Loss of Privacy

Keeping you informed on recent losses to privacy and civil rights worldwide.

Browsing Posts tagged surveillance society

The appeal is obvious, especially for cash-strapped, high-crime cities such as Oakland, Calif. City leaders there say they simply don’t have the tax base to pay for the number of police officers they need, so they’ve looked toward “domain awareness” as a kind of force multiplier.

For the past couple of years, the city of Oakland has worked with the Port of Oakland to build its own version of the system. It’s called the Domain Awareness Center, or DAC. The federal government is paying for it with Homeland Security grants. But as the project grew, so did opposition.

After last summer’s revelations of domestic spying by the National Security Agency, protesters started showing up en masse at Oakland City Council meetings. One signed in for the public comment period as “Edward Snowden”; another stood up to videorecord the council while supporters cheered and jeered. In November, protesters became so raucous, they forced the council to clear the hall.

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The Black Hornet is a small, flying object, weighing just over half an ounce. It may look cute, but it’s not a toy. It’s a drone. The Black Hornet was unveiled last week at the Association of the United States Army Expo in Washington, DC.

The drone is marketed as a tool that soldiers can carry with them. While the US Army hasn’t used the hummingbird-sized drone yet, the British Army has used them in Afghanistan. RT’s Ameera David takes a closer look at the miniscule flying object.

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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.

pg12

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.https://www.aclunc.org/blog/asset_upload_file83_12519.pdf

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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

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