April 11th, 2017 by yawnbox
By Jan Bultmann and Christopher Sheats
Our city has committed to protecting immigrants, refugees, and the many thousands of other vulnerable populations. We argue that this is not possible without strong privacy oversight, safeguards, and enforcement. The local privacy community urges Seattle’s leadership to set aside for the moment the discussion of our Surveillance Ordinance and any amendments to it, and instead to develop an ordinance that holistically addresses the government’s role in data collection, retention, and sharing.
Why pause now? The ACLU of Washington has proposed a stronger version of the existing bill, which has been watered down by multiple revisions that remove the many critical elements including independent oversight, auditing, reporting, and enforcement requirements. But even with the ACLU’s original, stronger proposal, the foundation of the bill is inadequate.
We now live in a very different environment than when the Surveillance Ordinance was first crafted, although it has only been 3 years. This legislation was drafted in response to the public outcry that accompanied the Seattle Police Department’s acquisition of drones without public knowledge. Council chambers were repeatedly packed with demonstrators. After having wasted $82,000 dollars, the drones were ultimately decommissioned. The Surveillance Ordinance was successful to meet that immediate challenge.
Now we promise vulnerable people that we are a sanctuary city that will defend their human rights. We are literally in the crosshairs of a hostile federal government, one that has been shown to disregard local regulations and make backroom deals with city agencies. For example, putting cameras on City Light poles in direct violation of our existing surveillance law, putting nothing in writing, and further, evading any form of FOIA or PDR process.
“As a sanctuary city we have a greater obligation to protect private citizens.” — Kshama Sawant
We have autonomous cars coming, including wireless car to car technology, wireless car to infrastructure technology, and the lobbyists that come with them. We have facial recognition technologies coming and the lobbyists that come with them. We will be seeing the largest developments of these technologies within President Trump’s term.
Seattle’s Race and Social Justice Initiative clearly states:
By 2017, the City of Seattle will work with community-based organizations to support the movement to end structural racism.
We can tell you that the City has not asked the Seattle Privacy Coalition for input on how we might accomplish this, and we are well into 2017. Further, CTAB-Privacy has not been asked for input on these amendments by the Council. How can Seattle’s Surveillance Ordinance go on to exempt technologies designed and purchased for surveillance? Do black lives really matter to Seattle when data collection, retention, and sharing technologies are historically and routinely purchased in the name of defense but used offensively?
If we do not hold ourselves accountable, a government for the people, how are we going to ethically govern the use of these technologies when they are funded, deployed, and managed by third parties? How is Seattle going to defend our human rights if we have a “surveillance ordinance” that is not adequate for the complexity of a major municipality? Common sense demands that we broaden the scope to include all forms of data collection, retention, and sharing. This would eliminate splitting hairs on terms that exclude any technology not specifically purchased to support law enforcement.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is a legal digital rights organization that maintains an umbrella grassroots organization called Electronic Frontier Alliance. Last week we discussed surveillance ordinances under development in more than 11 municipalities across the United States. The Seattle Washington ordinance was cited as being “well-intended but weak” whereas the Oakland California legislation was cited as effective because their draft legislation includes provisions for independent oversight that are fundamental to all controls, auditing and reporting requirements, and enforcement options such as the public’s right to sue for privacy harms. We strongly advise that Council review the Oakland California ordinance.
The Seattle ordinance MUST include oversight, auditing, reporting, and enforcement, and it cannot be limited to a false notion of what is or it not for surveillance. Without these fundamental changes, we are a sanctuary city in name only. With federal access to municipal databases unmonitored, unchecked, and unreported, anyone who makes use of a city service is vulnerable. When privacy is by design and policies are made to support the most vulnerable in our city, we, in effect, defend everyone’s human rights.
As defined by Seattle’s Privacy Program, we have a Privacy Review Process (PDF) that we can leverage for all forms of data collection. All forms, because there cannot be a lack of transparency and accountability. This must be baked into a Data Collection, Retention and Sharing Ordinance. Every act by the City that takes in information should have a corresponding unique identifier that must be published so that anyone can learn more about the data being collected, what it is being used for, and who is responsible for it. This will build trust. In line with Councilmember Sawant’s wishes to pull down foreign cameras from City utility poles, people have the right to be informed about what their government is collecting about them and their community. We should have the ability to learn about and to respond to our government in constructive ways. With the City’s drive for increasing open data and community engagement, why haven’t we started doing this yet?
Please do not pass the watered-down Surveillance Ordinance rewrite into law because it will cause more harm than good. Instead, we urge the City Council to reach out to local community organizations such as the Seattle Privacy Coalition, Electronic Rights Rainier, and the body that the City Council assembled to advise them on technical issues, the Community Technology Advisory Board, to create a bill we can all be proud of.
April 11th, 2017 by yawnbox
By Christopher Sheats
In Seattle tomorrow, City Council will be discussing Surveillance Ordinance amendments originally proposed by ACLU of Washington and watered down by the council. The Surveillance Ordinance would be incredibly deficient if we passed these amendments. Of primary concern, there are multiple exemptions that are *crazy* if you were to juxtapose a United Nations privacy report.
Surveillance technology does not include:
(a) technology used to collect data from individuals who knowingly and voluntarily consent to provide, or who do not avail themselves of an opportunity to opt out of providing, such data for use by a City department;
(b) social media sites or news monitoring and news alert services;
(c) a body-worn camera;
(d) a camera installed in or on a police vehicle;
(e) a camera installed in or on any vehicle or along a public right-of-way used to record traffic patterns or traffic violations or to otherwise operate the transportation system safely and efficiently, including in any public right-of-way;
(f) a camera installed on City property for security purposes;
(g) a camera installed solely to protect the physical integrity of City infrastructure, such as Seattle Public Utilities reservoirs; and
(h) routine patches, firmware and software updates, and hardware lifecycle replacements.
In February, I spoke along side ACLU of Washington lawyers, University of Washington lawyers, and a domestic violence survivor at a public hearing in our state capitol to support an ACLU bill limiting Automatic Licence Plate Readers. Domestic violence survivors’ privacy, specifically their physical location privacy, is paramount to them and their families. Further, many survivors are victims to police men and women, making this under-served population a critical voice in discussions concerning surveillance technologies. At the hearing, A women with incredible courage showed up to educate the committee about her and the other 5,000+ Address Confidentiality Program participants. With permission, below is her testimony.
As content on our website is licensed using Creative Commons, please feel free to use share her testimony to further privacy rights.
Madame Chair, and members of the committee,
I am here today to discuss a part of my life so terrifying that, at times, I have actually contemplated writing a horror movie script.
Please forgive me, but by the end, it will make sense to today’s hearing.
I am here as a participant in the Washington State Address Confidentiality Program, ACP for short.
You will never understand, nor will I ever be able to convey the fear and torment that one individual can deliver. His words are still etched in my mind: “No woman is going to tell me, a man, what to do.” When trying to end a relationship, what I got in return was physical abuse and psychological terror. I would see him outside my home, my work, at my children’s school or stalking me in my rear-view mirror.
At times, he would convey to me each and every way or place he could have killed me that day.
I discovered that he had made duplicate keys of both my home and my car. Changing door locks didn’t matter. He still got inside. He was letting me know that he was in control.
My oldest son and I would eventually bobby trap our doors when we left, to more easily determine if he might be inside when we returned.
And though time, our much-loved pet cats disappeared one by one.
I lived through death and kidnapping threats to my children’s lives. I feared for my own life.
And in utter, desperate fear one night, I called a helpline, told them of my situation, and was advised to leave the state immediately. I did. On their advice, I gave my house keys to a friend, told nobody where I was going, put my kids and some clothes in my car, and drove to a state where I was offered protection.
I thank you so very much WA for the ACP. I no longer have to be afraid. It took me months but I no longer have to fear looking in my rear-view mirror.
This is hopefully the end of my desperate story.
But now, I want you to clearly understand one implication of unrestricted ALPR technology
I am here representing a vulnerable part of society, those who live in domestic violence situations. My ex-boyfriend kept telling me that he had connections to the police department, that there was no place to hide.
What if that was true? What if someone like me, couldn’t hide ever?
With unrestricted and retained ALPR data that becomes a real possibility.
I want you to consider the lives of spouses of law enforcement who might be in a domestic violence situation. My tale of torture existed because my stalker knew where I lived. Please protect your citizens, all your citizens, from potential location abuse. Please put restrictions on ALPR data.
March 11th, 2014 by Phil Mocek
By Phil Mocek
At the 2:00 p.m. March 10, 2014, Seattle City Council meeting of the full council (agenda), public comment was received from five people regarding Council Bill 118043, which authorized federal funding for facial recognition software and the Washington State fusion center. Each person spoke in opposition to passage of the bill. Because public comment was, as is typical at City Council meetings, limited to 20 minutes, some people who wished to speak were not allowed to do so. After public comment, council members discussed the bill, then voted 7-1 to pass the bill, with Kshama Sawant casting the lone vote in opposition.
A complete video archive of the meeting is available from Seattle Channel for streaming and download. In attendance at the meeting were (in order from left to right as visible in the video) council members Sally Bagshaw, Bruce Harrell, Sally Clark, Tom Rasmussen, Tim Burgess, Jean Godden, Mike O’Brien, and Kshama Sawant.
Council Bill 118043 authorizes acceptance of a financial grant from U.S. Department of Homeland Security under the Urban Areas Security Initiative program, including about $1.2 million for Seattle Police Department, and ratifies and confirms any act made pursuant to the authority of the ordinance taken prior to the effective date of the ordinance. Intended uses of the DHS funding that have been disclosed to the public include purchase of facial recognition software for use by Seattle Police Department staff and further funding of the regional fusion center.
We are unaware of any way to link directly to a point in time in a video hosted by Seattle Channel, so we cached a portion of the video archive of yesterday’s meeting elsewhere.
Following is an index to relevant portions of that video:
- 06:42 Public comment: Scott Shock
- 08:41 Public comment: Lee Colleton
- 14:27 Public comment: Christopher Sheats
- 17:11 Public comment: David Robinson
- 19:19 Public comment: Phil Mocek
- 23:19 Introduction of item #1: Council Bill 118043
- 24:06 Councilmember Harrell
- 29:47 Councilmember Bagshaw
- 31:15 Councilmember Sawant
- 34:28 Councilmember Harrell
- 36:40 Councilmember Clark
- 40:55 Councilmember O’Brien
- 42:12 Councilmember Burgess
- 42:23 Rollcall vote
February 14th, 2014 by Jan Bultmann
By Jan Bultmann, David Robinson, Phil Mocek, and Garrett Cobarr
2/18/2014 Post-Meeting update:
- Four Seattle Privacy members spoke to the Public Safety Committee (PSC) today.
- We submitted this document to the committee for inclusion in the public record.
- PSC did NOT vote on the bill today, but it will be re-introduced to full council on Monday 2/24.
- Full council will vote on it 3/10.
- In the meantime, we are marking up a copy of the policy document submitted by Seattle Police Department to Council, to give councilmembers an example of what a through independent technical review with an eye toward privacy and security would look like, and how useful it would be.
Here are background information and talking points for the 2/18/2014 2 pm meeting of the Seattle City Council Public Safety Committee (PSC).
In this post:
What is the legislation?
C.B. 117996 accepts an Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grant in the amount of $1,645,955 under Federal Fiscal Year 2012 funding. The bill would approve acquisition of an arrest booking photo comparison database, and add a section to the Seattle Police Manual describing its proper use.
What is Seattle Privacy’s position?
We call on the PSC to do the following:
- Hold the legislation for further discussion, including a minimum of three public hearings in the evening when the public can attend.
- Make any amendments necessary to the operating surveillance ordinance (Ordinance 124142) that is already in effect BEFORE purchasing any more equipment.
- Explain what items SPD needs that the city is not able or willing to provide, and why we have not seen these items in budget proposals.
Need for Meaningful Council Oversight
- This is a police department that has been found to engage in *unconstitutional* behavior fully 20% of the time they use force.
- Council’s discussions with SPD at the table and dais appear sometimes to be with some other police force, not the one that we read about in DOJ and monitor reports.
- We get the impression that the the PSC is reluctant to question the assertions of SPD.
- In the past, SPD has used DHS grant money to purchase drones and surveillance cameras which public outcry has later forced them to shut down. Past behavior is predictor of future behavior.
- During all that time that unconstitutional force was being used, the Office of Police Accountability very rarely found wrongdoing. Investigations of allegations appear to be ineffective. We have reason to believe that if there are episodes of misconduct, little will be done and the public will be kept in the dark.
- SPD has earned distrust and strict oversight, and that is the job of the City Council and an informed public.
- SPD and City Council justify the acceptability of these systems by saying that “the ACLU and the Human Rights Commission were involved in review.” We hold that this level of review is utterly insufficient for funding of programs whose value has been thrown into grave doubt. It does not meet any objective measure of public input. We insist that council hold a minimum of three public hearings before accepting DHS money for SPD use.
Problem with the Booking Comparison System
- This system enables SPD to search records of many people who were never charged, much less convicted, of crime.
- As currently written, the policy could be changed at any time without notice to Council or the public. This PSC has talked about Ordinance 124142 as a safeguard, but that ordinance is weak, containing no language about compliance or penalties for noncompliance. We also know that the police introduced language that weakened it further at 5 pm the Friday before Council voted it through as amended Monday morning.
- We know that Councilmember Harrell plans to introduce an amendment to address the weakness of the operating surveillance ordinance (Ordinance 124142) in March, but we want to see that ordinance amended BEFORE any new equipment is purchased.
- Ordinance 124142 is now one year old and we have yet to see any record that any department has submitted privacy policies in compliance with it. The city has failed to follow its own law.
- The Booking Photo Comparison System policy defines a suspect as “a person whom an officer reasonably suspects may be involved in criminal activity.” That includes people who are never even arrested.
- “The database will contain only booking photos of individuals who have been arrested, fingerprinted, photographed and booked into an adult correctional facility in King, Pierce or Snohomish counties.” That includes people who are never charged with a crime.
- The Booking Photo Comparison System usage log will be audited annually by SPD’s Audit, Policy and Research. How will auditors verify that there was probable cause? Where will that information be logged for audits? What’s the enforcement mechanism?
- What’s to limit what photos will be dumped into the database? (For example, mention has been made of a WA Department of Licensing facial recognition database based on driver’s licenses.)
- What is the limit on where future additions to the database will come from?
- Allowing automation of policy activities takes it from somewhat acceptable to invasive and unacceptable. A human officer can fly a camera around, investigate license plates, and look at photographs. But we don’t want an army of police robots in the sky, on poles, in cameras in cars, following us all around and mining any photographs they can get for data, dumping it into a database that they may share with any number of county, state, and federal agencies.
- Example: May Day 2012 incident action plan where Sanford called for photos of all known “anarchists/criminals” and people who’d been arrested in Occupy protests
- Just as the NSA manipulated and misled Congress, SPD are likely to manipulate and mislead City Council. They will allow Council and the public to assume the best, while the police push to the limit of what they can get away with. They are rules-enforcers, not rights-protectors.
- We call on Council to think about potential purchases with consideration for just how bad it could be, not just concoct a rosy vision of how well it could go.
- Example: In documents released under public disclosure earlier this week we learned that city of Seattle built a radio receiver system so they can watch the (sometimes unencrypted) communications from the WSP’s flying infrared cameras, which we know to be used to monitor, for example, political demonstrations. Were Council aware of this system? (FLIR 380)
- Example: In August 2012 The Guardian reported that DHS paid $832,000 for a trial deployment of the Trapwire surveillance system in Seattle. Was Council aware of this system?
Timeline of events behind Council Bill 117996
December 2003 Initial version of this legislation is passed: Ordinance 121283, passed by the City Council on September 22, 2003, authorized the Seattle Police Department to apply for funding under FFY03 UASI Grant Award Programs I and II, authorized the Seattle Police Department to execute an agreement to partner with the State of Washington, King County, and other local jurisdictions to participate in UASI Grant Award Program II, and appropriated an initial allocation of funding under both grant programs for immediate needs of conducting vulnerability assessments and providing urgently needed equipment to City departments.
2004-2012 Variations on same legislation passed every single year without significant public debate for 10 years.
June 2013 Edward Snowden reveals NSA domestic spying programs.
February 5, 2014 SPD presented legislation to PSC, discussion.
February 19, 2014 PSC discussion.
February 24, 2014 Bill to be re-introduced.
March 10, 2014 Full council vote.
December 3rd, 2013 by Jan Bultmann
We were informed today that item 4, the legislation that would accept a DHS grant for the Seattle Police Department, which we referred to in our previous post, has been dropped from tomorrow’s Public Safety Committee agenda. Here is the information from Committee Chair Councilmember Bruce Harrell’s office:
“Our office just received an email from SPD at 3:19 pm today, 12/3, requesting additional time to engage in further policy discussions with ACLU and other stakeholders and has requested that the legislation be held from the agenda tomorrow. SPD will reintroduce the legislation for consideration once the policy has been finalized.”