With DAC Vote, Oakland Shows How Surveillance Reform Begins at Home
The DAC story begins in 2013, when concerned Oakland community members, the ACLU of Northern California, and journalists called attention to the fact that the city council – without adequately informing the public – planned to accept a multi-million dollar federal grant earmarked for the massive expansion of surveillance in the city. The DAC would have linked a pre-existing port system with equipment ranging from license plate readers to gunshot microphones to CCTV cameras. Outraged at secret plans to expand surveillance of innocent Oaklanders, community members organized in opposition and successfully pressured the City Council to limit its use to the port and convene an ad hoc committee to advise the city on appropriate privacy safeguards. The ACLU-NC and the Electronic Frontier Foundation agreed to serve on the committee.
Policies like those in Oakland have ripple effects because local surveillance issues are not just privacy issues; in an era of militarized and technologized policing, they are racial justice and civil rights issues, too. When police target minority communities today, surveillance is a key tool. By instituting safeguards for the DAC and creating a standing privacy committee to propose citywide surveillance reform, Oakland has taken an important step towards ensuring adequate transparency, accountability and oversight of surveillance equipment and practices. We look forward to other localities working on policies that implement the ACLU of California’s best practices guide and that protect the civil liberties and civil rights of us all.
Matt Cagle is a Technology & Civil Liberties Policy Attorney with the ACLU of Northern California.