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.