Victory in Cambridge!

2-year RT4 & ACLU campaign leads to passage of strong surveillance oversight ordinance

On December 10, 2018, the City of Cambridge, MA became the second jurisdiction on the East Coast to pass a “surveillance oversight ordinance.”

These ordinances were originally developed in 2013 by Restore The Fourth activists in the San Francisco Bay Area, where ordinances have now passed in OaklandBerkeleyDavisPalo AltoSanta Clara County and the Bay Area Rapid Transit Board.

A surveillance oversight ordinance is a simple way for local people to take control over the surveillance technologies being deployed against them. Surprisingly, the default in most cities and towns is that police can borrow, acquire, or deploy any surveillance technology without even letting elected officials know, let alone asking their permission beforehand.

This is how these ordinances work. For any surveillance technology – broadly defined – that a local agency wants to deploy, they have to present a plan for how it will be used and what will happen to the data to the local elected officials, who will concurrently decide whether to approve the technology and the plan. Then, if approved, the deploying agency has to report back regularly to the elected officials on whether actual use matches planned use. If it doesn’t, there are penalties.

Congratulations should go to Digital Fourth / RT4-Boston and to the ACLU of Massachusetts. According to organizer Alex Marthews, “We’re delighted to see this pass, and pass unanimously. We hope to see other strong ordinances pass in other Massachusetts cities and towns.” 

Where Does Your Congressmember Stand On Surveillance Reform?

RT4 Relaunches “Decide The Future” Congressional Scorecard on Surveillance and the 4th Amendment

The US government’s mass surveillance programs pose an existential threat to our freedoms. Congress has the ability to rein them in, but only a minority of our legislators are willing to act.

Back in 2015, we and Fight for the Future developed a surveillance scorecard for Congressmembers. Newly relaunched and updated, “Decide The Future” allows you to see which Senators and Representatives are actually voting to reduce surveillance.

The scorecard showcases some important lessons:

  • Party affiliation is not a clear guide to how your legislator stands on surveillance reform. 25 Democratic lawmakers get F grades; 24 Republican lawmakers get A+ grades.
  • If you’re in leadership in either party, it’s more likely that you will oppose reform.
  • If you are serving or have served on the Intelligence Committee, the Homeland Security Committee or the Armed Services Committee, it’s more likely that you will oppose reform, perhaps because of exposure to sustained and selective briefings from the intelligence community.

The scorecard allows you to tweet to your Congressmember about their record. Please do so, and let us know here if you have feedback on the scorecard.