ACLU Pushes for Public Input on Surveillance Technology

Cities and counties across the state have spent over $45 million on surveillance equipment with little to no transparency or oversight, according to a recent report from the American Civil Liberties Union. Now, the individual rights group is calling for more public input to blunt the ambitions of Big Brother.

The ACLU has crafted a model ordinance that it hopes municipalities will consider. It would require public discussion and oversight before acquiring such surveillance systems. Specifically, it calls for council or board approval and public hearings before the acquisition of new surveillance technology, as well as an approved Surveillance Use Policy to be made available to the public.

The ACLU’s report was released Wednesday after a survey of 60 cities and all 58 counties. It found that, between June and November of 2014, at least 90 law enforcement agencies had employed surveillance tools, including controversial programs like facial recognition software. Just a fraction of the programs involved public discussion, however, and most lacked any usage policy that could be accessed by the public.

“Local law enforcement has been taking advantage of millions of federal surveillance dollars streaming into California to sidestep the normal oversight process of city councils and boards of supervisors and keep the public in the dark about important community decisions,” said Nicole Ozer, director of the ACLU of California, in a statement.

Read more about the recent report and the model ordinance here.