At DRAD, we are privileged to work with passionate and effective activists and groups in towns and cities across the country. They inspire us, and frankly, keep us sane. So when the California-based First Amendment Coalition sent out a call for nominations for their annual Free Speech & Open Government Award, we proudly nominated on of the most effective groups we work with: Oakland Privacy.
Oakland Privacy is a collective of citizen activists fighting for open, transparent, and accountable government. Although we could have nominated several of the leaders of this group for their tremendous individual contributions, it is their collective spirit and teamwork that makes OP so effective and makes them a model for grassroots activist groups across the country.
The group has fought against government surveillance and for transparency and oversight in over a dozen venues over the past year, including city councils, county board of supervisors, and regional entities in the Bay Area including (but not limited to) Oakland, Berkeley, BART, El Cerrito, Palo Alto, San Francisco, San Jose, Richmond, Piedmont, Alameda County, and Santa Clara County. The group of volunteers monitors agendas, digs into policies, writes model legislation and ordinances, ferreting out actions that impact the right to privacy and the public’s right to know. The group is also a potent force in the State Capitol in Sacramento.
Here are a few of the group’s accomplishments (often working in coalition with other groups):
March 2014. The Oakland City Council restricts the Homeland Security-funded Domain Awareness Center, a proposed citywide surveillance dragnet, to the Port of Oakland only after a broad 2 year citywide campaign featuring extensive public records investigations.
June 2015 The City of Oakland creates the first municipal citizens privacy commission in the United States to protect the people of Oakland from civil rights violations from spying and surveillance activities.
November 2015 Alameda County passes regulations to restrict the use of cell phone interception equipment (stingrays), and included the nation’s first annual report on use and efficacy of the equipment. At the time, the regulations are the most stringent in the nation.
June 2016 The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously passes the first surveillance transparency county ordinance in the United States, mandating use policies, legislative approval and annual reporting on the use of all surveillance and spying equipment by the County.
February 2017 Oakland City Council passes a cell phone interception (stingray) policy for the City of Oakland, closing a circle of 8+ years of secret cell phone interceptor use by the Oakland Police Department. The Oakland policy remains the most stringent cell phone interception law in the nation, and requires that robust use metrics be made public in an annual report.
July 2017 The City of Oakland becomes the 2nd municipality in the United States to terminate an existing memorandum of cooperation with Homeland Security Investigations/ICE, after the Privacy Commission’s review found that the benefits of the relationship were far outweighed by the concerns.
October 2017, the Oakland City Council passed an ordinance to “to ensure greater transparency and a protocol for City participation in federal law enforcement surveillance operations.” The ordinance requires MOUs between city police and federal agencies be reviewed by the Privacy Advisory Commission and subject to public comment, and requires an annual report of police participation in such operations.
Also in October 2017, Oakland Privacy sounded the alarm and via the Privacy Commission it helped to create, investigated and forced a public hearing on Oakland Police Department assistance in an ICE raid that violated municipal sanctuary city legislation, a front in the growing war between the Trump Administration and the State of California.
Sacramento: OP provided critical support in the defeat of several poorly thought out bills including AB 1681 in 2016 (banning encryption in CA), AB 1559 in 2017 (Shotspotter State Subsidy Program) and AB 1298 in 2017 (Lowering Police Lying Standards) and in the passage of SB 34 (License Plate Reader Policy Transparency) and SB 741 (Stingray Policy Transparency) in 2016. In 2017, SB-21 (Local Surveillance Oversight) passed 5 policy committees and the California State Senate before stalling in Assembly Appropriations due to law enforcement opposition.
Please visit OaklandPrivacy.org for a more comprehensive picture of their work (although even the website does not tell the full story).
The activists of Oakland Privacy are a bulwark against government abuses of the First and Fourth Amendment in the Bay Area and the state of California. The group is also an inspiration and model for grassroots activists across the country. They deserve this award! (Winners will be announced in mid-November)