Surveillance Bill Could Push Other Cities and Counties to Follow Oakland Police Tech Policies

May 04, 2018

Los Angeles Times
By Jazmine Ulloa

A coalition of civil rights and immigrant advocacy groups has penned a letter in support of a state bill that would force California police and sheriff agencies to disclose all of their surveillance gear, as Oakland this week approved similar requirements through what may be the strongest city surveillance ordinance in the country.

Supporters say they believe the legislation will propel other cities and counties across the state to follow the lead, ensuring law enforcement officials are not obtaining powerful public safety tools behind closed doors.

For years, privacy advocates in Oakland have pushed back against the ways that law enforcement, through new technology and shared databases, collects the personal information of criminal suspects and innocent bystanders alike. Under the city’s latest ordinance, police will have to report all of their surveillance technology, keep more public data on its use and obtain community input before buying new equipment. The new rule also includes protections for whistleblowers who report any violations.

Senate Bill 1186 by state Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) would require law enforcement agencies to create their own similar rules covering a broad array of tech, including software assisted by artificial intelligence or used to monitor social media posts or to scan faces and fingerprints.

In their letter, sent to Hill on Wednesday, members of the American Civil Liberties Union of California, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and more than two dozen other criminal justice and immigrant rights groups pointed to the need for more transparency as concerns have risen over how surveillance tools are used against immigrant and Muslim communities under the Trump administration.