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Thursday, July 25, 2013

ACLU: Oakland DAC Amounts To Warrantless Surveillance Of Residents

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL//PRIVACY | Oakland’s plan to link disparate video feeds across the city and port into one massive data center is drawing intense criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. In a letter sent Wednesday to the Oakland City Council, the ACLU says the program, known as the Domain Awareness Center (DAC), amounts to warrantless surveillance of Oakland residents and should not be approved .

The Oakland City Council is scheduled to hold a second hearing July 30 for the approval of $2 million in federal funding for the DAC allowing it to begin installing software that cobbles together hundreds of video cameras from not only the Port of Oakland; of which the original stimulus funds were earmarked, but feeds across the city from the Oakland Coliseum, to city streets and schools, among others.

Approval of the latest phase in the DAC program will also allow it to reach out to other government entities for additional video streams, such as the California Highway Patrol, Caltrans, U.S. Geological Survey, National Weather Service and highway traffic monitoring cameras. Additionally, the DAC is also a clearinghouse for police and fire data.

In their letter, the ACLU urges the City Council to withhold the agenda item following grave concerns the DAC program will infringe on resident’s right to privacy. The plan is also devoid of any guidelines before possible implementation, they add, for the storage and dissemination of such data in the future. “Oakland should not approve a system that would allow for widespread warrantless surveillance of Oakland residents,” wrote Linda Lye, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Northern California. “The DAC as currently proposed allows for the collection and stockpiling of comprehensive information about Oakland residents who have engaged in no wrongdoing whatsoever, and lacks any binding privacy protections.”

The ACLU also doubts the city has studied the unquantifiable costs to privacy while mocking language in the city contract for the DAC that painstakingly details how specific pieces of equipment should be installed with stated precision. “But just as the City Council should not approve the DAC without knowing its financial price tag, the DAC should not approve the DAC without its privacy costs,” says Lye, who is no stranger to the creeping privacy concerns recently being raised in Alameda County.

As early as last fall, Lye spoke out against a still pending plan by the Alameda County sheriff to purchase up to two domestic drones intended, they say, to aid in emergency and rescue situations. However, like the DAC program in Oakland, concerns were raised over how the unmanned aircraft would be deployed absent clear guidelines for its use.

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