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Three years ago, Brian Hofer received Defending Rights and Dissent’s Patriot Award for his involvement with the citizens’ coalition Oakland Privacy, which defends the right to privacy and works to ensure the transparency and oversight of mass surveillance technology in the Oakland, California, area. Three months ago, Hofer was held at gunpoint, handcuffed, and detained by Contra Costa sheriff’s deputies, based on a lapse of that oversight. The need for the type of work he does got personal.

On Nov. 25, 2018, an Automated License Plate Reader told police that Hofer’s rental car was listed on a “hot list” as stolen, which led them to conduct a felony stop. What they didn’t know – until after Hofer and his brother spent 40 minutes being terrified – was that the car had been recovered and put back into circulation. Either the car rental company, Vigilant Solutions, or the police had not updated the database of stolen cars. You can read the whole story here.

Hofer is suing three Contra Costa County deputies for violation of his civil rights, warrantless vehicle search, and use of excessive force. We’ll keep you posted on how that federal lawsuit turns out. As police use of mass surveillance has grown exponentially, leaders like Brian Hofer work tirelessly to restrict its use, and force transparency and accountability. Their success will mean the difference between sitting in your rental car driving home from a family Thanksgiving trip, and sitting in the back seat of a police car in handcuffs.