The Oakland City Council voted, 5-4, to keep the Domain Awareness Center (DAC) with measures to scale-back surveillance to only the Port of Oakland going forward into Phase 2 of the project. Mayor Jean Quan made the tie-breaking vote for Councilmember Desley Brooks’ motion late in a meeting soured by apprehension.
In an open letter to the city on Tuesday, Mayor Quan suggested dialing back the DAC and citywide tracking while toughening safeguards. “We know the government doesn’t get to simply say ‘trust us’ and carry on: we have to earn that trust on a daily basis.” But with the “not if, but when” scenario of an earthquake or natural disaster, Quan wrote that the city’s firefighters, police officers and emergency medics need every resource to save time and lives.
Brooks’ suggestions include cutting ShotSpotter technology, removing many cameras from city streets, and making sure local, state, and federal agencies can’t access data without a written Memorandum of Understanding from the council. The motion won support from Council President Patricia Kernighan and councilmembers Dan Kalb and Larry Reid with some disagreement over the police and fire computer-aided dispatch (CAD). It was unclear just how much data would be stored and available through CAD, about victims and suspects, but it was determined this real-time information is necessary for coordinating first responders during emergencies.
Councilmemebers Noel Gallo, Libby Schaaf, Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Rebecca Kaplan opposed the measure, citing costs to the city, especially in the long run. Kaplan argued the DAC came without any IT support, which the much-understaffed city would have to supply without compensation. Schaaf said she was uncomfortable proceeding without ground rules on privacy rights.
While the “port-only”option goes a long way to rein in city surveillance, many activists saw the vote as a missed opportunity to stop the DAC all together. Some 149 speaker tickets were turned in during the agenda’s Open Forum, and the crowd, including dozens of members from the Lighthouse Mosque in North Oakland, unanimously spoke out against the center. Many feared entrapment or abuse, and argued that the DAC only fueled mistrust. How the council voted, many speakers pointed out, would help or haunt them during mid-term elections.
The votes were made at approximately 1AM Wedesday.
Watch the story unfold on Twitter with #DAC and #oakmtg: http://sfy.co/cbUx
(image via Dustin Craun)
Quan: Tie-breaker– Yes