By David Robinson
Oakland City Council
Honorable members of the Oakland City Council,
We the members of the Seattle Privacy Coalition welcome Oakland’s vigorous debate about surveillance and privacy. We further support the efforts of your constituents to review, critique, and halt the creation of the proposed Domain Awareness Center.
Both Seattle and Oakland have fresh memories of protesters being targeted by police surveillance used to chill their First Amendment rights of free speech and association. Others practicing peaceful civil disobedience have been physically attacked by city police and harassed by federal authorities.
Both cities have experienced the unwelcome arrival of a federally-funded surveillance dragnet that is to be administered, surprisingly, by a police department currently under federal oversight for civil rights violations. In each case, city officials have chased DHS grant money first and asked questions later. Funding for putative “port security” against terrorism has helped to build spy networks sprawling across whole cities.
The first stages of these surveillance systems were funded and installed without meaningful public notice, and without policies in place to protect citizens’ privacy. Guidelines limiting the use and retention of surveillance data were drafted only in response to public outrage, and only after the surveillance devices were installed and switched on.
We urge you to break this cycle of funding first, justification later.
The first step is to halt the funding of the Domain Awareness Center.
The next is to start removing the cameras already in place.
Seattle Privacy Coalition