Sunday, July 28, 2013

Oakland moves forward with citywide surveillance center despite data collection, privacy controversy

image credit:
jean-louis zimmermann/Flickr
Madison Ruppert
Activist Post

Ignoring the concerns surrounding data collection and privacy, Oakland continues to push forward with their federally funded, citywide surveillance project known as the Domain Awareness Center.

Other cities have launched “Domain Awareness” programs, including New York City, where Mayor Bloomberg said that New Yorkers will “never know where our cameras are.”

The project in Oakland will link everything from ever-controversial license plate scanners to surveillance cameras to gunshot detectors, Twitter feeds, and more.

It began as a joint project between the city and the Port of Oakland, part of a nationwide initiative to make ports more secure by placing and networking cameras and other sensors around the port.

In total, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) made $150 million available as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 Port Security Grant Program. The Port of Oakland is one of the seven “highest risk” ports which were allocated a total of $81.4 million.

Since the program began in 2009, it went from something focusing only on the ports, to a citywide, massive surveillance program.

It reminds me of the type of surveillance enabled by technology like SkyCop tied with the type of expansion seen with Seattle’s surveillance cameras.

Linda Lye, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, apparently agrees, calling the center “a classic illustration of mission creep.”

Lye also opposed the Alameda County Sheriff’s proposed purchase of a drone earlier this year.

Unsurprisingly, some city officials have already floated the idea of linking the system to what Ali Winston calls “a regional Department of Homeland Security intelligence-gathering operation,” which sounds much like a DHS fusion center. Others have proposed linking feeds from surveillance cameras around the Oakland stadium and arena complex.

While the project continues to move forward, the Oakland City Council has been slowed down by public outcry, at least somewhat.

On July 23, the council was expected to approve another $2 million in federal grant money which would fund the construction of the Oakland Emergency Operations Center’s surveillance center.

The grant would fund the integration of sensors and cameras from a wide variety of agencies into the Domain Awareness Center. Those agencies would range from the Oakland Unified School District to the California Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to the Coliseum and Oracle arena.

Winston also mentions that “regional law enforcement intelligence centers” will be included, which sounds very much like fusion centers.

Thanks to the public’s concerns about the center’s lack of privacy guidelines or data retention limits, the vote on the item was postponed until July 30.

The item was originally on the consent calendar, something which Councilwoman Delsey Brooks criticized.

“Consent items are supposed to be noncontroversial,” Brooks said. “Clearly, it is very controversial.”

Much of this controversy is over the fact that as of now, the Oakland Domain Awareness Center has nothing in terms of privacy guidelines or limits on how long it can retain data or what kinds of data it can retain.

“What are the limits on dissemination?” asked Lye. “And what are the privacy and safety protocols for handling this information internally and through outside agencies?”

Currently, they don’t exist. Ahsan Baig, Oakland’s information technology manager, said that they would develop guidelines on privacy and data retention over the coming year.

Drafting such policies will be complex due to the massive number of cameras and numerous other types of sensors, according to Baig.

Still, the city is asking to get even more money without even the most basic of guidelines in place, something which is hardly comforting for the people of Oakland.

Lee Tien, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said that while it will be an easy sell due to the unrest seen in Oakland, there are major problems.

“There’s no indication they’ve considered any privacy or civil liberties issue in the first place,” Tien said.

He contrasted the fact that Oakland’s facility is openly focusing on the city, while other centers are focused on looking at the water.

“This would integrate city and port surveillance with private surveillance, as well as the CCTV (closed-circuit television) feeds monitoring children in Oakland schools,” said Mary Madden, an activist with Alameda County Against Drones. “How this will help protect the port, I have no idea.”

The center is expected to be unveiled in mid-2014 and is expected to cost around $10.9 million in federal grant funding, according to city documents. An additional $2.6 million is being sought by the city and the port to fund the people who will work at the center.

I’d love to hear your opinion, take a look at your story tips and even your original writing if you would like to get it published. I am also available for interviews on radio, television or any other format. Please email me at

Please support our work and help us start to pay contributors by doing your shopping through our Amazon link or check out some must-have products at our store.

This article first appeared at End the Lie.

Madison Ruppert is the Editor and Owner-Operator of the alternative news and analysis database End The Lie and has no affiliation with any NGO, political party, economic school, or other organization/cause. He is available for podcast and radio interviews. Madison also now has his own radio show on UCYTV Monday nights 7 PM - 9 PM PT/10 PM - 12 AM ET. Show page link here: http://UCY.TV/EndtheLie. If you have questions, comments, or corrections feel free to contact him at


This article may be re-posted in full with attribution.


If you enjoy our work, please donate to keep our website going.


Janet Phelan said...

A concomitant concern for those savvy to the surveillance state are the prevalence of facial recognition systems. Many of these facial recog systems are housed in what appear to be benign and useful accessories.

For example--many camera/facial recog systems are housed in emergency lighting fixtures. Clever, eh? We should be even more concerned at the facial recog systems that have been embedded into Sentry Mirrors, which are now being used by Burger King, Pollo Loco and are also placed in many government buildings.

Brushing your hair in the bathroom after a scrumptious Whopper? Mother Gov's gotcha....Think your "private" conversation that you just had in the bathroom with your fellow government employee was actually private? Mother Gov's gotcha again.

And when we lost the battle for cameras in the courtroom the powers that be forgot to tell us that they installed their own camera systems in the very courtrooms we are disallowed to bring ours into. They tape the proceedings but we cannot. This was verified by a Sheriff Deputy in Los Angeles County.

Hide Behind said...

Will it improve the quality of peoples lives; all peoples lives, not just a few.
Why does the bureaucrat think they know what is best for you?
Did you give them permission to spy upon you?
Why do you allow this spying.
Do you confront them or do you let members of their community and culture act as your spokes person?
If you let others who are of the system act for you then you deserve to be ef,d over.
The system is out of control of the common people and those who continue acting as if it isn,t neeed their asses kicked out of the way.
Those who are settle d in elected offices or employed within the system are not friends of the people. they are of their own concern first and foremost.
That city council is kissing political and economic ass, and while doing so are enriching themselves and taking care of their futures as they treat yours as of no consequences.
When they smile you should find a way of wiping it off their faces, hard, not like those who wait upon that smile and beg for their attention.
The end of human dignity is when you are trained to respond as others want you to act/react, you are but pets domesticated animals.
In other words get a set of balls and use yhe brain creation gifted you with and be Human.

Anonymous said...

Adam kokesh was was dead wrong when he said we take one inch forward they take a mile from our backs and laugh about it

He's wrong because they take 10000 miles

Anonymous said...

I was in a Denny's restaurant in Lansing, Michigan, early one morning back in 1998. The only other person in the room was an old man reading a newspaper over his breakfast. Then two men came in and sat down. They were workers who had been working in the area installing surveillance cameras around the city. The old man asked the one where he was from (he had a heavy Russian accent) and the man said, Tegsas (Texas, with a Russian accent). I snorted out a laugh and said, No he's not; he's from Russia, sent here to help install all those surveillance cameras you are reading about right now in the newspaper you're holding. The Russian froze, said not a word in defense of his obvious lie, and the old man threw down his newspaper and promptly walked out.

Post a Comment