No More Non-Policies

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by Christina Rosalita

“Policy after Procurement” has been, until recently, the unofficial non policy of blatantly experimenting until there is dissent or surreptitiously monitoring and using excuses as needed to justify. This approach is not in keeping with the promise of a sanctuary state; not for anyone.

In response to this, real policies are now being established. The Surveillance Equipment Requisition Ordinance (SERO) and Sanctuary Contracting Ordinance, or “Deport ICE”, provide the regulatory structure necessary for responsible acquisition and use; including provisions for data sharing and duration of retention. “Deport ICE” ends direct data sharing with ICE, an agency that uses data for high tech hunting of immigrant communities.

This month the city of Richmond was the first to pass “Deport ICE”. This is a major win in a city with a jail that is partially used by ICE as a detention facility. Activists gather every month to give their support to those being detained. They are separated by the prison walls and perhaps the detainees don’t even know, but the message is clear, “you have support out here”. I have attended one of these gatherings and nothing great or dramatic happens; we’re just there to be present and by being present to make the statement that, “we care you’re not forgotten in there”. The Richmond City Council also made that statement with “Deport ICE”. Perhaps there will soon be consideration of the conditions or continuation of the detention facility. Sacramento recently said no to a multi-million ICE detention center contract.

The first SERO to pass in the state of California was in 2016 by the county of Santa Clara; the county that StingRay technology was first publicly disclosed. A StingRay is a device that can intercept and manipulate cell phone communications. It does this by emitting a signal that overwhelms the signal of a cell tower, forcing cell phones to connect with it. We know about this technology because of a prisoner’s diligent research into his own case.

Daniel Rigmaiden, representing himself (pro se) at trial, noticed the word StingRay in one of the numerous court documents given to him. He learned that the StingRay wasn’t actually a secret technology, it was on the manufacturer (Harris Corp) website, it was the way it was being used. Law enforcement officials with knowledge of the technology were required to sign a non disclosure agreement (NDA); it’s use not even disclosed to judges. It was Rigmaiden’s word against theirs and a world hesitant to listen to him. He was successful, eventually. We know about StingRays and he’s free.

The secrecy that NDAs create is directly addressed by the most recent SERO to pass in the city of Oakland. This is the city, that in 2014, defeated a multi-billion domain awareness center (DAC). The DAC was an integrated system of surveillance technologies capable of consuming the information output of the entire city. The project was disclosed on the city council agenda, but the reality of it’s every-person impact was obscured in technical jargon. As with the StingRay, there was no discussion about the real use of these technologies. The SERO passed by Oakland this May is the strongest; it provides whistleblower protections and limits NDAs.

Usage policies provide the framework to ensure our rights are not unnecessarily sacrificed for unregulated development and experimental usage. It is important for us to say; we want to be informed, we want disclosure and adequate notification of ongoing usage. And we do this by supporting use and data sharing oversight policies like “DEPORT ICE” and SERO.

Christina Rosalita is an active member of Oakland Privacy

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