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COMMENTARY: Why I don’t patronize downtown Hollister

I can’t back businesses that support violation of my privacy and civil liberties

Beginning in May, the Farmer’s Market will offer for sale fresh, organic produce and healthy foods for the whole family. More than just purchasing locally grown items, the events downtown offer an opportunity, after a winter’s hibernation, for Hollister to come out, gather together with family and friends, eat fresh produce and foods, catch up and share chitchat – both personal and otherwise. However, barely noticed by many who will take part in these "family-friendly" gatherings is the creepy and unprincipled covert violation of their privacy and civil liberties, by Hollister’s surveillance/spy camera program.

In 2014 the Hollister City Council approved the expenditure of more than $400,000 for the purchase and installation of a surveillance/spy camera system ($30,000 a year for SGI, Inc. license fee and maintenance totals $300,000 when stretched over 10 years - taken together it comes close to a $1 million political boondoggle). It was approved without formal hearings and sold to the public - after the fact – that the spy cameras were to address any and all possible crime activity during the city’s newly approved annual “family-friendly” Biker Rally. This event in particular, drives many local residents to either stay away from downtown or abandon the city all together.

Ever since its implementation, the surveillance/spy program has been continuously videotaping everyone and anyone who innocently and without committing any crime, ventured in and around Hollister (no official signage of the cameras for deterrence purposes are posted). The secret recording of people without their knowledge is a clear invasion of privacy – good luck in attracting tourism to the city with this type of openness and transparency.

As a result, I have not and will not patronize downtown nor spend my money at its businesses. The spy cameras serve as a major dis-incentive are personally offensive, intrusive and constitutionally problematic. Additional reasons for my boycott are simple and straightforward. The installation of a police state surveillance/spy camera system, when such a system is unwarranted, provides an irresponsible, false sense of security to residents by leading them to believe and think they are secure and safe as a result, is another; wasteful spending when more pressing concerns are unfunded, de-funded and overlooked, is still another.

How would you feel if your image (face), your voice (sound) and your personal biometric fingerprints (eyes and facial features) were captured and recorded while at the downtown event?  All this as you talked with your neighbors, caught-up on private personal family matters, made your purchase or while having a private conversation on your cell phone, as you strolled down San Benito Street. All the while and unbeknownst to you, police are viewing, documenting, recording and tracking your personal information – while committing zero crime, nada what soever.

This innocent looking "family-friendly" event has been unfortunately transformed into a law enforcement and intelligence agency instrument to categorize its residents and visitors. My participation therefore, would in effect be construed as consenting to and accepting the unwarranted personal intrusion - a major violation of my personal sense of privacy. When one takes into account that Hollister’s Surveillance/Spy Program was approved without public input and funded out of our general fund (tax dollars) - to an out-of-county business (SGI, Inc.) under the guise of a local economic development project – the city council decision and police actions are doubly offensive and a further breach of the public trust.

Of equal concern is that personal information - which belongs to you and me - will be shared with the state, other law enforcement and federal intelligence agencies, including the DEA, DOJ, FBI, NSA, Homeland Security, etc., all with “stellar” track records for violating our privacy. The probability that the information “can and will be used against you” is very likely, since neither our city “leaders” nor the police department have seen the need to issue policy, rules or regulations governing its use – a violation of good governance, police transparency and trust.

So enjoy, if you can, the upcoming Hollister street events, after learning that your image, voice and biometric fingerprint information is surreptitiously collected, without your consent. Moreover, rest in the knowledge your information will be data-banked, shared and become common knowledge to a slew of individuals in law enforcement and federal intelligence agencies you don’t know anything about, but they know A WHOLE LOT about you - just because!

*($30,000 a year for SGI, Inc. license fee and maintenance totals $300,000 when stretched over 10 years - taken together it comes close to a $1 million political boondoggle).

 

About:
Luis Burguillo (An Engaged and ...)

As a student of the media and journalism, I am interested in utilizing the medium in order to assure that the residents of the City of Hollister and San Benito County are alerted, informed and educated on the official actions of their elected officials who are sworn to preserve, protect and defend the US constitution and Bill of Rights. More importantly, their engagement in the political process will hold the leaders accountable for their actions/decisions and lead to an improved governance.

Comments

Almost every sort of retail business, grocery store and restaurant utilizes some sort of video surveillance system in Hollister and around the world. 

I am in favor of the City of Hollister using surveillance video to discourage criminal activity and/or turn the data over to law enforcment to prosecute criminals. 

Keep up the great work, Mayor Velasquez!

Suum cuique - to each his own.  Everyone has the right to steer their financial support where they want, I consider it a basic freedom, but I don't know where you can go these days and NOT be subject to the "eye."  I believe that electronic surveillance of public spaces is actually the least intrusive type, you have no expectation of privacy in public.

If Mr. Burguillo owns a cell phone I assume that he knows that it can triangulate his location even when it is off; this includes when he is not in public space.

Some recent criminal cases show how ubiquitous modern technology is when it comes to surveillance.  No doubt that solving the Boston Marathon bombing and getting a conviction was aided by the video showing the terrorists working together and one actually placing the bomb near the finish line.  Either Frontline or Nova had a very interesting program on the technology aspects of this specific case.

The charging of Baltimore police in the Freddie Gray case was based, in part, on a number of videos allowing the city investigators to track the movements of the  police van transporting Gray.

Last, and not least, the Aaron Hernandez conviction was aided by a whole series of electronic evidence - including some from Hernandez's own security system.

I think that these systems are much less intrusive than having the NSA reading my emails without a warrant.  Now that's a subject where we might find some common ground.

The only objection I have to our system is that it is far too expensive.

Marty Richman

 

If it keeps Hollister from becoming Oakland, I am all for it.

Submitted by (NorCalSkinzFan) on

I had a whole response prepared for this and then scrolled up and saw Marty's response. I agree 99.9% with everything he said, except the expense. There is a huge difference between residential cameras, business cameras and cameras that are expected to have a zoom and still be accurate (not to mention the data that these cameras are generating to a server that has to have massive storage as well as the backup costs). The company I work for actually manufactures cameras that cost $1M for a single one. Granted these are for Hollywood, but you can see that these HD cams are a great deal for how many we have... If they are to be able to use a single instance of rape, or burglary etc. they are worth every dime to the one that is the victim, knowing this person is caught.

@NorCalSkinzFan, Thanks for the compliment, I'll try to pick up that last little bit by pointing out that my major cost issue is not capital expense - you know what you are paying for wit hardware - but the annual software "upgrade - maintenance" expenses.

Typically, these companies improve the software centrally and then "sell" the upgrade to every user at a huge total profit, and since it's software some firms in ALL industries have been known to manipulate the upgrades by holding them off the market or breaking the improvements up so the upgrades extend over several years - and several annual billing cycles - or require a whole new purchase.

I do not trust these expensive, mandatory, upgrade - maintenance contracts from any industry, not just this one.  My Windows 8 has more security holes in in than a Swiss cheese, I'm paying for anti-virus software, as are millions of others, because the original software is actually defective.  Software companies have learned that they can get you coming and going and those selling proprietary software are the worst.

Marty Richman

Submitted by (SecureOurStreets) on

Luis,

Can I ask this one question. If you or your personal property were impacted by crime, and I don't wish that on anyone. Would you ask to see video tape evidence if it was available, or should we just destroy it ?

Can you honestly say that you would not want to have all evidence to be used in such a case, or are you willing to let criminals get away with such things at the cost to you and your personal property.

Submitted by (Todd Evans ) on

Wow. It's amazing how far down the road we are to completely giving up our liberty. The responses to this commentary are a good indication. The idea that all of this surveillance and data collection is good because even if it catches just one criminal it's worth every penny. That's just ludicrous. All you folks that just want to be safe from everything all the time and not have anything disrupt your screen time are going to get your wish sooner rather than later if there are no voices speaking up against general surveillance and data collection. I for one do not wish to be completely insulated from danger. I want to have the freedom to go where I choose to go, associate with who I choose to and conduct my affairs without the scrutiny of prying government eyes. Not because I am a criminal and breaking the law but because I am NOT a criminal. The governments job is not to protect you from harm. That is your own responsibility. I am sure there are plenty of people that don't see it the way I do but that's just one of the amazing things about freedom in this country. We can all disagree and have different opinions and vigorous discussion without fear of retribution from some government agency for something we said. I wish that last sentence were true but we have already started down that road. Liberty is an amazing thing to have and extremely difficult to recover once it's gone.

I would agree with you IF we had a right to carry in California.

@Todd, while your basic premise is correct, it simply has not worked out that way for many reasons.  Unfortunately, we all have to live in the real world.  In an ideal world criminals would be convicted on reasonable evidence and beyond a reasonable doubt, but we now have a case where experts are for sale and the trials often come down to dueling experts.

The juries have lifted the reasonable doubt standard to a height that requires the kind of evidence only technology can bring in many cases.  Additionally, terrorists (homegrown and foreign) often have the capability to do a lot of damage.  This has existed even long ago (they could, and did, wreck trains), but the public values their own lives more than they used to and they demand protection.

The government actually encourages people to rely on the government for protection, policing and related services costs billions, they do not trust the public to protect themselves.

For better or worse - mostly worse - liberty has redefined itself.  No  nation with as many laws and rules we have can consider itself "free."  As George Will wrote in a recent column, in modern America everything is a crime.

Marty Richman

Submitted by (Bill Healy) on

Todd and Luis: Do you shop at Safeway, CVS, Walgreen's, Target, Ace, Savemart? Eat at Mcdonald's, Jack in the box, Starbucks, and many other businesses? If so you are being taped and recorded at all of these locations as well as downtown Hollister! Do you drive 101, 680, 85 or 680? You are being recorded driving your car to wherever you are going.

Your personal freedom to choose where to shop, where to drive and where to eat has not changed. Our society has and the legal process of people suing one another has become necessary that the recording of our activities at some locations has been done to protect others and companies and because many individuals can not follow the rules or laws anymore. Get over it and just move on. You can't claim lost of something that society has decided it is necessary and you and a million of others that are claiming loss of personal freedom are just spitting in the winds.

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