local issue logo 450x250 finalThe NSA isn’t the only agency spying on you

A conversation with
Senior Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Midpen Media Center, 900 San Antonio Rd, Palo Alto
Free and open to all ~ Wheelchair accessible

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In San Jose, the police department caused a public outcry last year for buying a drone without notifying the public

The use of surveillance technology is not limited to the Federal government. At an ever-increasing rate, local and county police agencies are purchasing and putting into use advanced systems to intercept cell phone calls, track license plates, and photograph just about anything that moves. In far too many cases, the technologies are purchased without review — sometimes without even the knowledge — of governing civilian boards like city councils. As the Palo Alto weekly pointed out,

To date, Bay Area law-enforcement agencies have generally taken a better-to-ask-for-forgiveness-than-permission approach to their surveillance purchases. In San Jose, the police department caused a public outcry last year for buying a drone without notifying the public.

But all of that might change as a result of grassroots efforts to bring some real democratic oversight and review to any purchase and use of such technologies by local agencies.

In June of this year, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors passed what has been called a “landmark” ordinance that would restrict future technology purchases by County law enforcement. It would also require public hearings — a critically important element — before any such purchases are made. The ordinance further requires that detailed policies regarding the uses of the technology and data security and retention policies be clearly spelled out before a purchase. Finally, since the ordinance does not refer specifically to any particular current technology, it is considered to be “future safe”, meaning as new technologies arise, the ordinance will still apply.

Now a similar ordinance has been introduced in Palo Alto by City Councilmember Cory Wolbach. Since the County’s ordinance does not apply to local police departments, it will be essential for each city to adopt its own laws. PPJC director Paul George spoke in favor of Wolbach’s draft ordinance when it was introduced and PPJC will be working to see similar legislation introduced in surrounding communities.

For this month’s edition of Other Voices Monthly Forum we’ll learn what technologies are being used by local police agencies and what the civil liberties concerns are with each. We’ll also explore the best ways to pass restrictions in Palo Alto and other local cities.

Help us plan. Click here to let us know you’ll attend.

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You are an important part of every program! The forum really is a conversation and that includes you. So come prepared to ask questions or share your opinions.

Other Voices Monthly Forum is held at the Midpen Media Center, where it is recorded for later broadcast on local cable television and streaming on the Internet. Previous forums (and other videos) can be seen at our YouTube Channel or the Video Page at our website.

Local TV broadcast schedule (cable channel 30, available in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Stanford, Atherton and nearby unincorporated areas): Tuesdays @ 7:00 pm, Wednesdays @ 10:00 pm, Thursdays @ 7:00 pm, Fridays @ 2:30 am, Saturdays @ 8:00 am.

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