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About this blog: While state and federal politics dominate the headlines, local issues have an enormous impact on our everyday lives. This blog will attempt to shine a light on topics of public interest and facilitate greater participation in the ...  (More)

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The Privacy Balance

Uploaded: May 18, 2014
The Menlo Park City Council made a difficult but prudent and thoughtful decision this week when they adopted an ordinance putting stronger limitations around the use of the data captured by the Menlo Park Police Department's new automated license plate readers. The new ordinance also creates penalties or consequences for unauthorized use or abuse of that data. (See the original story.)

The City Council had the choice between adopting a resolution that would provide guidelines to help address public privacy concerns or actually passing an ordinance that would definitively protect privacy. The problem with a resolution is that it can be more easily discarded when situations arise that appear to be "an exception to the rule". Ultimately those exceptions become the watered down rule.

This was not an issue about not trusting the Menlo Police Department or diluting the law enforcement tools the Department has at its disposal. If those where the issues the City Council was focused on, the Department would not have been given the technology in the first place. To quote Mayor Mueller, this was the challenge of finding a careful "middle ground" that provides checks and balances to responsibly address privacy and abuse concerns.

Council can always let out the reins once a longer track record has established. In the meantime, safeguards that error on the side of privacy are appropriate.

Comments

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Louise68, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on May 18, 2014 at 4:17 pm

If the Menlo Park City Council really cared about stopping the present slide down the slippery slope to a full-blown police state, they would have adamantly refused to allow any of this police-state technology to be used. License-plate readers are a tool that should never be used. There is no reason at all to routinely treat every driver as a criminal -- none at all.

"Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

This technology WILL be abused -- and often.

Shame on our City Council for not refusing to allow the Menlo Park Police Department to use this evil technology!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by A Concerned Parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on May 21, 2014 at 8:15 pm

I am writing as a concerned parent about the Menlo Park Board of Education. Do others in the community realize the chaos that exists in MPCSD's District Office? I tried to email my child's teacher today, and apparently the entire districts email system is down.

When I picked up my daughter from school and asked her teacher why she didn't respond to my email, I was informed the system was down and they didn't know when it would work again. The Director of Technology quit after 6 months on the job, and the other Director of Technology left before the current school year due to the hostile working conditions in the district office.

They have spent tens of thousands of dollars to keep track of student performance data in a program called Inform that no one knows how to use. Just this month, the teachers were told to put all their students performance data in a google document. Hmm. . . great idea. Google docs are free, and who cares that the district spent thousands on a software program that no one knows how to use now.

The schools are functioning because at the site-level there are strong principals, in spite of the fact that their "bosses" are completely incompetent, and the superintendent is their puppet. Alison Liner left after working for the current superintendent, and now Oak Knoll's principal is retiring. . . why leave now? Look to the MPCSD superintendent and the School Board.

The community really needs to get involved, look deeper, and get rid of this school board and their puppet.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Appreciative, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on May 22, 2014 at 1:58 pm

I want the cops to use the license plate readers and to share information. Residents can't complain about this, then complain about "those" people coming into your neighborhood and doing bad things. It's all related.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community,
on May 23, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Thanks for your comment, Louise. Menlo really doesn't need to do this.



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