Oakland Passes Powerful Bill To Combat Explosion Of Government Surveillance Tech

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor
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The city of Oakland, Calif., got one step closer to passing a new rule Tuesday that would curb local officials’ amount of surveillance technology.

It’s not the first such ordinance in general, but it does appear more formidable than other similar ones passed by states and cities in the U.S. If ultimately passed later this month, law enforcement in the area, as well as other government agencies, will be forced to submit a “technology impact report” if they want to to use advanced spying capabilities.

The Oakland Privacy Advisory Commission — a “citizen’s coalition that works regionally to defend the right to privacy and enhance public transparency and oversight” — would review the petition before the officials can move forward with implementation of devices like cellphone trackers (Stingrays) and license plate scanners. (RELATED: DHS Admits For First Time Ever That Contentious Surveillance Technology Is Used By Government)

“Beaten on the calendar by Santa Clara County in June of 2016, and then Berkeley and Davis in April of 2018, Oakland rose up to defeat one of the largest Homeland Security projects ever foisted on an American city,” Oakland Privacy Advisory Commission wrote in a blog post, “and sparked a national conversation about whether the people get any say in how they are watched.”

Police all across the country have steadily acquired and utilized such technology for alleged law enforcement purposes. Sometimes, those endeavors fall outside the bounds of what is legal or constitutional. Holding them accountable, however, is often difficult because it’s not always clear to the average person if and when law enforcement is using covert tactics and devices like Stingrays. (RELATED: The Battle Over The Government’s Massive Surveillance Powers Has Arrived)

The American Civil Liberties Union championed Oakland’s decision, referring to it as “landmark” legislation and a “significant step in [Oakland residents] reclaiming ownership of their neighborhoods and protecting the community from secret and invasive police surveillance.”

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