• The Bay Area Surveillance Project


    A Resource for Cities and Citizens

First, tell us a little about yourself...

To see how your everyday life is being monitored, we'd like to know a little about your background. We use this information (it is not collected!) to visualize how surveillance technologies in use across the Bay Area can determine broad categories of information about you like who you know, where you go, what you do, and what you say. Alternatively, select one of the personas below to view their thoughts on surveillance.

Do you use a cell phone?
Do you own a car?
Do you use public transit?
How often do you attend public events?
What is your household income level?
0 > $250K
How important is social media to you?
How many friends or followers do you have on social media?
0 > 2000
Or select a Bay Area resident to view their profile:

Sadia

Chad

Sally

Harold

More circles indicate that more data may be collected by certain surveillance technologies, creating a clearer picture of who you are for the technology operator.

Without your consent, your everyday activities are being tracked by your government's use of surveillance technologies.

Meet the technologies used in the Bay...

Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR)

ALPR systems capture the image of every license plate in view and store the date, time, location (in GPS coordinates), and license plate number as text in a database for a specified amount of time. They are placed on highway ramps, overpasses, streetlights, and utility poles, as well as mounted on police vehicles.

Public Camera Systems (CCTV)

Public Camera Systems record in public areas, often without notice. Camera systems used to record public spaces are stationary, mounted on vehicles, and worn by police. Government agencies may have agreements with private entities to access their recorded data as well. As technology increases in capability, more recorded video and audio can now be stored for longer periods of time.

Shotspotter

Shotspotter is a proprietary surveillance tool that captures audio from the surrounding environment in order to detect and locate gunshots. The system can be triggered by other loud noises and capture other sounds including human voice.

Social Media Monitoring

Social media analysis tools aggregate data from user profiles on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, monitoring posts, photos, events, and other activity along with information about users’ locations. Police forces have used these systems to respond in real time to protests as they unfold, as well as to conduct longer-term tracking of individuals.

Cell Site Simulator (Stingrays)

Stingrays send out signals that mobile phones interpret as coming from a cellular network tower. In turn, the simulators receive signals from mobile phones in their vicinity which can be used to identify specific devices and their owners.

... and the implications of their use.

People of color have long been the targets of government surveillance - but today's technology makes it more concerning than ever. Communities are being confronted with the very real possibility that law enforcement is tracking them wherever they go - at work, school, places of worship and political gatherings.Alvaro Bedoya, executive director of the Center on Privacy and Technology (source: BBC, 2016)

From Your Activities to The Agencies

Information on who you know, where you go, what you do, and what you say is collected by these tools. Some technology such as cell site simulators (Stingrays) may be used infrequently while others such as ALPR and CCTV may be consistently gathering information. The below chart shows how each system can be used by organizations from the city level - for example, Oakland - to the federal level like DHS' agencies.

In 2016, new California state laws (SB 34 and SB 741) required agencies using ALPR and stingray technology or data to create public use and privacy policies and post them on their websites. However, there is no mandate for government agencies to maintain policies for other technologies such as social media monitoring tools or Shotspotter data.

I am pretty confident that no one in this organization is going to misuse a license plate reader or other technology. But what I also need to remember along with that is that, just because I have confidence in that, doesn’t mean that everyone is going to have confidence in that. The way I’m going to get people to feel that way is to put policies in place that require us to be transparent and accountable. Timothy Birch, Research and Planning Manager for the Oakland Police Department. (source: Ars Technica, 2017)

... But who else knows about you?

Even with local transparency measures, your data is shared between agencies and supplied to regional Fusion Centers like the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC) where different privacy policies (or lack thereof) would apply. Furthermore, some local law enforcement agencies have agreements to borrow surveillance equipment for specific purposes.

We are now working to create a surveillance equipment ordinance that will promote greater community control over law enforcement’s procurement or use of surveillance equipment, by requiring a meaningful informed discussion at the beginning of the process. Brian Hofer, Chair of the Oakland Privacy Advisory Commission (ACLUNC.org, 2016)

Get Involved

Oakland Privacy Working Group

Join the Oakland's local citizen coalition that works to defend the right to privacy and enhance public transparency and oversight regarding the use of surveillance tools …

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Oakland Privacy Advisory Commission

Advise the city to protect Oaklanders' privacy rights and the City's use of surveillance equipment and collection of our data. …

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EFF's Street Level Surveillance

Electronic Frontier Foundation has a great resource on Street Level Surveillance, discussing what the technologies are and how they can be used. …

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Read more about these technologies

For more information about the tools and techologies used, check out the ACLU's Community Control Over Police Surveillance …

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