Article from Reason by J.D. Tuccille.

San Francisco’s government does not own an all-seeing network of surveillance cameras that watch people as they go about their daily business. However, that doesn’t mean that city residents go unobserved. As it turns out, if officialdom wants to find out what people have been up to, it has access to thousands upon thousands of surveillance cameras that record exactly that. In many cases, private residents and businesses installed these cameras themselves and offered access to law enforcement. It’s a peek into the complicated world of the modern surveillance state, which is largely driven by good intentions, private fears, and innovative entrepreneurs vying for government contracts.

A map and dataset of 2,753 cameras owned by private and public operators in San Francisco was published last week by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). By no means is this a full list. “The District Attorney refused to reveal the locations of an additional 510 cameras,” notes EFF. Unknown others are accessible by police, but not formally included in the tally.

A small number of the devices are official government surveillance cameras monitoring public places, and a few are city red-light cameras repurposed for similar uses.

Two hundred and forty-nine of the cameras are maintained by the Union Square Business Improvement District (USBID), a quasi-public entity funded by special tax assessments. EFF found 249 USBID cameras on the list, while the organization’s Security Camera Project speaks of more than 350 cameras.

Read the entire article at Reason.