November 26, 2022
San Francisco police have reportedly been accessing recordings from autonomous vehicles to help with investigations, raising privacy concerns from users of the technology.

San Francisco police have reportedly been accessing recordings from autonomous vehicles to help with investigations, raising privacy concerns from users of the technology.

The San Francisco Police Department has accessed tapes recorded by autonomous vehicles “several times,” according to an internal document from the SFPD. Autonomous vehicle companies Waymo, which is owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, and Cruise, owned by General Motors, are both mentioned in the document.

“Autonomous vehicles are recording their surroundings continuously and have the potential to help with investigative leads,” the document reads. “Investigations has already done this several times.”

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The document also offers guidance on how SFPD officers should interact with autonomous vehicles, including filing incident reports involving driverless vehicles and instructions not to pull over autonomous vehicles “unless a legitimate law enforcement action exists.”

Waymo does not collect data “to identify individuals,” and law enforcement agencies that seek information and data from Waymo are required “to follow valid legal processes in making such requests (e.g., secure and present a valid warrant, etc.),” a company spokesperson told VICE.

Cruise shares footage and other information “when we are served with a valid warrant or subpoena” and “may voluntarily share information if public safety is at risk,” a spokesperson for the company told the outlet. The company works with the SFPD to handle similar incidents and has a “dedicated phone number” for police to contact.

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San Francisco police pulled over a Cruise vehicle in April, with a voice heard on video saying, “Ain’t nobody in it!” as police approached the autonomous vehicle.

SFPD, Waymo, and Cruise have not responded to the Washington Examiner’s requests for comment.

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