Privacy Concerns, Black Bars, and Seattle’s Municipal Mesh Net Project

As you may have heard last week, the Seattle Police Department is leading a city effort to install a wireless “mesh network” of 160 wireless access points and miles of fiber optic cable around the city, as well as 30 cameras along the Seattle’s shoreline.

The Mesh Network was designed as part of a Port Security project, to provide first responders like SPD, Seattle Fire, and the Coast Guard with a dedicated wireless network and a view of Seattle’s shoreline during emergency responses, but SPD has also partnered with King County Metro and the Seattle Department of Transportation on the project.

While the Mesh Network can and will be used a number of ways by a variety of different agencies, most of the questions SPD has received so far about the network relate to the cameras.

Seattle residents have raised some concerns about privacy issues—particularly in the Alki neighborhood where, last week, SPD and City Light officials discovered two cameras had been improperly installed near an apartment building. The cameras were quickly repositioned away from the building. 

Because SPD knows you’ve still got questions and concerns about the cameras, we tracked down SPD’s Mesh Network technical lead Detective Monty Moss to show and tell how the cameras’ privacy features work.

Below you can find a map of the locations of fiber lines (the lines) and cameras (dots). The cameras are expected to go online March 31st.

 Update — Here’s a bigger, higher-res version of the camera locations: