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Today 8/13: Turn out and testify on surveillance oversight

From our friends over at Digital Fourth Massachusetts. Alex Marthews of Restore The Fourth will be there. Come out tonight!

What: Cambridge City Council hearing on the surveillance oversight ordinance
When: Monday August 13th, 5:30pm
Where: City Hall, 2nd Floor Sullivan Chamber, 795 Mass Ave, Cambridge

Hello everyone,

On Monday August 13th at 5:30pm, the Cambridge City Council will be holding an ordinance committee hearing to discuss a new draft of the surveillance oversight ordinance that we and the ACLU have been pushing forward for a long time. We’ve gotten a lot of good improvements into the proposed ordinance, but there are still areas that need work in order to properly protect Cambridge residents from secret surveillance by police. In particular:

  • The current draft of the ordinance still gives the unelected City Manager too much control over whether a given technology falls under the scope of the ordinance, and whether the council should be able to approve/deny a given surveillance tool. As residents, we endorse the perspective that elected officials, not city staff, should have the final say over what surveillance gets deployed in our communities, or whether the ordinance gets triggered in the first place.
  • The current draft says that police should draft a use policy for proposed new surveillance technology “if necessary”. We believe that a proposed deployment of a surveillance technology should always be accompanied by a use policy. It can be a simple policy, if the technology is simple. But forcing the creation of a policy, forces staff to think about data use and access and sharing and retention and destruction issues.
  • The current draft includes language suggesting that the people’s right to privacy should be balanced against the investigative and prosecutorial functions of the police in the determination of whether to approve a new surveillance technology. We oppose this language; the point of civil rights is that we don’t trade them off against operational concerns.

If you can make it out to the hearing on Monday the 13th and give your feedback to the city council, we can show them that their constituents aren’t satisfied with the current ordinance, and push them to better protect the people of Cambridge from overreaching surveillance.

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