Why I Joined OP (or How I Spent My Summer for the Last 16 Years)



by Cristina

On October 26, 2001, “in the name of national security, the Patriot Act was the first of many changes to surveillance laws that made it easier for the government to spy on ordinary Americans by expanding the authority to monitor phone and email communications, collect bank and credit reporting records, and track the activity of innocent Americans on the Internet.”  (from an ACLU page)  source: https://www.aclu.org/infographic/surveillance-under-patriot-act

In 2006, I ran into an article (source: https://arstechnica.com/uncategorized/2006/04/6585-2/) on the Internet that stunned and frightened me: “AT&T installed powerful traffic monitoring equipment in a ‘secret room’ in their San Francisco switching office at the behest of the NSA…The equipment used and the vast scale of the information being monitored [more than 10 billion bits of data per second] both suggest that the NSA is sifting through massive amounts of user data and phone calls.”






Q. Why is this legislation necessary? Why isn’t the Fourth Amendment enough?

A. The short answer is that the law has not kept up with technology.

The longer answer is that our constitution, written in the 1780’s, could not have conceived of the technological capacities we now have for observation and communication. While some legal opinions have extended fourth amendment protections to include newer technologies, others have gone in the opposite direction (e.g., a recent decision, USA v Matish, said that you have no reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to your home computer if it is connected to the Internet!).

We have the very real possibility of soon living in a society far beyond what even George Orwell imagined – where we will be tracked whenever we leave our house through facial recognition integrated with surveillance cameras; where everything we do online will be cataloged, stored and run through algorithms for “thought crime” analysis, and where our  conversations may be overheard and analyzed – even in our own homes if we choose to use voice-enabled gadgets. These things are all well within our technological capability today, and who knows what will be possible in five or ten years?


Oakland Poised To Protect Civil Liberties


Update 5-10-17: Oakland’s Public Safety Committee voted unanimously on May 9 to support the Surveillance Technology Ordinance. Thanks largely to your letters, calls and emails. 

My guest piece in the East Bay Express, on why Oakland needs to adopt a proposed Surveillance Technology Ordinance – here.

For background on how this conversation started, and how three different entities (Oakland, Seattle, and San Diego) have approached surveillance reform, UC Berkeley Law Professor Catherine Crump’s excellent law review article can be read and downloaded here.

Join us on May 9 at 6pm before the Public Safety Committee, as the ordinance gets its first review by the council.


Oakland: Rise Up Against Secret Surveillance


Oakland’s Public Safety Committee will vote on the ordinance on May 9 at 6pm at City Hall at Oscar Grant Plaza. We need you there. 


(Reprinted from the ACLU of Northern California)

Everyone deserves to feel safe in their community. Sometimes, that means policing the police. Shouldn’t you have a say in deciding whether local law enforcement gets to deploy futuristic surveillance technology in your community?

The Oakland Police Department has the capability to spy on Oakland residents using surveillance cameras, automatic license plate readers, a ‘Stingray’ cellphone tracker, and social media monitoring software. Upwards of $2.5 million has been spent on these devices, which are capable of collecting data that can be shared with the federal government.

Use this form to ask the Oakland City Council to vote “YES” on the Surveillance Technology Ordinance. 


City of Providence Set to Pass Wide Ranging Community Safety Act Ordinance


On June 1, The Providence City Council voted 13-1 to adopt the Providence Community-Police Relations Act


Key Points of the CSA

Prohibition on racial profiling and other forms of profiling

Police cannot use race, ethnicity, color, national origin, language, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, political affiliation, religion, physical or mental disability, or serious medical condition as a reason to suspect someone of a crime.

Standardized Encounter Form

Every time police stop someone, they must fill out a card with race, gender, and age of the person stopped; reason for the stop; if there was a search, and the results of the search; how long the stop lasted; results of the stop (ticket, arrest, nothing); and officer’s name and badge number. They must provide a copy of the form to the person who was stopped.