In a unanimous decision, the Oakland City Council accepted a $2 million federal grant that will create a Domain Awareness Center (DAC) that will watch the city around the clock. At the May 2013 meeting, the Port of Oakland detailed the system. On page 12, was the following slide.


the system would combine not only existing surveillance cameras and thermal imaging devices at the Port of Oakland, but also the Oakland Police Department’s license plate readers, ShotSpotter gunshot detection devices, CCTV cameras, surveillance cameras at Oakland city schools, and dozens of other cameras from regional law enforcement agencies, including the California Highway Patrol. According to that schedule, the DAC should be fully operational by the end of June 2014, and it will aggregate more than 1,000 camera feeds.

For the record, the city’s schools have said that they are not involved at the moment.

“Currently, the system is activated in times of emergency. If it is completed by July 2014, then we would be looking to staff the facility on a 24/7 basis,” Renee Domingo, the city’s director of emergency services and homeland security, told the council.

Many privacy advocates, however, are insisting that this is equivalent to the surveillance state. Linda Lye, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, has written a detailed letter, explaining why the DAC is not a good idea.

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“There are serious questions whether a system such as the DAC—which is intended to collect and store vast amounts of information about Oakland residents who have engaged in no wrongdoing—should ever be approved,” she wrote. “But what is even more troubling is that the City has not yet developed any guidelines on privacy and data retention. Although the City’s contract for the DAC takes pains to describe in minute detail the precise manner in which, for example, metal framing systems are to be installed (studs are to be placed no more than 2 inches from abutting walls), there are no privacy provisions in place at all.”

While it is true that Oakland has its problems, they are systemic and aren’t going to be solved by increasing surveillance. To think that surveillance will prevent crime is just as bad as thinking that the War on Drugs has prevented drug use. Residents should be wary of letting a police department that has been investigated and threatened by the federal government several times for corruption be in charge of such a system.

The DAC will also only be paid for during its first two years. After that, the city will be responsible for the cost. The city already cannot afford its police and firemen. The school district is woefully lacking. Yet, they believe that they will be able to pay for a system that is intended on spying on its very citizens.

Port of Oakland (DAC) – May 2013 by Ars Technica