Comment-leaking platform Peeple—a controversial system that allows users to rank people they know for things like friendliness, professional skill, and romantic desirability—saw a fierce backlash this week after it was revealed that Silicon Valley venture capitalist and major Ripple investor Chris Larsen is an advisor to the company. At the same time, the LGBTQ community has been expressing outrage over the service, which could potentially be used to out closeted people.
Ripple co-founder Chris Larsen donated $695,000 to a surveillance camera project in San Francisco, which led to backlash from some community members, according to the San Francisco Examiner.
Larsen has been involved in the controversial project since 2012, donating a hefty $4 million to install cameras and have them monitored by elected community members instead of police.
According to the report, Larsen’s $695,000 donation for the camera installation is being considered by the Castro Upper Market Community Charities District, a public-private partnership of local businesses and homeowners.
In many ways, technology has contributed to the inequities and problems we see in San Francisco today. As members of the community, I believe it is our duty to help solve these problems by reinvesting in the city, making it safe and supporting our small businesses, Larsen said in a statement.
Excited LGBTQ people
Last week, Andrea Aiello, group leader of the Community Benefit District, said more than 224 cameras have already been installed in the district, but the devices are privately owned and operated by individuals. However, the new cameras will be used for public purposes and assist the police in case of crime.
That’s important for effective crime fighting, because law enforcement officers need to get on the ground to record video footage, said Aiello, who added that cameras will be installed on private property and at other key intersections where crime is known to be high.
But the decision has caused an uproar in the local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community. The group says they face discrimination and violence from police and that the installation of cameras will increase their harassment.
This is not a criticism of San Francisco’s current leadership, but simply the reality and history of what has happened, said Stephen Torres, a member of the Cultural District Advisory Board.
Mr Torres added:
So if you give the police access to that kind of information, especially given the history of our community, I think a lot of people would think twice.
Control or protection of data
According to the report, previous donations from Larsen helped fund surveillance networks in other hotspots, which previously assisted police during the riots and protests last year following the murder of George Floyd.
However, this decision led to a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. They argued that the surveillance violated the protesters’ First Amendment rights.
However, during a meeting earlier this week, Aiello and other officials addressed policy principles under which law enforcement agencies would not have real-time access to public cameras. It was discussed that the footage should not be retained for more than 30 days and that access should only be granted for evidentiary purposes when a crime has been reported.
We learned a lot about the importance of data privacy and how to develop controls and procedures that actually ensure data privacy and don’t compromise it, Aiello said.
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