‘Techno-militarization’ seen in CA alarms tech intellectuals

The NSA scandal and the increasing use of technology to police and monitor all Americans, not just suspected terrorists around the world and in our midst, is a growing worry in Silicon Valley. CEOs fret that U.S. tech firms will suffer fallout overseas because of the vast extent of our government’s spying. Meanwhile, tech intellectuals see scary new precedents casually being set all time — many in California.

The TechCrunch web site regularly cites examples of how “techno-militarization” has come to the Golden State, including this December story from Oakland:

“Oakland’s City Council voted to move ahead with controversial city surveillance center during a raucous council meeting Tuesday morning that only ended when the police cleared out the chambers.

“The council voted 6-1 to approve an incremental resolution allowing the city to hire a new contractor to assemble the Domain Awareness Center, a surveillance hub that would allow police and city officials to continuously monitor video cameras, gunshot detectors and license-plate readers across the city.

“Dozens of Oakland residents, deeply worried the center would allow the city to spy on people’s everyday lives, tried to turn the resolution into a referendum on surveillance and persuade council members to stall, or scrap, the process.”

The East Bay Express thinks it’s already turned up evidence that Oakland authorities plan to use the Domain Awareness Center to suppress dissent:

“So what is the real purpose of the massive $10.9 million surveillance system? The records we examined show that the DAC is an open-ended project that would create a surveillance system that could watch the entire city and is designed to easily incorporate new high-tech features in the future. And one of the uses that has piqued the interest of city staffers is the deployment of the DAC to track political protesters and monitor large demonstrations.

“Linda Lye, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, was alarmed when we showed her emails that revealed that the Oakland Police Department has already started using the DAC to keep tabs on people engaged in First Amendment activity. ‘The fact that the focus so far has been on political protests, rather than the violent crime that’s impacting Oakland residents, is troubling, and telling about how the city plans to use the DAC,’ she said.”

Big police brother is watching you

Here’s another Northern California example from the Center for Investigative Reporting:

“A year ago, the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center – one of dozens of law enforcement intelligence-sharing centers set up after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 – signed a $340,000 agreement with the Silicon Valley firm Palantir to construct a database of license-plate records flowing in from police using the devices across 14 counties, documents and interviews show.

“The extent of the center’s data collection has never been revealed. Neither has the involvement of Palantir, a Silicon Valley firm with extensive ties to the Pentagon and intelligence agencies. The CIA’s venture capital fund, In-Q-Tel, has invested $2 million in the firm.

“The jurisdictions supplying license-plate data to the intelligence center stretch from Monterey County to the Oregon border. According to contract documents, the database will be capable of handling at least 100 million records and be accessible to local and state law enforcement across the region.

“Law enforcement agencies throughout Northern California will be able to access the data, as will state and federal authorities.”

Per reports, at least 32 government agencies in the Bay Area are now using license-plate readers.

Here’s an example from Southern California, from a CBS 8/San Diego report:

“A massive data collection operation is underway in San Diego county to store and search millions of photographs. The photos are being taken by license plate reading cameras mounted on law enforcement vehicles all across the county.”

‘A new relationship between the individual and the state’

There are many more such examples. Collectively, they make a key premise of gloomy tech intellectuals impossible to dispute: We’re seeing a sea change in technology and policing, with huge long-term implications for privacy and the relationship between the individual and the state — and there hasn’t even been a real discussion about it.

Even though we’ve seen it coming for years.

Of course, authorities go in the opposite direction when technology has the potential to embarrass them:

“SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A San Francisco Fire Department ban on video cameras now explicitly includes helmet-mounted devices that film emergency scenes, according to Chief Joanne Hayes-White.

“The edict comes after images taken in the aftermath of the July 6 Asiana Airlines crash at the San Francisco airport led to questions about first responders’ actions, which resulted in a survivor being run over by a fire truck.”

If things like this don’t make you cynical, you’re well-medicated.

 

 

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