email to BART board re: surveillance technology (again)

For the BART Board meeting of August 9th, 2018, in reaction to recent stabbings on BART, the BART police have submitted a proposal with just three days’ notice of a kind of dragnet system similar to the DAC that activists successfully opposed a couple years ago.

I wasn’t able to make the 9am meeting, but sent in the following email comment.

Subject:┬ádon’t rush proposed surveillance technology

I understand that people are on edge from recent attacks on BART. But we should not rush into adopting new surveillance technologies without a proper period of consideration and public comment, especially not before passing a surveillance transparency ordinance.

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Abolish the NSA, Already

After a bit of a lull in August, new revelations about the NSA from the Snowden documents are coming thick and fast again. These are, if anything, bigger stories than the first ones. They show us a picture of a government agency that has gone completely out of control.

One set of revelations shows that the NSA’s actions go well beyond searching for “terrorists”. In addition to previous revelations of spying at the UN, we now know that the NSA:

However, those are all foreign targets, and while I am surprised at their hacking a media organization and at the economic espionage, that’s not entirely out of their remit. Doesn’t make it right, but it’s not totally shocking.

What is totally shocking is that the NSA considers Americans and American companies as “adversaries” and has acted to make the US less safe by subverting encryption every chance it could. In particular, we now know that the NSA:

  • infiltrated and corrupted Internet standards groups in order to weaken security,
  • corrupted individual employees of US tech companies,
  • when that wasn’t successful, hacked into tech companies’ systems to steal encryption keys, and
  • worked with companies to deliberately place security holes in commercial software.

This is the height of irresponsibility. In the guise of protecting the US, the NSA has made everyone much, much less safe. It should be called the National Insecurity Agency.

This level of corruption and blatant disregard even for US persons and corporations shows that the NSA has ranged far beyond its original mandate. It clearly has a culture of arrogance and a refusal to accept any ethical limits whatsoever.

It’s clear now that the NSA has strayed so far that it cannot be reformed. The only reasonable course of action is to abolish the NSA.

Chicago Restore the 4th Protest

Today I attended a Restore the Fourth protest in Chicago. It was well attended, with about 250 mostly first-time protesters, and was put together by a small group of first-time organizers. This is about as grassroots as it gets.

The crowd had great energy and many creative signs. The protest demanded that the Fourth Amendment be restored. There was a lot of anger at the NSA, with many calling for it to be abolished entirely. Some chants included:

  • The NSA / has TMI!
  • The NSA / is not OK!
  • Big Bro / has got to go!
  • Free, free Snowden! Free Edward Snowden!
  • Restore the Fourth

As we approached Millenium Park, we came across hundreds of people enjoying the sun in the park. Onlookers were by and large very sympathetic. I was jazzed to see a couple hundred people marching through a crowded area chanting against the NSA. I can only imagine how NSA employees feel right now.

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The San Francisco Sit/Lie Law and the Hypocrisies of History

Wanted: (freedom-loving scofflaws, community-minded reprobates, righteous ne'er-do-wells) Harvey B. Milk, Sit/Lie Rebel since 1974 FOR: Social Use of Public Space, Enjoying Neighborhoods and Neighbors, Celebrating the City, Sharing Public Space with Everyone, Violation of the Sit/Lie Law


Yesterday, May 22nd, would have been Harvey Milk‘s 81st birthday. In San Francisco people held rallies and celebrations.

I and other activists against the recently passed “Sit/Lie” law held another Sidewalks are for People day. The Sit/Lie law makes it illegal to sit or lie on any public sidewalk between 7am and 11pm. It’s illegal to sit on the curb while waiting for the bus, it’s illegal to put a folding chair on the sidewalk to enjoy the sun and greet your neighbors, and it’s illegal to sit down if you’re holding a sidewalk sale, even if you’re a child running a little lemonade stand.

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My email to the San Francisco Entertainment Commission

This is in response to the proposal to require surveillance cameras, ID scanners, data retention, and super-easy police access to data for all SF clubs.


I attended the Entertainment Commission meeting on April 12th at 6:30pm at City Hall, Room 400. They “continued” (postponed) the issue because the mayor wants to look at it. Not sure whether that’s a good or a bad sign. Many people left, but many stayed and all the comments were against. I imagine that you can still submit comments to the email addresses on their contact page. Email the Commission Aide and ask that it be made part of the Public Communications File and forwarded in real-time to the Commission members.

Also join Save the Rave.

First, the personal:

I like to dance, but it’s difficult for me because I’ll get self-conscious. Having surveillance cameras all over a club makes it damn near impossible unless I get really drunk – hardly an intended consequence, I would imagine.

When picking a venue for my wedding reception, one thing I looked for was an absence of surveillance cameras. I was glad to find an awesome, sizable venue that didn’t have any cameras. I was able to relax, have fun, and dance my ass off. It was a great night. This recent proposal to the San Francisco Entertainment Commission endangers this. It would mean that many venues would be forced to install surveillance equipment. Given its size, no doubt my wedding venue would be one of them. Just one year later, that simple, empowering experience I had might not be possible any longer – at least not in San Francisco, in a venue that size.

However, I don’t want to debate the merits of this proposal or try to plead why it’s a bad idea. It’s obviously a TERRIBLE idea! Shortly after the SFPD is caught illegally entering people’s residences and forging paperwork, this proposal would give the police more power and less accountability, and set up more of a surveillance infrastructure in our fine city. The very nature of the requirements – keep lots of information on the basis of generalized suspicion – flies in the face of Fourth Amendment principles.

The Entertainment Commission is here considering the opposite of what it ought to be doing. It ought to be regulating the club owners’ ability to surveille and keep information on patrons. It should at a minimum regulate video surveillance, ban ID scanning, forbid owners from using automated means to determine the real identity of patrons, and outlaw any kind of blacklist.

The fact that this proposal is before the Commission is itself a travesty. It never should have even gotten this far.


PS For a look at the larger concerns raised by this crazy proposal, see my post on The New Surveillance, The New Blacklist.

The New Surveillance, The New Blacklist

I have been concerned about video surveillance for a long time. Its slow creep into every corner of our lives continues – every so often, another restaurant, another bar, another corner store adds surveillance cameras to its premises. I especially dislike them in meeting places like restaurants and bars, but for me, clubs are the worst.

I like to dance, but it’s difficult for me because I’ll get self-conscious. Having surveillance cameras all over a club makes it damn near impossible unless I get really drunk – hardly an intended consequence, I would imagine.

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