Editor’s Note: At least it’s something! We were wondering when the telescreens were officially going up, because this country is starting to resemble 1984 so much, it’s becoming hard to tell the difference between reality and Orwell’s worst nightmare…
by Derrick Broze
A coalition of seventeen organizations has launched an effort to combat the growing Surveillance State by supporting accountability measures in eleven cities across the United States.
On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union and a coalition of sixteen other civil liberties and technology firms announced the beginning of a national effort to combat the growth of secretive surveillance technology. The coalition’s aim is to “stop the unchecked, secret, and too often discriminatory use of surveillance technologies by local police and to move their approval process out of the darkness and into the light.”
The initiative, dubbed “Community Control Over Police Surveillance,” is the outgrowth of the ACLU’s TakeCTRL campaign, which was originally launched on January 20 with a focus on state legislation. The new effort focuses specifically on action to be taken on a local, city level. The ACLU is joined by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the National Network for Arab American Communities, Fight For The Future, The Tenth Amendment Center, and several other organizations.
“Given the potential for controversy, local police forces have largely taken to acquiring and using surveillance technologies in secret,” writes the ACLU. “Of course, when the police conceal their use of surveillance technologies, they also greatly enhance their ability to conceal its misuse, such as using a surveillance technology without a properly obtained warrant or in a discriminatory manner.”
The eleven launch cities are only the first in a wave of cities across the U.S. which will introduce legislation focused on surveillance. Participating cities include Seattle, New York City, Washington D.C., Miami, and several others. The legislation will focus on increasing transparency and giving community members more of a say in the decision making process when it comes to purchasing surveillance technology.
The ACLU says local communities should have “the chance to discuss, debate, and oppose these technologies before they become “facts on the ground” that are much harder to dislodge.” In order to educate on the local level, the ACLU has also released a Technology 101 primer, which examines several types of surveillance now being deployed by local law enforcement.
The primer covers cell-site simulators, also known as stingrays, that steal cell phone data; automatic license plate readers which track drivers everywhere they go; aerial surveillance by secret aircraft; “gun shot detector” listening devices that can be installed in light poles; hardware and computer software which allow the police to look into your vehicle or home; social media monitoring, and biometric technology.
The ACLU says the Community Control Over Police Surveillance initiative was created using a set of guiding principles. These principles include ensuring that surveillance technologies are not funded, acquired, or used without city council approval; requiring that all surveillance tech is specifically approved; and ending so-called “grandfathering” in newer technologies that the people and city council may not be aware of.
While the Community Control initiative is a small step, it is a step in the right direction. If the ballot box and political system has any hope in saving the people from an increasingly totalitarian Surveillance and Police State, it will come through localization. We the people must work together in our neighborhoods, schools, and cities. Build the world you want to see, and do it in your own backyard first. Take action and inspire others. The alternative option (doing nothing) will not lead you to freedom. Without action, the concepts of privacy and liberty will soon be remnants of a distant past.
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