ASD Police Surveillance Project

New! Updated Police Surveillance Muckrock Templates.

#ASDPSP – The Police Surveillance Project at Aaron Swartz Day is all about developing a larger strategy for determining what types of surveillance equipment a city’s police and sheriff departments have already purchased and whether or not a surveillance policy is in place to monitor that equipment – regulating how that equipment is used against their citizens.


List of Surveillance Equipment Templates are concerned with
Police Surveillance Muckrock Templates
Interviews with Tracy Rosenberg
About the Project
Project Goals
Project Team
Why this project was started

This project started during Aaron Swartz Day 2017’s Sunday hackathon. Before that event was even over, it was clear that it had been really successful and we were all very pumped and had decided to just keep going until next year.

The results of doing so are just starting to pour in, and I’m going to be doing my best to give you the full story – both here on the Aaron Swartz Day website, and over on Mondo 2000, over these next few months, leading straight into this year’s event.

It came out recently that Amazon has been literally giving away its facial recognition software to law enforcement, in the hopes of getting a number of early implementations. Not a bad marketing strategy, and we’re not saying the software shouldn’t be used; just that there should be a surveillance policy framework in place that regulates how it can be used against citizens.

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. :-)

Project Goals:

  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.

Interviews with Tracy Rosenberg in Mondo 2000 with more information about this project:

1. Interview with Oakland Privacy’s Tracy Rosenberg On The Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project

2. How a little “working group” stopped Oakland from becoming a mini-fusion center for the Department of Homeland Security.

3. The Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project #ASDPSP – Reports Back: Here’s #WhatWeFound In Sacramento


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​

Everyday/Forever (Event is November 9-11, 2018)