Category Archives: Surveillance

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

Civil Rights Groups Pressure Tech Companies Not To Sell Face Surveillance To Cops


A coalition of more than 80 racial justice, faith, and civil, human, and
immigrants’ rights groups, including Media Alliance, today sent letters to Microsoft, Amazon, and Google demanding the companies commit not to sell face surveillance technology to the government.

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What We Know About Law Enforcement Use of Facial Recognition Software


by Lisa Rein. Originally published at Mondo 2000

An Interview with Tracy Rosenberg (Executive Director, Media Alliance & Co-coordinator, Oakland Privacy

By Lisa Rein & Tracy Rosenberg of the Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project

New! We’ve just updated our Muckrock Templates for Filing Requests re: Surveillance Equipment.) Use these handy templates to request information on the existence of any and every known piece of surveillance equipment. Works for Police (city) AND Sheriff (county).

We will be discussing the Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project, its templates, latest results from Sacramento & other cities in California at this months Raw Thought Salon on February 8th – from 7-9pm.Then stay from 9pm-2am to dance and hang out in artist Grumpy Green’s super special Psychedelic Chill Room (an immersive space for both dancing & chilling). DJs include: MochipetMelotronixTha SpyrytMangangsAilz, & Cain MacWitish – with visuals by Projekt Seahorse – all at our March 8th Raw Thought at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco! TICKETS

Facial recognition software allows cops to feed in images of people and look them up in real time. For instance at a protest or any kind of public gathering. One of the new planned technical innovations is to put the software onto the body cameras many police now carry, turning cops into walking facial recognition programs.

Continue reading What We Know About Law Enforcement Use of Facial Recognition Software

No PVE In California


A 70-strong coalition of social justice and civil rights groups led by M-Power Change, Asian-Americans Advancing Justice and CAIR California (including Media Alliance) sent a letter to CA Governor Gavin Newson asking him to end the reinstatement of a washed-over version of the DHS Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program, now repackaged as a California state program called Preventing Violent Extremism. (PVE).

The letter states “PVE programs are deceptively framed as public health and youth programs that offer social services to marginalized communities. Such a framing masks the true objectives; to surveil, profile and collect intelligence on Muslim, immigrant and Black and Brown communities…. These programs stigmatize the very communities they purport to help, making them less likely to seek legitimate social services for fear it will lead to unwarranted law enforcement scrutiny.

Continue reading No PVE In California

Oakland Becomes Third U.S. City to Ban Facial Recognition


By Caroline Haskins. Published in Vice 7-16-2019

Oakland, California just became the third U.S. city to ban the use of facial recognition in public spaces.

A city ordinance passed Tuesday night which prohibits the city of Oakland from “acquiring, obtaining, retaining, requesting, or accessing” facial recognition technology, which it defines as “an automated or semi-automated process that assists in identifying or verifying an individual based on an individual’s face.”

Continue reading Oakland Becomes Third U.S. City to Ban Facial Recognition

TechDirt: Man Shot By Cops Claims Shotspotter Found Phantom ‘Gunshot’


Originally published by Tim Cushing at TechDirt


Man Shot By Cops Claims Shotspotter Found Phantom ‘Gunshot’ To Justify Officer’s Deadly Force

from the so-are-cops-still-losing-the-tech-race-or-whatever? dept

A lawsuit originally filed early last year makes some very disturbing allegations about police officers and their relationship with their vendors. New York resident Silvon Simmons was shot three times by Rochester Police Officer Joseph Ferrigno. Simmons was unarmed, but was hit with three of the four bullets fired by Ferrigno as he ran way from the officer.

Shortly before being shot. Simmons had been engaged in “Minding Your Own Business,” which can apparently be nearly-fatal. Returning from a trip to a convenience store shortly after 9 pm, Officer Ferrigno cut in front of him, hit Simmons with his spotlight, exited his car with his gun drawn, and opened fire when Simmons began running. According to Simmons’ amendment complaint [PDF] filed in August, Ferrigno never stated he was police officer before opening fire. Simmons, blinded by the spotlight, was unsure who was shooting at him. Even if he had known it was cop, he still would have had no idea why he was being stopped, much less shot at.

The number of bullets fired matters, as Tracy Rosenberg of Oakland Privacy reports. Something seriously messed up happened after the shooting. A gun was found in the yard several houses away from where Simmons was stopped. Cops tried to tie this weapon to Simmons to justify Ferrigno’s deadly force use, despite the gun being located in the opposite direction of Simmons’ flight path.

Continue reading TechDirt: Man Shot By Cops Claims Shotspotter Found Phantom ‘Gunshot’


34 Organizations Unite to Release Principles for Privacy Legislation


Today, 34 civil rights, consumer, and privacy organizations join in releasing public interest principles for privacy legislation, because the public needs and deserves strong and comprehensive federal legislation to protect their privacy and afford meaningful redress.

Irresponsible data practices lead to a broad range of harms, including discrimination in employment, housing, healthcare, and advertising. They also lead to data breaches and loss of individuals’ control over personal information. Existing enforcement mechanisms fail to hold data processors accountable and provide little-to-no relief for privacy violations.

The privacy principles outline four concepts that any meaningful data protection legislation should incorporate at a minimum:

  • Privacy protections must be strong, meaningful, and comprehensive.
  • Data practices must protect civil rights, prevent unlawful discrimination, and advance equal opportunity.
  • Governments at all levels should play a role in protecting and enforcing privacy rights.
  • Legislation should provide redress for privacy violations.

Continue reading 34 Organizations Unite to Release Principles for Privacy Legislation


The Purpose Of The Smart City Is To Kill Us


By Tracy Rosenberg. Originally published on Medium. 

Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean …..

It’s been a hell of a week. No doubt it was extra added if you happen to carry the last name that I was born with — Rosenberg. But virtually no one wants to be blown away for an identity that they can’t, and don’t want, to change. In the mad serial killer chants of “our people”, more and more of us are finding out we simply aren’t included. Continue reading The Purpose Of The Smart City Is To Kill Us


Why San Franciscans Should Support Proposition B (Privacy First)


In November, San Franciscans will have an opportunity to tell their elected officials they want and demand meaningful privacy regulation that addresses data access, security and law enforcement’s collection and use of personally identifying information.

Introduced by Supervisor Peskin, Privacy First is an amendment to the City’s Charter that mandates binding privacy legislation by May of 2019. San Francisco has been sitting on potential regulation (the kind passed by other Bay Area cities like Oakland, Palo Alto, Berkeley, Davis, Santa Clara County and the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) for more than a year. A veto-proof majority on the Board of Supes will take a bipartisan effort among the City’s progressive and moderate supervisors. That is why a mandate from the City’s voters is so very important in progressing from just talk to action. 

The word privacy is often misunderstood as a first world concern of coddled techies, but what we’re really talking about is safety. The use and misuse of our personal data by both law enforcement (especially in the Trumpian era) and by the voracious data broker industry, increasingly dictates who can get on a plane and leave the country – and who cannot, who gets sent to a detention camp – and who does not – and will increasingly affect access to credit, jobs and health care.

The growth in high tech surveillance and ubiquitous data collection falls most heavily on vulnerable groups already on the wrong side of societal divides. Low-income and homeless people, black people who suffer astronomically high rates of incarceration and police violence, immigrant communities, Muslims and people of Middle Eastern descent, and activists and dissidents who openly challenge state power are among the most frequently profiled.  Virginia Eubanks, among others, has written eloquently about how people tracking bakes in lack of equity and punishes the most-punished with high tech efficiency in Automating Inequality.

The problems of data sharing and collection are national if not international in scope, and the Trump administration shows us daily how people-hunting can easily become a governmental avocation. The issue does not begin and end with local government.

But what cities and counties can do, and should do, is provide a firewall that makes it much harder for a totalitarian future to take root. By locking down municipal data and looking askance at unfettered sharing, and pressing locally based businesses to improve their privacy practices, cities and counties can provide breathing room for their vulnerable communities and positively contribute to the national conversation about what the limits are going to be.  From the surveillance state of the future, we will all need sanctuary.

The Bay Area has been a national leader in taking protective steps, but San Francisco, the biggest city in the region, has been missing in action. It is time for that to end. Proposition B is the first, and a very important, step in that direction.

Unfortunately, both of San Francisco’s daily newspapers, have come out on the wrong side of this conversation. What’s going on here? As a legacy journalism organization, it pains us that journalism organizations like the Society for Professional Journalists are throwing the safety of vulnerable San Franciscans overboard.

The SPJ objection focuses on one solitary clause in the charter amendment that gives the Board of Supes limited power to amend previous voter-approved ordinances as long as the amendments are consistent with the original voter-approved intent of the ordinance.

San Francisco’s Sunshine Ordinance,  passed in 1999, is the oldest in the country. It is now 19 years old. Transparency advocates are worried that the clause in Prop B will somehow allow the City Attorney and Board of Supervisors to weaken or water down the existing ordinance and point to a long history of tension between the SunshineTask Force and the City’s political class.

But while we are big advocates of healthy suspicion when dealing with all political bodies, the allegation of a hidden purpose for Prop B doesn’t pass the sniff test. If a wily City Attorney was planning a wholesale assault on the Sunshine Ordinance, about the last thing in the world they would write into the City Charter is a requirement that ties their hands to the voter’s original intent at the time they passed the ordinance. That’s a very high bar. As an action, it would make no sense if that was the true purpose of the ordinance. It’s not. And Prop B does not permit amendments that would reduce governmental transparency.

Sunshine advocates themselves have no intention of leaving the original 1999 Sunshne language untouched. A look at the San Franciscans for Sunshine website shows transparency advocates proposing no less than 100 different changes to the Sunshine Ordinance language.

The group proposes a citywide ballot initiative to make all of these changes. That is an expensive proposition and one with no guarantee of success, given the changing nature of San Francisco’s voters.

The changes are inevitable, because the 1999 ordinance, unlike most municipal commission enabling legislation, reserves seats on the Task Force for nominees from specific nonprofits, among them the League of Women Voters, and Society of Professtional Journalists-Norcal (SPJ). A third organization with a designated seat, New America Media, has been defunct for a year.

The proposed new ballot initiative from San Franciscans for Sunshine doubles down on this model, adding a third designated seat for SPJ-Norcal and new designated seats for the First Amendment Center, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Norcal Media Workers Guild, and the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods, making 9 of the 11 seats on the Sunshine body designated for nominees from specific nonprofits.. In full disclosure, one of the 9 seats is designated for the author’s organization (Media Alliance) and our choice of nominee.

But if it comes down to a choice between setting out a strong voter mandate for meaningful privacy protections and getting a seat on a municipal commission, our choice is clear.

Privacy First.




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