What Is the City Watching Us With? And Why?

Posted February 13th, 2018 @ 8:25 AM by

Don’t worry, not even the mayor knows? Things have changes since I was on the council and worked on a committee about surveillance cameras (2004?, 2005?). Seems as tho the staff have developed an almost hostile attitude about even telling the alders what they are doing. I was just curious, but stumbled into this.

Here’s the video – I missed the first 5 minutes (not my best video, I was distracted)

I’d never been to this committee before and before the meeting the IT guy (I don’t even know his name, sorry) was asking me what I was videotaping for and why.

They were talking about the definition of “surveillance” and what type of equipment they are talking about in this committee – they want an inventory of devices the city uses and a description of the device and what they use it for.

The city IT person said that they should be exempted from giving a list of items they have for network security reasons. They cite the open data source ordinance that was passed as the reason why. The alders, particularly Rebecca Kemble clarifies that they don’t need all the detail and where the equipment is, but they need some information. The IT guy says that they don’t even want the technology they are using to get out to the public, because there are vulnerabilities in the hardware and software. Samba Baldeh points out that they can still provide some information and the IT guy says that they can say what they monitor and what they do, but the information and details can’t be shared, they can share their capabilities. Baldeh says he doesn’t understand why IT is so unique. IT guy says says cypersecurity is the reason. Baldeh asks that if staff have access to the information, what oversight do they have if no one else can see it. IT guy says that he doesn’t know how the ordinances are written, but that is what is out there and he just has to follow it. Baldeh says he doesn’t believe no one can see it. Kemble says that their job in the committee is to write the policy about who can have access to what. IT doesn’t want to disclose those items. Kemble asks who makes the decisions to purchase and use the items. He says the IT director. Kemble asks if only the people who knows what they have and what it is used for is the IT director and the people who use it. Kemble asks if the Mayor even knows this equipment exists, the IT guy says the mayor doesn’t know the details of it, but they work with procurement to select the “solution”. Kemble says that someone in finance knows about it, but does the mayor know about it? The IT guy says that he doesn’t know, he’d have to ask his boss what he tells the mayor. Baldeh says that this guy is from the IT department he should be able to explain or he should ask and get the answers so they can do their work or he should send the boss to the meeting. The IT guy says he just doesn’t know and Samba says they should bring someone to the meeting who knows. The IT guy says that if they want to know they should let him know. Kemble says they want to konw, she says if there is a black hole in the IT department where no one but the IT director gets to know what is going on, and someone in finance and they are sworn to secrecy . . . the IT guy interrupts and says they follow the procurement process for the city. There are financial records of what they have purchased. There is no black hole. Heather Allen, council staff tried to clarify that the issue is just that they don’t want the list of items made public, and it is probably the same for the Police Department. IT guy says that some of the stuff is for the police department. Kwasi Obeng, council staff, asks if its forensics stuff – the IT guy says that he doesn’t know, he can’t say but there is stuff out there they can’t share. He wants to make sure that the inventory doesn’t include the solutions they use. Kemble says they actually want to know, it doesn’t need to be made public, but the council members should know, especially if it includes the budget. The IT guy says yes, but this is a public meeting. Kemble says but they still need to know, even if they have to go into closed session. Baldeh says they don’t need the detail, but they want to know the capabilities so they can write policies about how to use the technology. They need to know what the city has so they can say how it will be operated. They need to know what they have and how they operate it. The IT guy says the tecnologies are outlined in the ordinance. Obeng asks about if records are being saved by the technology. IT guy says that the logs are not open records. Obeng says that video footage has parameters about how long the records have to be saved. IT guy says that they just need to be careful about what they ask to be shared publicly. Kemble says they may need to get into a discussion about what the mayor and alders can see and what the public can see. IT guy says this shouldn’t just be IT, but all departments. If there are cameras and they don’t want the location known, then they should have that discussion. That should be identified in the documents so we don’t inadvertently distribute that discussion. Obeng says that he worked on this in Chicago and that was a concern as well there. He talks about if they know the nature and name of the camera they can know what how to manipulate it. The IT guy says that the biggest threat is from the inside so they might need to limit what staff can know because they are on the network. Getting information is the number one way that agencies get hacked and they do “purview”? information from public meeting to get that information.

The staff then tried to move them along . . . there’s about another hour of discussion but the last 10 minutes are just scheduling their next meetings. They will be meeting on 2/28 at 5pm. It will be interesting to see what they come back to the committee with. The good news is that they are going to put this committee information into legistar so we can all see what they were handing out – they only made 5 copies which wasn’t enough for the committee members and staff that were there. The committee members are Rebecca Kemble, Ledell Zellers, Sambah Baldeh, Sheri Carter (late) and Paul Skidmore (absent) and it seems to be staffed by 2 council staff, the police department and the IT department. Perhaps when its in legistar we’ll find out the IT guy’s name? My apologies for not knowing.

NOTE ADDED – IT guy = Herb King

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