Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Does Oakland Really Need a High-Tech 'Domain Awareness Center'? Evidence Suggests Surveillance Doesn't Do Much to Affect Crime Rates

There are growing concerns about a project in the works to bring cutting-edge surveillance to a city plagued with old-fashioned crime. 
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Oakland, California, a city known as a hotbed of progressive politics, is about to deal a major blow to its residents' privacy rights in a very high-tech 21st-century way. Recently, Oakland City Council approved the next phase in building a Domain Awareness Center (DAC) for domestic surveillance. This push for high-tech surveillance comes in the midst of growing evidence that suggests it has little effect on crime rates, according to recent studies from organizations like the ACLU and the Urban Institute.
The DAC will aggregate and monitor video feeds and real-time data from  nearly 1,000 cameras and sensors aimed at anyone, including those not suspected of any wrongdoing, throughout Oakland. This includes cameras and sensors at the Oakland port, on the highway, in schools, and other locations. Additionally, the DAC will analyze the aggregate data with other software, such as license plate recognition, thermal imaging, social media feeds, gunshot detectors, and other information along with 24/7 monitoring and geospatial security mapping. It will also store and allow sharing of data. Initially, it was planned for  planned for the protection of the Port of Oakland, which is one of the busiest ports in the country. But since the project began in 2009, plans have shifted to cover the entire city.

On July 30, Oakland City Council  unanimously approved a $2 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security for Phase 2 in building the surveillance system. The total project will cost $10.9 million through DHS grants.

Science Applications International Corporation, a military contractor, was selected as the company to build the surveillance system earlier in the process. Recently, however, it was  revealed that Science Applications International Corp. was connected to nuclear weapons. Oakland's Nuclear Free Zone Ordinance, passed in 1988, prohibits the city from doing business with companies that "knowingly engage in nuclear weapons work".

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