Palo Alto

Privacy Concerns Over Cameras for Bicycle, Pedestrian Safety in Palo Alto

Palo Alto's decision to install 45 new cameras on utility poles is sparking privacy concerns.

The low-resolution cameras were approved by the city council on Monday in an effort to improve bike and pedestrian lanes. The move is also geared toward trying to get people out of their vehicles.

"The efforts to educate people on getting out of their cars start really young," said Jessica Sullivan, Palo Alto's transportation planning manager.

Sullivan said the cameras shoot at such a low resolution that classifying them as a traditional camera is a bit of a stretch. The technology will essentially count how many people are using certain routes.

Council members were initially concerned about privacy issues until they learned more about the technology.

"The type of cameras being used is very low resolution," Councilman Cory Wolbach said. "So they wouldn't be able to identify an individual."

The city's contract with the camera vendor, Palo Alto's VIMOC, also said none of the cameras collected images can be shared or stored.

Bicyclists are hopeful the data will lead to safer bike lanes.

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