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Galveston City attorney sounds alarm over data-sharing agreement
Galveston, TX
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Galveston County Daily News


The city’s top attorney is warning island officials not to sign an agreement police plan to propose next week that would lead to the sharing of city and personal data with a surveillance company with ties to Chinese data mining.

The city council at a Thursday workshop is set to discuss the installation and use of Flock cameras on the seawall and, at its meeting that night, whether to share city and driver data with the Atlanta-based company. The notion of adding the pole-mounted cameras, which capture such data as license plate information, vehicle descriptions and movements when linked to other cameras, raised questions about privacy for residents and sensitive information held by the city.

It was unclear Friday how many cameras the city might install on the seawall but discussion over how that data could be shared worries City Attorney Don Glywasky.

“I have my concerns about placing an entire population under surveillance,” Glywasky wrote in the warning to city officials.

City council Friday received Glywasky’s letter and recommendation. It was too early to know how the council feels about the measure, Mayor Craig Brown told The Daily News on Friday afternoon.

Under the proposed agreement, it might be necessary for a party in the agreement to provide the other with certain information considered proprietary or confidential, Glywasky wrote.

That information could include: material data; systems; procedures and other information that isn’t accessible or known to the general public; as well as information on hardware; software; business plans or opportunities; business strategies; finances; employees; and third-party proprietary information, according to the agreement.

“This is simply unthinkable,” Glywasky wrote.

CONFLICTING COMMENTSThe proposed agreement also potentially contradicts police promises of privacy as the department, in a separate initiative, seeks information about private surveillance cameras, Glywasky wrote.

The police department Wednesday released a statement asking residents with front-door Ring cameras to register and share their footage with the police to help with investigations. In its release, the department said it would “never” share this information outside the city.

The Flock agreement would contradict that promise, Glywasky warns. It also would subject all the collected data to the Open Records Act, giving any person the right to access the information through a request.

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