Category Archives: Surveillance

The many ways the government is watching us with an emphasis on digital spying

DC Oversight Hearing on Facial Recognition Software

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March 22, 2017

  • Approximately half of adult Americans’ photographs are in a FRT database.
    • 18 states each have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the FBI to share photos with the federal government, including from state departments of motor vehicles (DMV). The committee identified Maryland and Arizona as having MOUs with the FBI.
    • The FBI will continue to pursue MOUs with states to gain access to DMV images.
  • The FBI used facial recognition technology (FRT) for years without first publishing a privacy impact assessment, as required by law.
  • FRT has accuracy deficiencies, misidentifying female and African American individuals at a higher rate. Human verification is often insufficient as a backup and can allow for racial bias.
  • The FBI went to great lengths to exempt itself from certain provisions of the Privacy Act.

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Oakland Police Department Rejects Predictive Policing

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Predictive policing is the use of computer-generated algorithims to predict crimes prior to happening. Made famous in Phillip K. Dick’s Minority Report and the later film with Tom Cruise in which a futuristic policeman goes on the run after being accused of a precrime, software such as “Predpol” is becoming quite the rage in police departments across the country. Continue reading Oakland Police Department Rejects Predictive Policing

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Fusing California

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By Tracy Rosenberg (published at Media Alliance, Peace Review and Utne Reader)

When it comes to our personal information, many of us assume our privacy is protected. Most of our friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and family members know some things about us. Perhaps one or two loved ones know much about us. We certainly do not expect our personal information to be available to a random army of people we have never met. And yet America’s Network of Fusion Centers is setting out to do just that. We’ve all seen the iconic images of increasingly militarized policing in the United States feature tanks rolling through the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, and camouflage-wearing officers wielding assault weapons while patrolling downtown shopping districts. But law enforcement militarization also has invisible aspects, none more so than the surveillance data that flow out of a growing number of devices, ending up in places we might never expect.

Based on the idea that 21st century information-sharing among a large number of agencies—including the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Defense, Department of Justice, National Security Agency, Drug Enforcement Administration, and local police, fire, hospital, and emergency departments—will provide a shield against acts of violence, the 78-strong national fusion-center network ensures that a lot of data follow us around wherever we go and whatever we do.

 

Continue reading Fusing California

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Facial Recognition Software: Biased as Hell

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An October letter to the Department of Justice by 52 civil rights and civil liberties organizations (including MA) cited growing evidence that the widespread and illegitimate use of facial recognition devices has disproportionate impact on youth, women, African-Americans and people of Middle eastern descent through identifiable anomalies in the algorithims used. Continue reading Facial Recognition Software: Biased as Hell

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Urban Shield

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Update 2-20-17. At the Janaury 25 meeting of the SF Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee, (SF is the fiscal sponsor for all Bay Area UASI grants including the one that pays for Urban Shield), Supervisor Malia Cohen commented: “The point that I am trying to make is I feel a certain sense of responsibility as the fiscal agent to take the claims that we are hearing seriously.. As you have seen on the news there are substantial protests and unrest of how [Alameda County] are using their dollars. If we are the fiscal agent…you intercede, you kind of step in to ask questions, and it sounds like to me that we have not been asking any questions. We have just been shirking our responsibility.” The committee then sent on the funding request with “no recommendation”. The full Board of Supervisors has continued the item to February 28, so the grant remains unapproved. Momentum is building!

John Lindsay-Poland and Linda Sanchez of American Friends Service Committee wrote about the recent Urban Shield developments for 48 Hills

Update 1-11-2017 : At the January 10 Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting after many hours of public comment with over 100 speakers signed up, the board adopted 12 principles for the militarized policing expo including eliminating racist vendors, eliminating assault weapons transactions, ending foreign participation from countries with documented human rights violations, and no crowd control or surveillance training. They also created a task force to monitor implementation of the 12 principles.

Update: A special hearing on 2017 Urban Shield Funding to be held by the Alameda Cty Board of Supes on January 10.

Come to the hearing on January 10 and speak up in public comment to make Urban Shield go away once and for all. There are alternatives for public health and safety training that are demilitarized and free of racist narratives.
Continue reading Urban Shield

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Interrupting Surveillance-In Silicon Valley and Beyond

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This blog entry was written by Media Alliance ED Tracy Rosenberg for the ACLU as part of a national rollout of surveillance equipment transparency ordinances developed and implemented by Bay Area anti-surveillance activists.

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Interrupting Surveillance in Silicon Valley and Beyond
September 21, 2016
Issues : Privacy and Government Surveillance, Racial Justice, Technology and Civil Liberties

By: Tracy Rosenberg follow @twrling

Public cynicism about government is at an all-time high – and we all know the reasons. That’s why it’s pretty remarkable when activists use public government processes to attack a scary and overwhelming problem like surveillance – and it works.

Bay Area activists have seized on a strategy to localize the fight against government spying and enlist city councils and county supervisors – who are far more approachable and accountable than remote DC officials – as allies in building community control of surveillance equipment. City by city and county by county, transparency regulations are being discussed. As the motto of one of the most active community groups in the country Oakland Privacy says, “I’ve Been Watching You Watching Me.” Continue reading Interrupting Surveillance-In Silicon Valley and Beyond

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Predictive Policing’ Isn’t In Science Fiction, It’s in Sacramento

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by Jessica Mendoza   Christian Science Monitor

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. — Officer Matt McPhail happened to be at his desk when the first alert went off.

A Nissan sedan had crossed the intersection of San Juan and Truxel where the Sacramento police had just placed one of two custom-built surveillance cameras. The system ID’d the vehicle as stolen.

“I said, ‘Hey, if anybody’s in the area, you know, keep an eye out for this car,’ ” recalls Mr. McPhail, a public information officer for the department. “And a helicopter was in the area and some officers went by and found it.” Continue reading Predictive Policing’ Isn’t In Science Fiction, It’s in Sacramento

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Groups Ask FCC and DOJ to Investigate Law Enforcement’s Warrantless Use of Cellular Surveillance Devices

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WASHINGTON, DC – On March 16, 45 civil rights, public policy and public interest organizations, including ColorOfChange, Open Technology Institute, Media Alliance, the Center for Media Justice and Public Knowledge, will deliver a letter and petition demanding that the FCC and DOJ investigate law enforcement’s largely unregulated use of military-grade cellular surveillance devices, called Stingrays. Continue reading Groups Ask FCC and DOJ to Investigate Law Enforcement’s Warrantless Use of Cellular Surveillance Devices

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