Category Archives: Electronic Frontier Foundation

Transcription & Video/Audio of “No Killer Robots” Press Conference – December 5, 2022

UPDATE December 6th 3:35 PM:

Contact: Tracy Rosenberg, Co-Founder – Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project
phone: 510-684-6853

WE WON! The SF Board of Supervisors Voted 8-3 Banning SFPD from using Killer Robots!

The vote of 8-3 is to send the robot policy back to committee for further discussion and to have the current policy (unless and until a new policy comes back) be that robots with lethal force may not be used.

Thanks to everyone who worked together to make this happen!

A poster that says "No Killer Robots" for the Dec 5 Rally and Press Conference at 9:30 am at SF City Hall
“No Killer Robots” for the Dec 5 Rally and Press Conference at 9:30 am at SF City Hall

SF No Killer Robots Press Conference December 5 2022

Video on you tube here:

Download the video and audio recordings here (CC0 1.0 Universal – This recording is in the public domain.) (Recorded by the Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project.)

Video Download (720)(Starts at 3:22):

Video Download (4K)(Starts at 3:22):

Audio Download:

Background Info On This Event Here:

00:00 – Melissa Hernandez

Hi everyone Hi, everyone, thank you so much for your patience, we’re gonna go ahead and get started. Okay, well, my name is Melissa Hernandez. I’m a legislative aide to supervisor Dean Preston. And I will be your emcee today. I’m going to keep this very short, because we have a lot of folks, a lot of folks who want to speak out against this. So I am going to go ahead and just dive into our speakers list. So our first speaker will be supervisor, Dean Preston.

00:57 – Dean Preston

Thank you all for being here. And a big shout out to my legislative aide Melissa Hernandez for all her work. And for emceeing us, I can’t believe in the City and County and San Francisco, that we’re even having to consider this issue. And it seems like a complete no brainer to me completely reckless that we would give police robots to kill people here in San Francisco, that is absolutely unacceptable. And we know, we know, that deadly force by the police department is disproportionately used against black and brown communities in San Francisco.

And this kind of technology would be no exception. So I want to thank my colleagues, President Walton, who you will hear from soon, supervisor Hillary Ronan for standing strong on this. And also, I want to thank all of the advocates who have been speaking out, and you’ll hear from today. And in particular, I want to thank the folks both at Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Friends Service Committee for working with our office on a lot of the legal issues here, including the fact that we have now uncovered the fact that the San Francisco Police Department did not post this policy as they were required to do under state law 30 days before the hearing yet another reason that this board of supervisors should change course, and send this issue back to committee instead of adopting it on final reading tomorrow.

So I will just say this, and then I will close out, because I know we have a lot of speakers. But there is no way. There is no way that I am going to sit by silently and allow a policy as dangerous and reckless as this to be adopted and go into effect in the city and county of San Francisco, we will fight this legislatively at the board. We will fight this in the streets and on public opinion. And if necessary, we’ll fight this at the ballot. So thank you all for your tireless advocacy and for being here.

03:05 – Melissa Hernandez

Thank you so much to supervisor Dean Preston. I’d like to call on supervisor Hillary Ronan.

03:15 – Hillary Ronan

Thank you, and thank you, everyone for being here today. A couple of things, because there wasn’t any notice that this extremely dangerous policy was going to be thrust upon us last minute. We still have hundreds of unanswered questions about the use of killer robots. Number one, have we had a deep conversation about the ethics of machine on the streets of San Francisco being armed and ready to kill human beings? If we have I haven’t heard it. Number two. What are these robots? Were they designed to carry arms? We’ve been using them for quite some time. We’ve been using them for reconnaissance.

We’ve been using them to remove dangerous materials from places. But are they designed to carry and detonate dangerous weapons? We don’t know. We simply don’t know. And then finally, what training have the SFPD had to use these killer robots? Nobody’s talked about this basic question. So aside from the countless literally countless issues that this community has already brought up, we don’t even have basic information to make this decision. What we do know is that the robotics industry itself is very skeptical and the majority of which are against the use of robots, that to be armed and to kill human beings. This is not a policy that should ever go forward. But at the very least, there are hundreds of unanswered questions that we haven’t even begun to explore at the Board of Supervisors. And until we do this ridiculous policy should not go forward.

05:18 – Melissa Hernandez

Thank you so much supervisor Ronan. Now we will hear from Board President Shamann Walton.

05:26 – Shamann Walton

Good morning. Good morning. Good morning. Not Not only is it ludicrous to militarize a local police department that was given 272 recommendations from the Department of Justice, to reform make changes, to learn how to de escalate to do everything they can to come up with the ability to not use lethal force. So the fact that we would decide that now’s the time to militarize a local police department that has been under the gun, no pun intended, from the powers that push you to make better decisions. Does it make sense not only is this ludicrous because we understand it know, that when you weaponize a police force, or when you give law enforcement entities, more weapons to use in community, we know disproportionately, that those weapons will be used against people of color, black people, brown people, people in isolated and disenfranchised communities. But let’s look at the practical aspects of this.

What if a robot is hacked? What if there is a malfunction? With a robot? What if somebody managed to do harm to communities was somehow able to take over these machines? Because that’s what they are machines. Now, some of you might say, well, that’s far fetched to think about all that was far fetched to think that an alive shooting a robot can go up to a tower and save lives versus harm other lives. So I just want to say that this policy, has no place in San Francisco, it has no place. It has no place in any local law enforcement entity.

These types of machines were really designed to fight wars, and to be utilized in times where we’re not trying to use them against our residents. So I want to make sure that we do everything we can on the board of supervisors, that we do everything we can and community to fight against this policy. It’s important that we take a stand right now. Because if we don’t, with the increased surveillance, if we don’t, with the fact that killer robots are right now so far, allowed to be used in our cities, we’re going to continue to weaponize police departments versus focus on reform that we’ve all fought for for decades. So let’s join together and fight this policy and work to make the real change that we are supposed to have in our communities. Thank you.

08:24 – Melissa Hernandez

Thank you so much. To board presidential Manuel turned into our lively crowd back here. People are fired up about this. I don’t blame them. I will be welcoming our next speaker, Yoel Haile, who is the director of criminal justice programs for the ACLU of Northern California.

08:48 – Yoel Haile

Good morning, everyone. We are here today in strong opposition to arming SFPD with killer robots. Nothing is more important than stopping fascism, because Fascism is going to stop us all. FRED HAMPTON said this. For those who may not know Fred Hampton was the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party. Chairman Fred was assassinated by the Chicago PD and by the FBI at age of 21. Fascism doesn’t just happen. Fascism happens little by little when we fail to hold lines that we should never cross. And this is one of those lines.

No matter what niche or rare situation that SFPD claims that they will reserve killer robots for. given them this power at all sets up a precedent, a horrible precedent that echoes beyond just San Francisco. It is the first step down the road where the state uses robots to kill its own people. And we know who will suffer most from these weapons. Remember that this is the same SFPD who killed Mario Woods, Alex, Jessica Williams, Sean Moore. kita on new Luis Gungor apart, and many others, this is the same SFPD that pulls over and kills. Black and brown people are highly discriminatory rates. The police already shoot and kill black and brown people with near impunity. Allowing them to kill remotely will lead to more mistakes.

And as we have seen with many weapons and tools many times before, that will lead to more frequent use. Remote triggers are easier to pull, and will put the lives of black and brown people in more danger and violence at the hands of the police. This is not a responsible decision. We urge the board of supervisors to change their vote tomorrow and vote no against arming SFPD with killer robots Thank you.

11:12 – Melissa Hernandez

Right, thank you. Thank you. All right, we have a lot of speakers. I’m going to try to get through the rest of our list here. Next, I would like to welcome Nicole Christen the chair of social and economic justice committee for SEIU 10.

11:38 – Nicole Christen

thank you and good morning, everyone. I she said I am Nicole Christian. I am the social and economic justice Chair of SEIU 10 to one and I am here standing with President Welton supervisor Preston and supervisor Ronan, not to ask but to demand that the rest of the board follow suit, follow their leadership follow their example. Science fiction has no place in San Francisco on this day. There is no reason that we need to have robots who can walk into a building and blow it up. I want you to think about that.

Someone from a distance or walk a robot into your neighbor’s house into your neighborhood, because someone up on high who will not be affected at all, has decided that these people should die. That is not the police department’s decision. It is not their right to make that call. I asked you to urge other people to stand with you to stand with us to stand with labor to stand with the Board of Supervisors and demand that this policy never sees the light of day. I don’t care if they gave proper notice or not. killer robots have no place in our city. We work here. We live here. We dine here we shop here. We experience the arts here.

San Francisco is an amazing city. Don’t let it succumb to ridiculous policies. Don’t let it succumb to killer robots. Stand with us. Fight with us. Raise your voice use your voice. Today is the day. Tomorrow is the day don’t let it go any further. It is up to all of us to make sure that these robots never hit the street. Not in San Francisco, not in any city. We are not going to turn San Francisco into a war zone. I will not stand by while families are displaced because of a bombing. We will not do it. I will stand with our Board of Supervisors. I will stand with you. Labor will stand with this city as we always have. And we will fight back and we will continue fighting. Don’t let this win. Don’t let this policy go through.

14:09 – Melissa Hernandez

Thank you. Thank you so much for your call. Next we have Matthew Guariglia, the surveillance policy analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

14:25 – Matthew Guariglia

everybody, my name is Matthew Guariglia. I’m a policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. And I’m here today with a letter signed by 35 Bay Area vital community groups, racial justice groups, civil rights groups, LGBTQ groups in the labor movement. Join the groups here today up here to ask that the Board of Supervisors not approve this dangerous proposal and is not alarmist to be concerned with police deploying deadly force by a robot. We’re not here today because we’ve been duped by sensationalist headlines this was accused.

We’re here today because we know exactly what comes Next, we’re here today because we know the history. Because we read the news, we know exactly who ends up getting killed when police get access to new types of deadly force. We remember that when police said that drones or armored vehicle, or military surveillance equipment, like cell site simulators would only be used in the most extreme circumstances, until, of course, departments across the country learned that they could deploy them in increasingly casual ways. It took tear gas only about a decade, from being a universally condemned weapon of war, to breaking up protests on the streets and United States. And we won’t see that here with armed robots.

Robots are becoming more common departments across the country already have fleets of robots that are supposed to be used for bomb handling, like the ones that SFPD owns. If we pass this policy now, how long until all of them is armed as well, the world and all the rest of United States is watching what we do here today. How long until we’ve normalized police sending out robots regularly. And as we speak autonomous robots are already patrolling malls, parks and parking garages. And the United States. It’s not alarmist it’s already here. And that is why we are asking, we’re demanding that the board of supervisors do what’s right, that they not approve this here or ever, because we know what happens next. And we know how these things will be used. So we urge the board of supervisors to go back on their vote from last week and not approve this dangerous policy. Thank you very much.

16:34 – Melissa Hernandez

All right. I want to make sure that Jaffria is still here. Yes. We will now be hearing from Jafria Morris, the co founder of SF Black Wall Street.

16:48 – Jafria Morris

Hello, you’re on Black Wall Street is a coalition of black leaders coming from the southern side of the city. And we know so well, like what President was saying about the needs for police sometime in our areas. But we also need when we’re over police, the hat to have robots that kill people, we know who they will kill. But this is nothing but government execution. All you can ask every last one of those supervisors, if they believe in the death penalty, I’m sure a majority of them will say no. But when you arm lethal robots to any place to kill, you are doing capital punishment without due process. In our mind, San Francisco is no longer progressive.

We seen it through the recalls. And we see the turn of time, it is for all of us to stand up and say what is San Francisco’s true values here. And these killer robots are not. As I conclude, I want to say I heard one supervisor say, Well, this is not Robocop it’s very much Robocop you have a human brain, taking a remote control device into somewhere that the device we’re allowing the device to be the eyes of the human to determine when and when to deploy. That is Robocop Murphy had an eye. So I want you all to really believe like when we say it will be people of color. It will be misused. We just had the police kill a victim and a perpetrator Owens this year. And we want to give them the right the police chief or anyone the right to determine who gets to live and die. That cannot happen in San Francisco. Thank you.

18:34 – Melissa Hernandez

Thank you so much. Next we will be hearing from John Lindsey Poland, co director of the California Healing Justice Program of the American Friends Service Committee.

18:45 – John Lindsey Poland

Good morning. Besides the people of San Francisco, there are at least three groups of people who are watching what the Board of Supervisors does tomorrow. First, most law enforcement agencies haven’t thought much about strapping explosives to robots. The robots aren’t designed for it. And they would have to be jerry rigged, as Dallas did when they blew up someone. The SFPD hadn’t really thought about it either. The entire San Francisco PD process with militarized equipment has been improvised. The law enforcement agencies have invested heavily in robots and drones in the last 15 years. And if San Francisco authorizes illegal use of robots, you can bet that sheriff’s in the Central Valley or up north where Sheriff see themselves as autonomous authorities or even the San Francisco Sheriff itself, which has not yet submitted their policy.

We’ll also be using robots to kill people in many different types of situations. Second, the robot companies are watching because if San Francisco authorizes explosive robots, they will see a market for them all across the country. In states where use policies are required, and they feature bomb bearing attachments. Third, other online Did officials in California are watching to see what the San Francisco Board of Supervisors whether they defer to police and what the police want, or they follow the state law, which among other things, requires a 30 day period for the public to be informed. And, and, and comment as we are now, here, this did not happen.

On November 14, the San Francisco PD suddenly changed its policy removing 375 assault rifles from the policy claiming they are quote standard issue for the department. Even though the department has 2300 sworn officers. But the law to allow public comment wasn’t followed. The Board of Supervisors should send the policy back to make it transparent, take out killer robots and kick out take out the hidden assault rifles. Thank you.

20:54 – Melissa Hernandez

Thank you so much. Next, I would like to call up James Birch from the anti police terror project.

21:10 – James Birch

I’m grateful for the opportunity. Hello, everyone. My name is James Birch. I’m the policy director for the anti police terror project. I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak here. Thank you to the organizers and thank you all for being here. It’s critical to provide context for policies like this voted forward by the members of the board voted forward by many members of the Board of Supervisors. Because policies like this one do not occur in a vacuum. Robots with the ability to exercise deadly force by explosion are not authorized in a vacuum.

Let us be clear, this policy was passed because many politicians in San Francisco are clear that their police department can do what it wants. Whether it be spying on civilians without authorization, sending racist text messages or committing cold blooded murder on city streets. Just last Friday, the family and supporters of Mario Woods gathered to honor the fifth anniversary of his murder. Mr. Woods shooting was captured by multiple angles, each one showing clearly that Mario Woods was murdered. Despite the abundance of evidence, no one was held accountable. And that’s the theme when reviewing police murders in the city of San Francisco. Despite an abundance of evidence, no accountability. That’s the rats right. Thank you. That’s the truth for Amilcar Perez Lopez. That’s the truth for Alex Nieto. That’s the truth for Jessica Williams. That’s the truth for Gus Rugeley. The list goes on and on and on. We could be here all day. All of these folks were killed without accountability.

In fact, two police killings that occurred in San Francisco are currently on the desk of District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, da Jenkins. Ostensibly, it’s considering whether to move forward with the prosecutions of the police who killed Louie’s gonna go to pat and the police who killed kids O’Neill. Thank you, but those of us who follow the political movement in the city of San Francisco know that da Brooke Jenkins was not elected to hold police accountable. She was elected to remove any obstacles in the in their way. Her ascension to Office is but a piece of the larger mosaic that serves to send a message to serve to send the people of San Francisco a clear message.

This is a town where police are not held accountable by design. This permissive approach to policing the belief that if the police get what they want, they will surely follow the rules and somehow magically keep us safe is as preposterous as it sounds. We see time and again the results of this strategy. Providing carte blanche to law enforcement not only fails to improve public safety that makes our marginalized communities less safe as law enforcement does as they please.

The San Francisco Police Department’s recent history is full of examples that make clear the price the people of San Francisco are paying for this deadly strategy of no accountability. This was evidenced through the racist text messaging scandal where black and brown civilians were referred to as wild animals and worse, and had San Francisco police officers actively wishing violence upon them. This was evidenced in 2020 when the San Francisco Police Department violated policy to directly access CCTV cameras and the Union Square Business Improvement District. This is evidenced by the San Francisco department’s resistance to use of force policy changes made following the spate of police murders in 2015 and 2016, insisting on among other things permission to shoot Upon moving vehicles.

This is evidenced by the disrespectful and dismissive approach taken by Chief Bart Scott to anyone questioning his authority like he did when he was asked for Normally, by city supervisors why the clearance rates in San Francisco are so low. This is also evidenced by the fact that the city of San Francisco has still failed to address the policies or lack thereof regarding the actions of undercover officers, undercover investigators, excuse me, a scientist, San Francisco’s massage parlors. And again, in light of all of this evidence, and the context behind it, I’d like to make sure folks here in San Francisco are familiar with the murder of Joshua Pollock.

In Oakland. Joshua Pollack and enhanced man who was sleeping in Oakland, was was killed by five, San Francisco, excuse me, five Oakland Police Department officers from a tarp and armored vehicle using assault weapons. Right. These are toys that we were told, like you were told here are only going to be used under extraordinary circumstances. These are toys that we were told, as you were told here that the police department needs to effectuate its responsibility. And it’s all garbage. It’s all garbage. Right? We know how the police will use this vehicle. The gentleman from the EFF up the person from the FF excuse me, set so clearly earlier, it is black and brown communities that bear the brunt of these weapons, right these toys that law enforcement claims they need. So again, we can heat this history that I put before you, we can listen to the folks here who know who SFPD are and know what they do. Or we can meet here again when we’re doomed to repeat this history. Thank you.

26:58 – Melissa Hernandez

Everyone, we have our last two speakers. Apologies. I’m just trying to get through the rest of the speakers. So we have our last two speakers. Angela chan chief of policy for the San Francisco Public Defender will be next.

27:17 – Angela Chan

Thank you. No justice, no peace, no racist police. No killer robots. I had to get that chanted. Thank you. Good morning. My name is Angela Chan and the chief of policy the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office. Thank you to supervisor Preston, and your team, Melissa. for organizing this much needed action. Munno Raj, you are public defenders away in the national public defenders conference. He stands fully behind this rally against SFPD using these military weapons. It is impressive today the power of community, the power of community to make sure that our elected leaders and the police have to listen to us. It’s an impressive group of people who’ve turned out so quickly against this horrendous policy.

For far too long our clients and their communities at the public defender’s office have borne a large share of police violence and brutality. We oppose the expansion of the police state. We’ve closed the access to war weapons in San Francisco. We have far too many police reports where our clients have unnecessarily ended up in the hospital. And the city has had to pay out millions of dollars as a result of police violence. Yes, this department has struggled and continue to struggle with use of force against communities of color. We are not going to allow military weapons, especially killer robots in the city. That money that goes towards these weapons belongs in community hands.

We need to invest in community in addressing the root causes of violence of poverty and racism. Not in what 17 robots 12 of which work, two of which have bombs. This is ridiculous. SFPD cannot write their own rules, please should not be the business of policing themselves. Yes. They push this policy forward on vague and uncertain substantiated fears. It is absolutely unnecessary. If you heard some of the extreme hypotheticals given at the board of supervisors to justify this it is ridiculous. It’s unreasonable. It is irrational. It is merely to fan fears so that we find the police more that is the we want to do the opposite. We want to defund the police.

And that’s the public defender’s office wrote in our letter to the Board of Supervisors prior to that first about tools baked to be used, the police will figure out a way to use these weapons if we give it to them. There is no excuse for us to do this. One more thing to note is that this city, just last few years, voted down. tasers voted down proposition H. And guess who makes these killer robots? The same corporation axon, the same corporation. We are not giving any more San Francisco tax dollars and taxpayers already have spoken about this. We are not arming the city more the police more to kill black and brown people in San Francisco. Thank you. And last just want to end by making it really clear. The Board of Supervisors has a choice. There is a second vote on this, I believe tomorrow. And it doesn’t have to be the same as the first completely illegitimate, unnoticed Vote. Vote no on killer robots.

31:03 – Melissa Hernandez

Thank you so much. I would now like to welcome Sharif is the coot the movement coordinator and organizer for the Arab resource and organizing center.

31:16 – Sharif Zakout

Good morning. My name is Sharif Zakout, and I’m a resident of San Francisco and a leader with the Arab resource and organizing center. As an organization that has served poor and working class Arab and Muslim Muslims in San Francisco for the last 15 years, who’ve been historically targeted by SF surveillance and policing policies. We are outraged that instead of leading the way in progressive policies to ensure the safety and security of all communities, San Francisco has made the reckless decision of setting a dangerous precedent for the Bay Area and for the rest of the country.

This follows a dangerous pattern of using militarization as a solution to everyday problems, extensive community feedback, data and research has already disproved this logic. Arming officers with killer robots does nothing to advance the overall well being of San Franciscans. Instead, it exacerbates increasing social inequities, including the disproportionate targeting of black and brown, poor and working class communities by police. We want to see the leadership from our supervisors and advancing the quality of life here in the city. We do not want the use of dangerous technology. We do not want to expand militarism in our communities, and we are not enemy combatants to wage war upon. This decision is offensive and dangerous to us as SF voters and as shameful display of how San Francisco is veering away from being a progressive city, and is now indistinguishable from programs of the right wing. We cannot claim to be progressive or a sanctuary city and militarized our way out of social problems.

We do not want San Francisco to take a step backwards at a time when we claim to be committed to progress and racial justice and human rights. We applaud the bold action of supervisors, Ronan, Walton and Preston and we urge other supervisors to reflect on the city that you are responsible for shaping and the implications of such an irresponsible decision. Do we want San Francisco to be known for killer robots? Or do we want to build on our history of progressive values and be known for us be known as a city that centers safety and the well being of all? We urge supervisors suffi Chan, Stefan Mr. Dorsey mandelman, Mel and Mel guard to reverse your decision and stand on the right side of history. Thank you very much.

33:46 Melissa Hernandez

(No Killer robots!) Thank you so much to everyone who has been here. We are going to go ahead and take some questions from the press if there are any. Yes, go ahead.


The second that’s happened. overturned last week’s reading what would happen will be the consequences of that either way.

34:15 – Dean Preston

Thank you. And the question was immediate question was if the vote were overturned tomorrow, what would be the consequence of that? Or if it were passed, so let me get into the weeds just briefly the way this works. Any ordinance in the city and county of San Francisco has two readings. Its read on first reading that’s what happened last week. And then typically the second reading is almost more of a formality. 99% of the time, the supervisors will who voted one way on the first reading will vote the same way.

Every once in a while there is an issue where based on public input or further reflection folks approach it differently on the second reading it is a new To vote. And there’s absolutely nothing about the fact that a passed a three last week that requires any of those supervisors to vote the same way tomorrow. So we’re hopeful that, that this discussion, this public discussion will cause some of my colleagues who voted for this to change their minds. There are a number of options of what could happen tomorrow, the Board of Supervisors could adopt the policy.

And then 30 days after that, it would take effect, and it would become the law in San Francisco, the Board of Supervisors could reject the policy and vote against it, and then it would be dead, or the Board of Supervisors could send the policy back to the committee where it was previously heard. Because as some speakers have noted, there was not it basically, the public was supposed to get 30 days before the committee hearing to give input on the policy. The policy was posted on SF PDS website on a Friday for a hearing the following Monday. So the so the part of the reason, and you’ll notice a lot of people called into the hearing last week, and the clerk had to say I’m sorry, you can’t give public comment on this. And the reason is, because that public comment supposed to happen in committees. But it didn’t happen here, because the policy wasn’t put out publicly like it’s required to be under state law. So I think so we are asking the Board of Supervisors tomorrow to get at least a majority to agree to send this back to committee. So the public can have input, and then hopefully it will will not able die, there would be my preference. A follow up? Yes.


The issue you’ve been paying came to be? It’s my understanding that it was a California law that took effect recently that has kind of law enforcement do an inventory and define the boundaries of the military.


The follow up question is, why is this even before us? Her understanding that there’s a state law that required this, and we have a number of speakers who have far more expertise in the state law. So I’ll let any of the our speakers who want to respond, supplement what I’m about to say, but that is correct. There’s a state law that was passed our city attorney when he was Assemblymember, David Chu was the author of that law. And it requires for this military equipment that comes from the military, nationally to local police departments, that there be an accounting of what equipment they have, and the policies that govern the use that policy from SFPD was brought to the Board of Supervisors and now comes to us before this state law, these things didn’t even come to the board of supervisors or local city councils.

I want to highlight that, like other cities have looked at this and other states have looked at these issues and rejected this kind of technology. And just across the bay. We had a speaker from anti police terror project here, who does a lot of work in Oakland. And I just want to highlight the Oakland City Council rejected exactly this recently. And San Francisco should do the same. I don’t know if any other speakers want to address the state law question that. Yeah.

38:26 – John Lindsay Poland

My name is John Lindsay Poland and with the American Friends Service Committee. The state law is AB 41, which requires every city and county and state law enforcement agency in the state to submit Yes, an inventory of all types of militarized equipment, not only equipment that comes from the Pentagon, but the equipment that gets purchased or gotten a grant that includes the assault rifles and includes armored vehicles, as James talked about it includes less lethal is like tear gas and impact projectiles. It includes robots, it includes drones, and there is no other city or county in the state. We have been reviewing these policies.

There’s no other jurisdiction in the state that has authorized the lethal use of robots. As he said in Oakland, there was a proposal by the department to allow robots to be used lethal shotguns against people and it was protested and pulled back. So it does this law does require reporting on all of these things. This is why we’re concerned that the department withdrew 375 assault rifles that it has in its arsenal, but it are now invisible to policy and to reporting. There are many other questions that as supervisor Ronan said about this policy, they’re there. For example, they’re not even the number of robots in the SF PDS Arsenal are listed.

So you don’t know what how many of which model it possesses, and therefore how many of them might be converted in some improvised way. A into killer robots. There are many problems. They’re all part of that context, the James bridge talks about, of militarized policing that is going after the people who are always targeted by this type of policing. It’s just now more militarized.


Right? Go ahead. Yeah. Supervisor Preston, you were talking about a possible ballot measure. I was wondering if you could elaborate on that a little bit and what that might look like. And when we could see that possibly, you know, that that effort come to be the question was,

40:36 – Dean Preston

there was reference to of possible ballot measure, what might that look like when we when we would see that? Let me say this, the people of San Francisco ultimately have decision making power over these kinds of issues, if it comes to that. But I want to take this one step at a time, we should not have to go to the ballot and expend the time and the resources to reject killer robots in San Francisco. I mean, I can’t believe I even have to say it.

But but but I will say this, there will be a vote tomorrow. I sincerely hope my colleagues change their vote from last week. And that we make this the issue of a ballot measure mood. But certainly if this board of supervisors adopts a policy that gives the green light to the San Francisco Police Department, to use robots to kill people, I would certainly hope that there will be a very active conversation with my office and advocates about the possibility of overturning that kind of decision at the ballot. But let’s hope we don’t get there.

41:58 – Melissa Hernandez

You just to answer the question, you can show up tomorrow, they will not be taking public comment on this. As far as any media questions, are there any more? Yes.


Any idea? Where you?

42:26 – Dean Preston

Sorry, the question was any idea what the vote will be tomorrow? So the answer that is no, we don’t know what the vote will be tomorrow. And one of the things we’ve been encouraging folks to do is let our colleagues on the board know what you think of their vote whether you liked it or didn’t like it. I will say this about last week’s vote. So it was an eight three vote. So some people might look at that and say, Oh, it’s a done deal, right. It’s not a situation like six, five or something. But I just want to note that three of the people who voted for the this policy expressed very serious concerns at the hearing. One of them expressed what sounded like opposition to allowing killer robots in San Francisco to Others expressed a desire for this to go back to committee.

Now they ended up voting for the policy last week. But I certainly think there is a very realistic possibility that they view it differently tomorrow. And and you know, I’ve worked on a lot of issues on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, I cannot think of an issue that I have worked on where there has been such unanimity among the all of the people providing input not just to me, but to all members of Board of Supervisors condemning this and demanding that we do not arm robots to kill in San Francisco. So I think that this is an unusual situation where it is my my hope, and I’m cautiously optimistic that one or more supervisors will change their vote tomorrow, and at minimum send this back to committee.


All right, thank you so much. I think I’m going to go ahead and close this out and press have any further questions. We can take them over here. Thank you.

Come to the Rally and Press Conference Monday Dec 5th 9:30 am and Demand the SF Board of Supervisors Vote NO on “Killer Robots”

A poster that says "No Killer Robots" for the Dec 5 Rally and Press Conference at 9:30 am at SF City Hall
Come to the Dec 5 Rally and Press Conference at 9:30 am at SF City Hall

Update: December 5: Transcription and Audio Video Downloads here:


December 4, 2021

Contact: Tracy Rosenberg, Co-Founder – Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project
phone: 510-684-6853

When: 9:30 am 

Where: City Hall, Polk Street Steps (Civic Center Park Facing- Steps)

What: Rally and Press Conference organized by Dean Preston, District 5 Supervisor, San Francisco (Who voted “no” on this issue last week)  — Also the EFF and ACLU will be there!

Why: To convince the SF Board of Supervisors to vote “No” on the final vote going on this Tuesday at 2pm or postpone the 2nd vote to a later date. 



This policy amendment would allow the SFPD to arm any existing robots. For instance, to take the bomb robots that they already have, that are usually used to find and dismantle bombs, and retrofit them to actually carry a bomb into a situation, such as the situation in Dallas back in 2016. (

Police Departments can already violate their standing policies in extreme situations citing “exigent circumstances” (including an imminent threat to life), when everything else has been tried and failed. For this reason, a policy amendment isn’t actually necessary for the robots to be used in this manner in a crisis scenario, as long as the department self-reports.

The policy amendment is an attempt to make the use of lethal force by robots a “standard operating procedure” rather than something that is only allowed during the most extreme of circumstances. The policy amendment’s only requirement to use one of these armed robots is that it be authorized by a single one of the three highest commanding officers, who only needs to “evaluate” the situation prior to use.


Exigent Circumstances

Police use the “exigent circumstances” exception frequently when they want to borrow and use surveillance equipment that isn’t authorized by the local surveillance or military equipment policy for regular use. For instance, when the city of Oakland borrows drones from Alameda County, or when San Francisco borrows a cell site simulator from the Department of Homeland Security.

“Exigent circumstances” is how the cops can get around restrictions they would otherwise be bound by and when misused, can cover for First and Fourth Amendment violations. It also gives the cops the flexibility to do basically anything else they want to do, when the circumstances are extreme and abnormal. In the case of surveillance and militarized equipment (which is what the robots fall under) -an exigent circumstance clause lets the equipment  be used in ways which the policy does not otherwise allow on a one-time emergency basis. (

Here, for example are some exigent circumstance reports for drone use in Oakland when drone use was not otherwise permitted.

We only know about these, because they have to report on themselves when they use unapproved technology due to an emergency. But it is possible to allow them to do so, as long as they disclose the use and explain the “exigent circumstances” that were occurring.

But they cannot use and should not be able to use unapproved equipment or techniques without a present severe emergency and disclosure. That is the difference between exigent-use-only and standard operating procedure. The proposed policy amendment goes beyond exigent use to allow standard use whenever police commanders decide to do so and does not require prompt public disclosure after use.



How soon can this thing pass the Board of Supervisors? (Or “Where is the Policy Amendment exactly in its Process?)

The “first reading” of the ordinance was already voted on and passed 8-3, but several of the “Yes” votes were clearly uncomfortable with the situation. (We’re not sure why they voted “yes” anyway…)

The next vote is this TUESDAY DECEMBER 6 at 2 PM.

The amended ordinance with the killer robot permission will become law after the second reading, so if we can’t convince some of the supervisors to change their stance in the next few days, San Francisco will become the first city in the country to explicitly authorize deadly force by robots.


What language should the Policy Amendment include?

Well, it should say that robots cannot be armed under any circumstances. 

However, since we may need to just slow down a runaway train, we wish to make it clear what any Amendment would need to include. 

The policy should say it would only be used:

1)under threat of imminent and significant casualties or severe physical injury, and

2)only after de-escalation efforts and alternative use of force techniques have been tried and failed to subdue the subject, and

3)where there would be no collateral loss of life whatsoever, including bystanders and hostages. 

These minimum requirements are humane in a way that hopefully does not need justification or debate.


About Dallas

In July of 2016 in Dallas, a suspect had shot and injured a number of policemen and barricaded himself in a building. The Dallas Police Department armed an existing bomb sniffing robot and send it into the building to blow it up and kill the suspect. The Dallas Police Department was extremely lucky that  there was no collateral damage. The suspect was killed.

It is the only known use in the United States of a robot with a bomb being used by civilian law enforcement. In 1985, the Philadelphia Police Department delivered explosive bombs via helicopter when they bombed the headquarters of the MOVE black liberation group. The MOVE bombing killed at least 5 children, burned down over 60 residences and is generally seen as egregious police violence.

The Dallas incident is often used to justify why it might be necessary to arm a robot with bombs, but if we examine it closely, it does quite the opposite.

Considering it was one guy, locked inside a building, alone, with little or no chance of being able to hurt anyone else unless they were to force their way inside the building, it’s pretty easy to say that the Dallas PD jumped the gun. DPD had lots of other options short of blowing up the building. For instance, they could have waited hours or days for the guy to eventually come out, and stayed far enough away so he couldn’t shoot them.

With all this in mind, there is no reason for San Francisco to establish the blueprint for regularized use of killer robots with few restrictions besides an evaluation by senior police command.


danah boyd At EFF Pioneer Awards: Facing the Great Reckoning Head-On

danah boyd was given an EFF Pioneer Award last week and she gave an important acceptance speech that we support whole-heartedly.

Please take a minute to read it. (It’s short!)

Or, at least read these excerpts below. :)

danah boyd (left) with Cindy Cohn, EFF’s Executive Director

Facing the Great Reckoning Head-On

by danah boyd.

Audio of danah’s speech here.

From danah’s speech:

And so, if my recognition means anything, I need it to be a call to arms. We need to all stand up together and challenge the status quo. The tech industry must start to face The Great Reckoning head-on. My experiences are all-too common for women and other marginalized peoples in tech. And it it also all too common for well-meaning guys to do shitty things that make it worse for those that they believe they’re trying to support…

The Great Reckoning is in front of us. How we respond to the calls for justice will shape the future of technology and society. We must hold accountable all who perpetuate, amplify, and enable hate, harm, and cruelty. But accountability without transformation is simply spectacle. We owe it to ourselves and to all of those who have been hurt to focus on the root of the problem. We also owe it to them to actively seek to not build certain technologies because the human cost is too great.

My ask of you is to honor me and my story by stepping back and reckoning with your own contributions to the current state of affairs. No one in tech — not you, not me — is an innocent bystander. We have all enabled this current state of affairs in one way or another. Thus, it is our responsibility to take action. How can you personally amplify underrepresented voices? How can you intentionally take time to listen to those who have been injured and understand their perspective? How can you personally stand up to injustice so that structural inequities aren’t further calcified? The goal shouldn’t be to avoid being evil; it should be to actively do good.

The above quotes with more context, from danah’s speech:

Joi Ito became a dear friend and mentor. He was that guy who made sure I got home OK. He was also that guy who took being called-in seriously, changing his behavior in profound ways when I challenged him to reflect on the cost of his actions. That made me deeply respect him.

I also met John Perry Barlow around the same time. We became good friends and spent lots of time together. Here was another tech luminary who had my back when I needed him to. A few years later, he asked me to forgive a friend of his, a friend whose sexual predation I had witnessed first hand. He told me it was in the past and he wanted everyone to get along. I refused, unable to convey to him just how much his ask hurt me. Our relationship frayed and we only talked a few times in the last few years of his life.

So here we are… I’m receiving this award, named after Barlow less than a week after Joi resigned from an institution that nearly destroyed me after he socialized with and took money from a known pedophile. Let me be clear — this is deeply destabilizing for me. I am here today in-no-small-part because I benefited from the generosity of men who tolerated and, in effect, enabled unethical, immoral, and criminal men. And because of that privilege, I managed to keep moving forward even as the collateral damage of patriarchy stifled the voices of so many others around me. I am angry and sad, horrified and disturbed because I know all too well that this world is not meritocratic. I am also complicit in helping uphold these systems…

I am grateful to EFF for this honor, but there are so many underrepresented and under-acknowledged voices out there trying to be heard who have been silenced. And they need to be here tonight and they need to be at tech’s tables. Around the world, they are asking for those in Silicon Valley to take their moral responsibilities seriously. They are asking everyone in the tech sector to take stock of their own complicity in what is unfolding and actively invite others in.

And so, if my recognition means anything, I need it to be a call to arms. We need to all stand up together and challenge the status quo. The tech industry must start to face The Great Reckoning head-on. My experiences are all-too common for women and other marginalized peoples in tech. And it it also all too common for well-meaning guys to do shitty things that make it worse for those that they believe they’re trying to support.

If change is going to happen, values and ethics need to have a seat in the boardroom. Corporate governance goes beyond protecting the interests of capitalism. Change also means that the ideas and concerns of all people need to be a part of the design phase and the auditing of systems, even if this slows down the process. We need to bring back and reinvigorate the profession of quality assurance so that products are not launched without systematic consideration of the harms that might occur. Call it security or call it safety, but it requires focusing on inclusion. After all, whether we like it or not, the tech industry is now in the business of global governance…

The Great Reckoning is in front of us. How we respond to the calls for justice will shape the future of technology and society. We must hold accountable all who perpetuate, amplify, and enable hate, harm, and cruelty. But accountability without transformation is simply spectacle. We owe it to ourselves and to all of those who have been hurt to focus on the root of the problem. We also owe it to them to actively seek to not build certain technologies because the human cost is too great.

My ask of you is to honor me and my story by stepping back and reckoning with your own contributions to the current state of affairs. No one in tech — not you, not me — is an innocent bystander. We have all enabled this current state of affairs in one way or another. Thus, it is our responsibility to take action. How can you personally amplify underrepresented voices? How can you intentionally take time to listen to those who have been injured and understand their perspective? How can you personally stand up to injustice so that structural inequities aren’t further calcified? The goal shouldn’t be to avoid being evil; it should be to actively do good. But it’s not enough to say that we’re going to do good; we need to collectively define — and hold each other to — shared values and standards.

People can change. Institutions can change. But doing so requires all who harmed — and all who benefited from harm — to come forward, admit their mistakes, and actively take steps to change the power dynamics. It requires everyone to hold each other accountable, but also to aim for reconciliation not simply retribution.

Help Ban Facial Recognition in Berkeley (Update: we won!)


October 15, 2019: Berkeley has voted to ban facial recognition

Original post: The EFF has this great page set up where you can write a letter to Berkeley’s City Council, telling them to ban facial recognition in the City of Berkeley.

You can also attend the Public Safety Committee Meeting tomorrow, Monday, September 16, at 10:00 am, and let your voice be heard. (Members of the Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project & Oakland Privacy will be there.)


When: September 16th (Monday)

Time: 10:00 am

Where: 2180 Milvia, 6th floor, “Redwood Room”

Here is the AGENDA with the language of the proposed ordinance.

See you there!

Language of EFF Letter you can send:

Subject: I Support the ban on face surveillance in Berkeley.

Dear Members of the City Council,

I am writing to urge you to pass the proposed ordinance banning government use of face recognition technology in Berkeley.

Berkeley residents wouldn’t support a law requiring every resident to wear a visible identification badge. And, we definitely don’t support being covertly monitored as we move through the city to attend prayer, visit doctors, or spend time with loved ones.

I ask you to stand with your constituents and vote in support of the ordinance banning government use of face surveillance in Berkeley.



Oakland Privacy’s Brian Hofer at the 2019 EFF Pioneer Awards

The EFF has made a full transcription of the entire 2019 Pioneer Awards available here.

Video of Brian Hofer’s speech on YouTube here.

See video/transcriptions for Tracy Rosenberg & Mike Katz-Lacabe.

oakland privacy

EFF’s nash Sheard presents a 2019 Barlow Award to members of Oakland Privacy (Left to right: Nathan “nash” Sheard, Tracy Rosenberg, Brian Hofer, Mike Katz-Lacabe)

Brian Hofer’s Speech:

So my name is Brian Hofer, I recently left Oakland Privacy. I founded Secure Justice with a handful of our coalition partners that are, some of who are in this room tonight. And we’re going to continue carrying on the fight against surveillance, just like Oakland Privacy. I also had the privilege of chairing the city of Oakland’s Commission, as you heard earlier, and it’s an honor and a privilege to be recognized by EFF for the same reasons that my former colleagues have been saying, because you’ve been standing next to us in the trenches. You’ve seen us at the meetings, lobbying, joined in the long hours waiting at city council meetings late at night just for that two minute opportunity that Nash is now an expert at. You know how much labor goes into these efforts, and so I really want to thank you for standing next to us.

This path has been pretty unexpected for me. I quit a litigation job, was unemployed, and I read this East Bay Express article by Darwin BondGraham and Ali Winston based on public record requests that Oakland Privacy members had founded. And there’s a little side bar in that journal that the very next day, just fate I guess, that this upstart group Oakland Privacy was meeting and that I could attend it. It’s even more strange to me that I stayed. It was a two hour discussion about papier-mache street puppets and the people asking me if I was a cop when I walked in. Nobody wanted to sit next to me.

So when I finally spoke up and asked how many city council members they spoke to, the room got quiet. And so that became my job, because I was the one guy in the suit. At the honorable Linda Lye’s going away party a couple months ago, I remarked that if we had lost the Domain Awareness Center vote, I would have never become an activist. I would have returned to my couch. I spent hundreds of hours on that project, and I would have been really disillusioned. But March 4th, 2014, which was the vote, is still the greatest day of my life. We generated international headlines by defeating the surveillance state in the true power to the people sense.

It was quite a contrast the following morning, on the Oakland Privacy list, when the naysayers thought the world had ended in calamity. Little did they know, that was the formation of the ad hoc privacy commission; we were about to change the conversation around surveillance and community control. EFF is directly responsible for helping us form that privacy commission in Oakland, and so it’s my turn to congratulate you. Matt Cagle of the ACLU, Dia Kayyali, and myself were sitting around trying to figure out how to make it a permanent thing, and we noticed that another piece of technology was on the agenda. We didn’t have any mandate or authority to write a privacy policy for it. But Dia signed a letter with me asking that we be given that task.

It worked, and that established the Privacy Commission as a policy writing instrument that remains today. As our colleagues were saying, that’s been the launching pad for a lot of this legislative success around the greater Bay Area. It’s the first of many dominoes to fall. I want to close with a challenge to EFF——and not your staff—like any non-profit, they’re overworked and underpaid, because I’m sending them work and I don’t pay for it. I was supposed to insert an Adam Schwartz joke there.

I believe that we’re in a fight for the very fabric of this nation. Trump, people think he’s a buffoon. He’s very effective at destroying our civic institutions. The silent majority is silent, secure in their privilege, or too afraid or unaware how to combat what’s going on. So I’m going to tell you a dirty secret about Oakland Privacy: we’re not smarter than anyone else. We have no independently wealthy people. We have no connections. We didn’t get a seat at the table via nepotism or big donations. We have no funding for the tens of thousands of volunteer hours spent advocating for human rights. And yet as you heard from the previous speakers, the formula of watching agendas, which anyone with an Internet connection can do in their pajamas, submitting public record requests, which anyone can do in their pajamas, and showing up relentlessly, which in Berkeley and Oakland, you can do in your pajamas—that led to a coalition legislative streak that will never be duplicated. That four year run will never happen again. So I ask that you challenge your membership to do the same, pajamas optional. We need numbers. We need people to get off their couch, like me, for the first time. The Domain Awareness Center was literally the first time I ever walked inside the open city hall, and I apologize for the police lingo, but your membership is the force multiplier and it’s critical that more folks get involved. If you don’t already know, somehow next week turned onto facial recognition ban week. Berkeley, Portland, Emeryville, we have our Georgetown national convening where I know EFF will be. It’s critical that new diverse faces start showing up instead of the same actors. As Tracy said, they can see us from a mile away. We need more people.

In October, we expect four more cities to jump on board. Only one is in California, demonstrating that this isn’t just a Bay Area bubble. It’s got legs. And like the Domain Awareness Center moment, we’ve got a chance to change the national conversation, and we better take advantage of it. Thank you for this honor and thank you for this award.

Oakland Privacy’s Tracy Rosenberg at the 2019 EFF Pioneer Awards

The EFF has made a full transcription of the entire 2019 Pioneer Awards available here.

Video of Tracy Rosenberg’s speech on YouTube here.

See video/transcriptions for Mike Katz-Lacabe and Brian Hofer.

oakland privacy

EFF’s nash Sheard presents a 2019 Barlow Award to members of Oakland Privacy (Left to right: Nathan “nash” Sheard, Tracy Rosenberg, Brian Hofer, Mike Katz-Lacabe)

Tracy Rosenberg’s speech:

Thank you, Mike, and hi, everyone, and thank you so much for this wonderful award. We are honored.

We’re splitting up the speaking here because Oakland Privacy is a coalition and is a collective, and that’s important to us. We have no hierarchy after all these years, and I’ve been doing this for five years. All that I get to call myself is a member. That’s all I am.

I want to highlight, there are people in the audience that are not coming up on stage. J.P. Massar, Don Fogg, Leah Young. There are people that are not here whose names I won’t mention since they’re not here, but it’s always a coalition effort.

And this week I’ve been jumping up and down because the broader coalition that includes EFF and Consumer Reports and ACLU and a bunch of other people, we just stood down the Chamber of Commerce, the tech industry, and pretty much every business in California in order to keep the Consumer Privacy Act intact.

There were six people on a whole bunch of conference calls, you don’t want to know how many, and somehow we actually did it. It’s official as of today. There is power in coalition work.

I’m incredibly grateful to Oakland Privacy because I was incredibly upset about the encroaching surveillance state, and I didn’t know what to do. And in the end, in 2013, Oakland Privacy showed me what I could do, and I will never be able to repay the group for that.

I was thinking back to our first surveillance transparency ordinance in Santa Clara. EFF actually came down, and they took a picture of me speaking at that meeting and put it on their blog, and I thought, I wish I could put into words what lay behind that picture, which was 11 stinking months of going down to Santa Clara and sitting in that room with the goddamn Finance and Governmental Operations Committee where they were trying to bury our ordinance because let’s face it, the powers that be don’t want transparency. And every month standing there and saying, “I’m not going to let you do that. I’m just not.”

We succeeded. It became law, I think it was June 7th, 2016, which doesn’t feel like that long ago. And now there are 12. Eight of them are here in the Bay Area, a couple in Massachusetts, Seattle, and somehow Nashville did it without us and more power to them.

So I think that’s pretty much what I kind of want to say here. I mean, what Oakland Privacy does fundamentally is we watch. The logo is the eye of Sauron, and well, I’m not a Tolkien geek, but I deal with what I am a part of. Hey look—I went to a basement, it was all guys. It is what it is. It’s a little more gender-balanced now, but not entirely. But the point is that eye kind of stands for something important because it’s the eye of “we are watching,” and in really mechanical terms, we try to track every single agenda of God knows how many city councils there are in the Bay Area. I think we’re watching about 25 now, and if a couple more of you would volunteer, we might make that 35.

But the point is, and every time there’s a little action going on locally that’s just making the surveillance state that much worse, we try to intervene. And we show up and the sad truth is that at this point, they can kind of see us coming from a mile away, and they’re like, “Oh, great. You guys came to see us.” But the point is, that’s our opportunity to start that conversation. Oakland is a laboratory, it’s a place where we can … And Oakland’s not perfect. All that you need to do is take a look at OPD and you know that Oakland’s not perfect. Right? But it’s a place where we’ve been able to ask the questions and we’re basically trying to export that as far as it possibly can, and we go there and we ask the questions.

And really, the most important part to me and the part that gives me hope is we get a lot of people that come to the basement to talk to us and basically share with us how dystopia is coming, which we know. It’s here. There’s no hope, right? But when those people find the way to lift up their voices and say no, that’s what gives me hope. So thank you. Thank you and Brian Hofer is also going to make a final set of comments. Thank you.


Oakland Privacy’s Mike Katz-Lacabe at the 2019 EFF Pioneer Awards

The EFF has made a full transcription of the entire 2019 Pioneer Awards available here.

Video of Mike Katz-Lacabe’s speech on YouTube here.

See video/transcriptions for Tracy Rosenberg and Brian Hofer.

oakland privacy

EFF’s nash Sheard presents a 2019 Barlow Award to members of Oakland Privacy (Left to right: Nathan “nash” Sheard, Tracy Rosenberg, Brian Hofer, Mike Katz-Lacabe)

Mike Katz-Lacabe’s speech:

So I first have to confess I’m not just a member of the EFF. I’m also a client. Thank you to Mitch Stoltz and your team for making sure that public records that I unearth remain available on the Internet for others to see.

So as Nash said, Oakland Privacy’s strength comes not just from the citizens that volunteer as part of its group, but also from the coalitions that we build. And certainly every victory that is credited to us is the result of many, many other coalition members, whether in some cases it’s the EFF or the ACLU or local neighborhood activists. It’s really a coalition of people that makes us stronger and helps us get the things done that sometimes we not always deservedly get as much credit for. So I want to make sure to call out those other groups and to recognize that their work is important as well and critical for us.

My work for Oakland Privacy comes from the belief that only from transparency can you have oversight, and from oversight derives accountability. So many examples of technology that have been acquired and used by law enforcement agencies in the Bay Area were never known about by the city councils that oversaw those police agencies.

In the city of Oakland, it was seven years after the city of Oakland acquired its stingray cell site simulator that the city of Oakland and the city council became aware of the use of that device by the police. In my city, I live in San Leandro, it was five years before the city council became aware of our city’s use of license plate readers and a very notorious photo of me getting out of my car that was taken by a passing license plate reader got published on the Internet.

We do our best work when working together. That’s been said. Let me give you … speaking of stories, I’ll take take off from Adam’s talk here. For example, recently journalist Caroline Haskins obtained a bunch of documents pertaining to Ring, you may know the Ring doorbell, and its relationship with police departments. A post about a party that Ring held at the International Association of Chiefs of Police meeting with basketball player Shaquille O’Neal, where each attendee got five free Ring doorbells. That was highlighted by EFF Senior Investigative Researcher Dave Maass.

I, or we as Oakland Privacy, we then found a social media post by the police chief of Dunwoody, Georgia saying, “Hey, look at this great party with Ring, and there’s Shaq.” Dave then went and took that information, went back and looked at Dunwoody and found that subsequently, a few months later, Dunwoody was proud to announce the first law enforcement partnership with Ring in the state of Georgia. What a coincidence.

Oftentimes it’s these coalitions working together that result in prying public records free and then establishing the context around them. The work we do involves very, very exciting things: Public records requests, lobbying of public officials and meeting with public officials, speaking at city council meetings and board of supervisors meetings. We’re talking, this is, primo excitement here.

So, as was mentioned, our work with Oakland Privacy was helpful in getting the first privacy advisory commission, an actual city of Oakland commission going, within the city of Oakland. It’s this organization, led by chair Brian Hofer, that passes policies regarding surveillance technologies, and not only passes policies but actually digs down and finds out what surveillance technologies the city of Oakland has. It has been a model for cities and counties, and we’re proud that our work will continue there in addition to working on many other issues surrounding surveillance.

In fact, I would be very happy to tell you that we’ve had … just recently the California assembly and the Senate passed a ban on the use of face surveillance on body-worn cameras. Again, our work with coalitions there makes the difference. And now, I would like to introduce another member of Oakland Privacy, Tracy Rosenberg.


DWeb Camp Q & A with the EFF’s Danny O’Brien

DWeb Camp is going on from July 18-21 in Pescadero, CA.

Q: What excites you most about the decentralized web?

A: The Internet for me has always been a vision of autonomy among equals — being able to create, share and communicate with your peers as quickly and easily as possible.

Danny O’Brien, Director of Strategy, EFF

Somehow, so much of that communication now goes through a handful of chokepoints: silos where the data of our lives goes in, but never escapes.

Decentralizing — or re-decentralizing — the Web, is about continuing the project, after a brief diversion into the Google/Amazon/Facebook world.

Q: Why is the need to create a distributed web critical in nature?

A: I think if all the world’s communications are filtered through a handful of institutions — whatever those institutions are — it’s going to get distorted. We need to be able to communicate clearly, and as equals.

Q: Will you be speaking at the conference? What about?

A: Well, mainly I’m hoping to listen. But if you grab me, I’ll be talking about the changing tone of public debate (and how it compares to the post-revolutionary America and France), adversarial interoperability, lessons we can learn from the P2P wars, and what happens when regulators aim at Facebook and hit the Dweb.

EFF will be out in force, too — we’ll have folks to speak from all sides of the organization, from tech, law, and activism.

Thanks Danny! See everyone at DWeb Camp on July 18th!

Live Stream Link and Everything You Need To Know About This Year’s San Francisco Event


Here’s a little index that we’ll keep adding to over the next day or two:

TICKETS                           Located at: The Internet Archive

Projects to Hack On at the Conference (so far – as people can invent their own projects at any time over the course of the weekend!) (Including projects for non-programmers!)

Speaker Schedule (Saturday and Sunday)

VR Faire (new page coming soon), featuring:
-The EFF’s “Spot the Surveillance
Noisebridge‘s BCI (Brain Computer Interface) Application,
(new page coming soon)
GameBridge‘s VR Tour of Noisebridge

Awesome plant-based food by LeCupboard

Opening Night Party at the DNA Lounge



Shari Steele (w Cindy Cohn & Cory Doctorow) At the John Perry Barlow Symposium

This is from the April 7, 2018 event. Complete transcription and video available here at the Internet Archive. (A complete index of all speakers is forming here on the Aaron Swartz Day website.)

Left to Right: Shari Steele, John Gilmore, Joi Ito, Steven Levy.

Cindy Cohn: Our second panel of speakers are Shari Steel, John Gilmore, Stephen Levy, and Joy Ito. And although she ended up at the end, our first speaker up is Shari Steele.

Cory Doctorow: So Shari was the turnaround specialist that turned the EFF into the powerhouse it is today. She calls herself a “First Amendment Junkie.” And when I met her, EFF was on the rocks. John Gilmore had brought it back to San Francisco from adventures on the East Coast and they lost their digs and so they were everyone was working out of their living rooms and meeting up once a week in coffee shops and today. Well, today we’re a much bigger organization and a lot of it – well so much of it is due to Shari and her leadership. One of the places where I got to see her shine is in managing her Board, and it’s quite an irascible and amazing board. And as you heard about Barlow, he was always a challenging board member. So I’m looking forward to hearing what Shari has to say about about being the adult supervision for John Perry Barlow. [02:47:56]

Shari Steele: Hmmm. I wasn’t going to say anything about being “the adult supervision of John Perry Barlow.”

So, I started EFF in 1992, as a staff attorney, and I’m just going to give a little aside. Mitch Kapor actually detoured his plane to stop to meet me too. (Laughs) I was in Washington D.C. and I had already interviewed with Jerry Berman and Danny Weitzner, who at the time were the EFF D.C. office, and Mitch wanted to meet me and so was on his way back to Boston from someplace or other, and stopped so that I got to meet him. And I got the job. So whatever, but when I first when I first took this job we didn’t know what EFF was going to become, but I had heard of Mitch Kapor and was really interested in working with Mitch Kapor, but had never heard of John Perry Barlow. I was not a Grateful Dead fan I was not from San Francisco. I didn’t know who this guy was. It literally took one meeting for me to become a groupie. This man had more charisma than anybody I’ve ever met and his belief in the First Amendment and in a free speech, in a society with free speech ,and a vision of the Internet as being a place for free speech, resonated so powerfully with me that he became an instant buddy.

Our first real big fight related to free speech was in 1995, when Congress passed this horrible horrible law called the Communications Decency Act, or the CDA. Barlow was, and we were all, really upset about it. As soon as it passed, we knew that was unconstitutional. And, with the ACLU, EFF challenged the law. [02:49:50]

The big part of that that was horrible was the part about indecency. It was it was Congress’s attempt to regulate pornography. And in it they had this whole part about if, basically, if the internet was was not good enough for kids then it was bad. So things like, talking about sexuality, or curse words, or talking about assisted suicide. Talking about anything that would be a topic that wouldn’t be appropriate for kids, you could possibly have been fined two hundred fifty thousand dollars per violation for doing that on the Internet.

So along with this lawsuit, and that was, of course, the EFF and ACLU way of fighting it. John Perry Barlow in his way of putting pen to paper, or typing on the keyboard, came up with his Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace. I loved this thing from the very start. Cindy and I were just talking about this the other day. [02:51:04]

So I re-read it particularly getting ready for today. A whole bunch of this was about sovereignty. The way he wrote it was was basically daring governments from around the world to come in and regulate cyberspace and saying “you have no business here.” But the reason why I loved it was because the reason why he felt that cyberspace was so important to defend was speech. It was about the free speech. And here’s a quote from the declaration:

“We are creating a world where any one anywhere may express his or her beliefs no matter how singular without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.”

As a first amendment attorney yes as a first amendment attorney those those words still still give me chills. So in 1997, those indecency provisions of the CDA were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Yay us. And ten years later Barlow, was asked to defend or talk about his Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace. And he kind of talked a bit about the sovereignty your stuff but he gave us some more beautiful language that I’m going to share with you here. [02:52:27]

“I still dream of a world where anyone could express anything he or she chooses, no matter how odious or unpopular, without fear of official reprisal. I dream of a world where anyone else can either here or ignore those expressions as they choose, but will at least be able to make that choice with similar immunity. I dream of a world where anyone who wants to know something will be able to learn the truth about it, regardless of his or her economic status, social standing or race. I imagine a future where intelligence will be the primary economic resource and the location of one’s cerebral cavity will be irrelevant to the earning potential of its contents. I have not given up on the idea that as a species we can be more humane and fair. Nor have I forsaken the notion that the greater understanding bred by universal access to knowledge is the key to increasing these qualities in us.” [02:53:30]

Yeah. And that’s the thing about Barlow. He wanted to hear all different kinds of viewpoints. He knew more people who had divergent ways of looking at things, because that’s how he grew. That’s how he thrived. He was always learning. He always wanted to know more. He was always encouraging voices. He was always encouraging people to talk to each other. To have conversations where you normally wouldn’t maybe have thought that this was somebody that you might have something in common with. He was fascinating, and he was dynamic, and he helped us create an Internet that has all sorts of fascinating and dynamic speech in it. Thanks. [02:54:23]

Q & A

Cindy Cohn: Thanks. Maybe for Shari or any of you actually. Looking to the future (garbled question) So I believe if I can rephrase this “looking to the future how can freedom of the press or freedom of the Internet be manipulated by would be tyrants and how do we fight it?” I added that last part myself.

Shari Steele: Is that a hypothetical? I’m having little bit of trouble with this because I think we are seeing how it can be manipulated by would be tyrants, and that’s it’s pretty terrifying actually, because it requires us to be diligent about about paying attention and about following trails and about being honest with what actually is happening. The people who have the knowledge sharing that with us. I don’t know how that’s going to play out. I know that right now it makes it very scary. It brings a darkness to the communications that are not not making me feel comfortable.


Cindy Cohn: Here’s one maybe for Shari. Some people are advocating for an Internet Bill of Rights or a digital bill of rights. Net neutrality is now controversial (Cindy looks up and says “not in my house.”) How can we be sure that government regulation is appropriate for something like the Internet which is supposed to protect free thought. I did. I took some liberties with that question. [03:46:55]

Shari Steele: It’s a really hard one. So government regulation is a double edged sword. And anytime that we are trying to bring the government in you have to make sure that there isn’t overreaching. And a piece of legislation, as it gets started, as it was originally introduced often gets compromised in ways that you sometimes can’t even imagine what’s going to happen to it. That’s all a very long winded way of saying that it would be very difficult for me to answer that question in a vacuum. A particular piece of legislation is really the way you need to look at these kinds of issues as to whether or not it could be the solution that you’re looking for. I’m not doing day to day long legal work anymore, so I think that there are probably better people including Cindy, to answer this question so maybe she has something more enlightened than what I just shared. [03:48:04]

Cindy Cohn: Sure. I think that a way to parlay that. See what she does. I do think that the questions we need to ask ourselves is not whether the government should pass laws that regulate the Internet or whether it shouldn’t. I think there were some fundamental questions about that maybe early on, but the internet has always been a place where a law was going to apply in one way or another, and we have to ask ourselves the harder questions which is “How do we want law to apply in the online environment? And how do we make sure that we protect freedom from law even in this space where there’s going to be laws.” So Shari’s right. We do look at each question individually. I’ve never been sure that we needed an Internet Bill of Rights because we have a Bill of Rights. I’ve never thought that we needed Universal Declaration of Internet Rghts because we have an International Declaration of Human Rights and until we have the AI and we have to figure out what that codicil looks like. I think those rights will hold for us. If we’re smart, and we’re thoughtful, and we think carefully about how we want to apply them in this new context. I don’t think people need to worry. I don’t think we want to start from scratch again about whether we think the right for freedom of expression is something we want to protect or whether we think people want to be protected against search and seizure or whether we think people want to be able to be protected against summary execution. I think humanity’s thought all that through already and we came to mostly the right decisions. We need to make sure that we’re hyper careful about how those things get presented in in this new environment. And frankly that’s been my worry for the last 28 years and I don’t think we’re done yet. [03:49:58]

Transcription by Lisa Rein (Co-founder Aaron Swartz Day & Creative Commons, and friend of John Perry Barlow). Lisa Rein used Teme to start – and then cleaned it up by comparing it to the video, over many days :) Corrections are very much appreciated-please send them to: lisa[@]

Complete transcription and video available here at the Internet Archive. (A complete index of all speakers is forming here on the Aaron Swartz Day website.)