Mass surveillance of citizens without their knowledge is on the rise in America. This is the story of how one city fought back – and is teaching others how to do the same.
The port of Oakland had been given federal funds in 2008 to build a DAC as part of a post-9/11 push to protect critical infrastructure from terrorist attack.
At some point, the city council decided to extend the system to cover the whole of Oakland and its population of 400,000 people.
Hundreds of new cameras would be installed across the city and data would be incorporated from number plate readers, gunshot-detection microphones, social media, and, in later phases, facial recognition software and programs that can recognise people from the way they walk.
Brian Hofer [now chairman of Oakland’s Privacy Advisory Commission] agrees that security cameras can prevent crime but says there is no evidence that mass surveillance does. And he argues that police departments only turn to “shiny gadgets” when relations with the public they are meant to protect, and on whom they rely as witnesses, have broken down.
Many of the systems being offered for sale to law enforcement agencies across the US, and around the world, were developed by defence giants for use on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.