The Stranger reported on Tuesday that Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel has ordered deactivation of the mesh radio network installed across the city, pending approval of a use policy for the DHS-funded mesh nodes and surveillance cameras. The policy shift comes days after the Stranger‘s exposé revealing the privacy threat from these devices, which are designed by their manufacturer to track and log mobile wireless devices passing near them.
Pugel’s announcement brings Seattle closer to compliance with its own laws. On March 18, the City Council passed Council Bill 117730, requiring city departments to have advance approval before acquiring new surveillance equipment, and to submit use policies for existing equipment within 30 days. Eight months later, there is still no policy. Meanwhile, investigation by Seattle Privacy Coalition revealed that the radio and camera equipment was turned on and functional, even if not being actively used.
We are currently waiting for the blinking blue and amber lights on the mesh nodes to go dark. So far, a quick check along Alaskan Way finds them powered on, just as before.