters that they would be safer if surveilled. They want us to believe that Prop E will make us safer and more secure, but the truth is that it will do the opposite. Prop E will allow the police to use any surveillance technology they want for up to a year without considering whether it works as promised—or at all—or whether it presents risks to residents’ privacy or safety. Police only have to present a use policy after a year of free and unaccountable use, and absent a majority vote of the Board of Supervisors rejecting the policy, this unaccountable use could continue indefinitely. Worse still, some technologies, like surveillance cameras and drones, would be exempt from oversight indefinitely, putting the unilateral decision about when, where, and how to deploy such technology in the hands of the SFPD.

We want something different for our city. In 2019, with the support a wide range of community members and civil society groups including EFF, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors took a historic step forward by passing a groundbreaking surveillance transparency and accountability ordinance through a 10-1 vote. The law requires that before a city department, including the police, acquire or use a surveillance technology, the department must present a use policy to the Board of Supervisors, which then considers the proposal in a public process that offers opportunity for public comment. This process respects privacy, dignity, and safety and empowers residents to make their voices heard about the potential impacts and risks. 

Despite what Prop E proponents would have you believe, the city’s surveillance ordinance has not stopped police from acquiring new technologies. In fact, they have gained access to broad networks of live-feed cameras. Current law helps ensure that the police follow reasonable guidelines on using technology and mitigating potentially disparate harms. Prop E would gut police accountability from this law and return decision-making about how we are surveilled to closed spaces where unproven and unvetted vendor promises rule the narrative. 

As San Francisco residents, we must stand up for ourselves and our city and vote No on Prop E. Voting No on Prop E is not only an easy choice, but also a necessary one. It is a choice that reflects our values and vision for San Francisco. It is a choice that shows that we will not let a million-dollar campaign of fear drive us to sacrifice our rights. Voting No on Prop E is a choice that proves we are unwilling to accept anything less than what we deserve: privacy, safety, and accountability.

March 5 is election day. Make your voice heard. Vote No on Prop E.