Victory in California: Santa Clara County Votes to Adopt Landmark Surveillance Technology Ordinance

By Zaki Manian, National Board Secretary and Chair of RT4 San Francisco Bay Area

CkXmG_vUkAALihcToday, an idea that was born in the Restore the Fourth Legislative Working Group almost 2 years ago became law. Our idea was to block a strategy by which mass surveillance had been quietly creeping into our communities. The federal government had been quietly funding local police departments’ purchases of powerful surveillance technologies that were deployed with great secrecy. These included cell phone interception equipment and automatic license plate readers.

Our strategy for blocking these technologies was to encourage municipalities to start to regulate surveillance technology in the broadest possible manner. We felt that to be effective, an ordinance would have to do three things:

– Require public debate and a usage regulation before the equipment was deployed
– Require annual reporting how the surveillance technologies were being used
– Require criminal penalties if these regulations were intentionally avoided

The law that was adopted in Santa Clara is the first in the country to do these 3 things. We think passing this law will be a firewall against the secret adoption of current and future surveillance technologies like mass biometric collection.

Along the way, we learned that the California ACLU was working on the same problem and we collaborated closely on the model ordinance. We could not have done this without the tireless efforts of Tessa, ACLU Northern California’s community organizer and Tracy from the Oakland Privacy Working Group.

Our next steps are to pass a similar ordinances in communities across the country. The process has already started in Palo Alto, Oakland, Santa Cruz and Alameda. Today’s unanimous vote will massively accelerate the process. We need Restore the Fourth members to start work on bringing this ordinance to city councils nationwide, especially in Southern California, New York and Illinois. Reach out for more on how to get involved.

Ordinance:

Surveillance Technology Ordinance

Press Release:

Santa Clara Press Release

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