SB-21 is a bill that would end secret surveillance by CA law enforcement agencies by mandating use polices, impact reports and biannual audits for all surveillance equipment and technology used in CA. SB-21 subjects all spying to an upfront process for local government approval and disclosure to the public. Before it’s used, not afterwards.
The bill just passed the CA State Senate on May 31 by a 21-15 vote and is headed to the Assembly. If you haven’t already emailed your state reps, do so here.
San Jose Mercury News Editorial Board endorsement of SB-21.
A California Mayor’s First Hand Account Of The Need For Surveillance Transparency
San Diego Tribune Op-Ed on SB-21
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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.”
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A FAQ ABOUT PROPOSED SURVEILLANCE EQUIPMENT TRANSPARENCY LEGISLATION
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?
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