Skip to content Skip to site navigation

Video Safety and Security Systems (VSSS)

The upcoming expansion of Video Safety and Security Systems at Stanford is the culmination of a comprehensive assessment of risks and privacy concerns, as well as the considerations of community needs in creating and maintaining a safe and secure environment. There are several hundred cameras already installed in locations throughout campus, as well as other Stanford properties, such as the Stanford Redwood City campus, subject to the same standards for use and governance provided in the VSSS Standards.

The questions and responses below provide additional insights into the parameters set out by the Standards and how the systems will operate to uphold Stanford’s commitment to privacy and data minimization.

For inquiries and additional information, contact


Are the cameras being continuously monitored in real time?

The cameras are not routinely monitored in real time, but may be monitored during a major event or in an emergency situation. One limited exception is at high-security entry points, such as the SLAC main gate.

Why are cameras being installed now?

This is the culmination of years of discussion and analysis. The university, as an administrative entity, wants to ensure that existing cameras are being used responsibly and that the technology is being applied in a standardized way that reflects the university commitment to privacy. Stanford also wants to take measures to provide for the personal safety and security of residents, particularly students.

Placement of Cameras

Where will cameras be installed?

Cameras will be installed at entrances to buildings and in other areas where a security assessment has identified a risk to safety or property. Conspicuous, standardized signage must be posted where cameras are installed.

Where will they not be?

Cameras will not be installed in or with views of restrooms and locker rooms, in or with direct views of individual living spaces, in student dining areas, or residential lounges.

How far can the cameras see?

Cameras will be installed to view an identified area of concern or risk, as identified in a security assessment.

Why was my residence selected for cameras?

The residences selected for the first phase of installation represent different construction and residence types. There are graduate and undergraduate residences, a variety of residence types (Row house, large complex, small complex, etc.), different types of construction (concrete, wood frame, etc.), and different campus locations (west side, central, Row, east side).

Subsequent phases will cover more residences, with a goal of installing cameras at all student residences.

Will cameras be installed covertly?

The need for covert cameras is a very rare circumstance. All permanently installed cameras will be accompanied by required signage identifying cameras in use in the area. Pursuant to a police investigation, temporary covert cameras may be used to gather specific evidence, as allowable by law.

Video Footage

Who owns the video footage?

Recorded video is a resource owned by the university and managed by University IT. Some departments and vendors have individually managed video, but the goal is to transition all cameras to the central system over time.

Can I access video footage?

Students and other individual community members do not have access to the camera footage. Contact DPS for a criminal investigation or other responsible university offices for administrative investigation.

Who has access to video footage?

Access to camera data will be limited to the extent possible. DPS and designated local managers can access the video footage. Any export of footage will be approved by the Office of General Counsel or by DPS directly with a case number.

How will the footage be used?

The footage may only be used pursuant to the investigation of a criminal incident or policy violation complaint.

Will the footage be used for an Office of Community Standards or Title IX investigation?

Recorded video may be used for OCS or Title IX investigations, when relevant.

How long is the footage saved?

The standard minimum storage time is 32 days. The systems are calibrated to record over footage older than that (no more than 365 days), but the exact overwrite period can be extended by multiple months, depending on recording activity.

Security and Privacy

How do I know the system will not be hacked?

The application and systems that run this service must comply with Stanford’s Minimum Security Standards. The video safety and security systems are actively managed and monitored. In the event of a security incident, a formal incident response plan is documented and regularly tested.

Will the university use facial recognition tools to identify individuals in the video feeds?

The university does not use facial recognition tools. It is possible that after university footage is subpoenaed or provided in response to a search warrant that another government agency may use facial recognition or similar technologies.

Will this footage be provided to the news media?

In rare circumstances, with authorization of the Stanford Office of General Counsel, DPS may publicly release footage to ask for the community’s help in obtaining information in an investigation.

Who maintains oversight over the system and use of the cameras?

University IT (UIT) has responsibility for the oversight of the installation, operations, and maintenance of VSSS. Use of cameras must comply with the VSSS Standards, which is administered by the Infrastructure Safety and Security Committee (ISSC).


My package was stolen from my building lobby. How can cameras help?

When you file a police report for your stolen package, the Department of Public Safety will request any pertinent video from the university. The footage will be reviewed to see if information can be developed to pursue prosecution of a suspect. The same process would be followed for any theft investigation.

A camera captured me drinking alcohol, and I am underage. What will happen?

For university policy violations for alcohol and drugs, the university refers students into an educational intervention process with the Office of Substance Use Policy Education & Resources (SUPER). Because the cameras are not routinely monitored, the video capturing that behavior would only be reviewed if there was a complaint alleging a significant policy violation; in those cases, video may be reviewed for incidents that warrant disciplinary review.