ASD Police Surveillance Project

Complete Title: The Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project

Project Team:

Lisa Rein  @lisarein – Co-Founder, Aaron Swartz Day@AaronSwartzDay
Tracy Rosenberg @twrling – Co-Founder, Oakland Privacy @oaklandprivacy
Daniel Rigmaiden – Cell Phone Surveillance Expert – @ddrigmaiden
Dave, Maass, @maassive – Investigative Researcher, @EFF

Why this project was started:

Aaron Swartz filed a lot of FOIA requests, and it made us want to start a project at the hackathon that would continue the tradition.

About the project:

Right now, in order to confirm the existence of surveillance equipment by law enforcement, the public has to file information requests that ask explicitly for each piece of equipment that might exist.

In most cities, law enforcement is not even required to have a policy regarding the usage of surveillance equipment or the public disclosure of that usage, and citizens have to play a guessing game with public information requests, in order to obtain such information.

Police Departments will never be required to have a policy on the purchase and use of surveillance equipment unless there is public outcry for them to do so. So, let’s get organized and systematic about generating as much pubic outcry as we can. :-)


  1. To provide a template for making requests for public records, and to  automate the process for filing multiple public records requests, asking for every known variation of surveillance equipment.
  2. To provide a template for demand that your city government implement a policy regarding how surveillance equipment is planning to be used, and for establishing yearly reports explaining the year’s past use of surveillance equipment.
  3. Next, we’re going to split up in to “follow up groups,” whose job it is to keep making calls and sending emails until the local governments are taking action.

Examples of Questions to ask:

  • What kinds of equipment does your police force already have?
  • What kinds of equipment are they planning ot buy?
  • What parameters have the force been given for purchasing such equipment, if any?

The first surveillance transparency ordinance in the country became law in Santa Clara County in June of 2016.

Efforts are in the final stages in both Oakland and Berkeley, and both should have laws by the end of the year. So, let’s use their laws as examples for the rest of the country. Oakland’s ordinance will be heard in committee on November 14 and should go to the Council by the end of November, Berkeley’s ordinance will be in front of the City Council in December and others are in process with BART, Alameda County, Richmond, Palo Alto and Davis.


ACLU: Making Smart Decisions About Surveillance

FAQ about surveillance transparency ordinances,

Timeline of Bay Area anti-surveillance activism – Campaigns – ​

Berkeley Surveillance Ordinance Fact Sheet
A one page fact sheet (prepared for Berkeley’s police review commission in July, but also generally useful).

BBC: ​Police surveillance: The US city that beat Big Brother

Washington Law Review: Surveillance Policy Making By Procurement​

November 4-5, 2017