There is a growing trend in the United States towards using surveillance technology to cast a broad net over a community to protect public safety rather than developing methods that are more precise. As a result, we are all subject to the scrutiny of law enforcement agencies regardless of whether or not our activities are against the law. The potential for abuse with this data is undeniable. A rigorous ordinance can balance the tension between public safety, privacy, and civil liberties. In fact, El Cerrito’s recent process for a body camera policy provides an example of how use policies can be developed prior to implementation and with ample public input.
We believe El Cerrito should implement a surveillance technology ordinance before obtaining these technologies so that privacy concerns and potential degradation of our civil liberties can be addressed from day one. Right now we know ICE is actively using these technologies to pursue undocumented immigrants. However, the facial recognition technology they are using is against drivers licenses which means most of our information is exposed to this. (1) San Francisco has just passed a ban on all facial recognition technology and other cities are following. (2)
There are many current types of surveillance technologies such as license plate readers, cameras, drones, cell site simulators, and new technologies are being developed every day. Many community members want to develop a policy that allows for public input before any such technologies are adapted by the city. Such a process was used for the body cameras the police wear and it was a great example of a balance between civil liberties and needs of the police. What do you think?
We would like an El Cerrito Ordinance on the use of surveillance technology that includes the following:
- Each new surveillance technology shall have a developed policy that is approved by the City Council. This policy shall include a detailed description of what the technology is, how it will be utilized, how, when, why, and with whom data will be shared, and what the data storage policy will be.
- Any surveillance technology used by law enforcement shall be held to a high standard of public accountability. An annual report of how data is being collected and used shall be shared with the community. This report shall include what equipment was used, how it was used, and how effective it was in preventing or solving a crime.
- Any surveillance data collected shall have stated requirements for how long data can be stored, and how it will be stored.
- El Cerrito Police Department will develop strict guidelines for how information is shared will other law enforcement/government agencies. Information will never be shared with ICE.
- No contract for surveillance technology shall be entered into with any agency that shares their data with ICE (such as Vigilant).
- A process shall be established to enable citizens to know if their data has been collected.
We believe there can be a balance between the use of technology for crime protection and protection of civil liberties. Join us if you would like to see a reasonable policy that protects our privacy.