Activists Work for Surveillance Transparency in Cambridge

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Last year,¬†Cambridge City Councilor Nadeem Mazen and Mayor Denise Simmons introduced a strong surveillance transparency ordinance, with the support of Digital Fourth and the ACLU of Massachusetts. It didn’t pass, and the ACLU explains what happened next:

In the intervening 11 months, the City of Seattle passed a new surveillance oversight ordinance, beefing up its prior law. In June 2016, Santa Clara County, California passed a similar local law. And right here in Massachusetts, just earlier this month, Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone published an executive policy that requires transparency and mayoral approval before the police can acquire new surveillance tech.

Cambridge activists are determined to pass an ordinance that will allow transparency and community oversight before police acquire surveillance equipment. Residents are encouraged to turnout at the City Council meeting next week to stand up and speak up for surveillance transparency and oversight.

Turn Out & Testify!
Cambridge Surveillance Oversight Hearing

Wednesday, October 18
6:30 PM¬†–¬†9:30 PM
Cambridge City Hall
795 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139

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Come out and tell the City Council that you want to know what kind of surveillance equipment the police are seeking to use BEFORE they obtain it… and you want to make sure the privacy of all residents and visitors to the city are protected. We believe any ordinance should incorporate these principles, which are part of the Community Control Over Police Surveillance campaign:

Surveillance technologies should not be funded, acquired, or used without express city council approval:
Surveillance technologies should not be funded, acquired or used without the knowledge of the public and the approval of their elected representatives on the city council. Agencies seeking to use a previously acquired surveillance technology in a new manner must also receive specific city council approval of the new use(s).

Local communities should play a significant and meaningful role in determining if and how surveillance technologies are funded, acquired, or used:
 When used indiscriminately, surveillance technologies create oppressive, stigmatizing environments,especially for communities that are disproportionately targeted by their use, such as communities of color, low income communities, and politically active communities. Rather than allowing the police to unilaterally decide if and how surveillance technologies may be acquired and used, we believe local communities and their elected officials should be empowered to make those determinations.

The process for considering the use of surveillance technologies should be transparent and well-informed:
The city council should not approve the funding (including submitting 
applications), acquisition, or deployment of any surveillance technologies without holding a public hearing. To facilitate a well-informed public debate, far in advance of the hearing, the police or other agency seeking to use the surveillance technology shall publicly report on,among other things, the technology to be acquired, its capabilities, how precisely it would be used, how its data would be preserved and protected, its acquisition and operational costs,and how potential adverse impacts on civil rights and civil liberties will be prevented.
The use of surveillance technologies should not be approved generally; approvals, if provided, should be for specific technologies and specific, limited uses:
 Prior to the public hearing, the police or other agency seeking to acquire and/or use a surveillance technology must identify the technology and its proposed uses with specificity, so they can be debated with specificity. It should be unlawful for the police or any other agency to use a surveillance technology that has not been expressly approved, or to deploy an approved surveillance technology in a manner that has not been expressly and precisely approved.

Surveillance technologies should not be funded, acquired, or used without addressing their potential impact on civil rights and civil liberties:
 Historically, government surveillance has had a significant, detrimental impact on civil rights and civil liberties,including those guaranteed by the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. In recognition of this fact, prior to holding a public hearing, the police or other agency seeking to fund, acquire, or use a surveillance technology should expressly identify the potential adverse impacts the technology may have on civil rights and civil liberties and what specific measures it will undertake to prevent such adverse impacts.

Surveillance technologies should not be funded, acquired, or used without considering their financial impact:
 Prior to holding a public hearing, the police or other agency seeking to fund, acquire, and/or use a surveillance technology should provide information on the surveillance technology’s financial benefits and costs, including its acquisition and annual operational costs.

To verify legal compliance, surveillance technology use and deployment data should be reported publically on an annual basis:
 A public approval process for the acquisition and use of surveillance technology will be of limited value unless the city council and public can verify the legal requirements pertaining to its use, including those regarding the protection of civil rights and civil liberties, have been adhered to. Annual reporting requirements will empower the city council and public to monitor the use and deployment of approved surveillance technologies.
City council approval should be required for all surveillance technologies and uses;there should be no ‚Äúgrandfathering‚ÄĚ for technologies currently in use:
 The same public approval process for the acquisition and use of new surveillance technologies should be applied to surveillance technologies that are currently in use. Any technologies and existing uses that are not expressly approved pursuant to a transparent, community-focused process should have to be discontinued