The City of Oakland is currently in the process of building a surveillance hub called the Domain Awareness Center (DAC). On July 30th, 2013 the Oakland City Council unanimously approved a $2M grant for Phase 2 of the DAC, which will integrate public and private cameras and sensors from all over the city into one $10.9M mass surveillance system, funded by grants from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and implemented by the military contractor Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC).
The DAC will act as a fusion center, aggregating video feeds and real-time data from a number of sources around Oakland. Possible program components for the DAC include integration of closed-circuit video feeds (CCTV) from all over Oakland, including 700 cameras at Oakland public schools and 135 cameras at the Oakland Coliseum complex. Video and data feeds from all over Oakland are to be aggregated and monitored at the DAC, then analyzed with license plate recognition software, thermal imaging and body movement recognition software, possibly facial recognition software, and more, all with absolutely no privacy or data-retention policies in place, or substantive debate at the committee or council level about the program.
Note: This is Phase 2 of the DAC. Phase 1 dates all the way back to 2008. 2008 info report
The stated intent of the DAC is to improve the response time and coordination of first responders, rather than as a crime prevention strategy, but neither the city nor the program implementer has provided any data showing that DAC implementation would improve response times for emergency personnel or reduce violent crime.
Analysis of the use of video surveillance by the American Civil Liberties Union concludes, “Meta-analyses from the UK, along with preliminary findings from the US, indicate strongly that video surveillance has little to no positive impact on crime.” ACLU White Paper Surveillance Cameras
Full timeline of DAC developments is below. For the current situation & next steps, scroll all the way to the bottom.
July 9–July 16: Opposition Builds to the Domain Awareness Center
Phase 2 funding for the Domain Awareness Center (DAC) passed the Public Safety Committee on July 9, 2013 and needed to pass full council to receive funding. Joshua Daniels (@HarryElephante) live tweeted the July 9 Public Safety Committee meeting and Mary Mad (@marymad) followed up with a Chirpstory account of the tweets (here). Steven Tavares (@eastbaycitizen) posted the history and current status of the DAC the following day.
During the July 9 committee meeting city staffers and a representative with the surveillance contractor SAIC delivered a PowerPoint on the planned scope for the DAC. The PowerPoint presentation is below:
Watch the DAC item at the July 9 meeting of the Oakland Public Safety Committee below:
The Oakland Public Safety Committee approved Phase 2 funding for DAC unanimously and with no debate in committee on July 9. The DAC item was then slated for the full council meeting on July 16, 2013, and was put on the council’s “consent calendar” by the Public Safety Committee, which means the committee regards the item as non-controversial and without need for much if any public input.
Prior to the full council meeting, many Oakland residents contacted their councilmembers, especially via Twitter, to tell them they were concerned about the DAC. At the July 16 city council meeting approximately 20 people signed up to speak on the DAC item. As soon as the item was called, District 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb, who said in the Public Safety Committee meeting on July 9 that he found the DAC project "very exciting," said he would like to hear the public speakers and the staff report, then ask some questions, and possibly take the item off of the consent calendar.
Watch the DAC item at the July 16 meeting of the Oakland City Council below:
Councilmember Dan Kalb first said that he wished his constituents had told him of their concerns earlier, since Oakland residents are notified of things on public agendas 10 days before meetings. He then asked some questions of Renee Domingo, Director of Emergency Services and Homeland Security at Oakland Fire Department (OFD), and Ahsan Baig, Manager of Information Systems for the City of Oakland. District 3 Councilmember Lynette McElhaney asked staff to reiterate that, at present, facial recognition is not part of the capabilities. At the July 9 committee meeting, councilmembers were told that facial recognition technology would be an easy software upgrade by OFD and the implementer of the DAC surveillance program, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). Also, the staff report (Oakland DAC Staff Report.pdf ) from OFD Chief Teresa Deloach Reed refers to the military contractor SAIC as an “Oakland-based firm,” even though SAIC is headquartered in northern Virginia, has more than 40,000 employees, and only has a small local office in the Ask.com building in downtown Oakland. [Also note that SAIC is in the news (as of 2013-08-05) for creating new malware which attacks Tor anonymity.] No privacy guidelines or data-retention policies were made available, and it is still unclear what agencies would have access to these video- and data-streams from all over Oakland. City staffers stated that they planned to get the money first, then design protocols, best practices, and decide whether or not they were going to store data and for how long. District 4 Councilmember Libby Schaaf still proposed passage as long as it was added in that if data storage and/or facial recognition was added that the DAC had to come back before the council. District 7 Councilmember Larry Reid then proposed holding this item over, saying that the Oakland Police Department can’t get basic technology like cell phones and radios working correctly, and that he thought it was inappropriate to fund something like this without further discussion. District 6 Councilmember Desley Brooks said that she agreed, that this was something that shouldn’t have been on the consent calendar. She also clarified that this was for a system that wasn’t put in place yet. The item was moved to the July 30 meeting of the Oakland City Council, and put on the non-consent portion of the agenda, which allows for greater debate and input from the community.
One speaker serenaded the meeting in a hooded raincoat and long red bandana with a rendition of “Everybody must get droned.”
July 30: Oakland’s City Council Unanimously Passes the DAC
50 people had signed up to speak on the DAC item that the council held over, due to public outcry over privacy concerns, from its last meeting on July 16. However, in a seeming attempt to suppress public criticism of the council’s plan to approve the DAC, the item was not heard until nearly midnight, by which time about half of the speakers (including representatives from the National Lawyer’s Guild of San Francisco and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee) had been forced to leave. Public speakers who waited over six hours to speak (including Linda Lye, a staff attorney with ACLU of Northern California) urged the council to veto the DAC item, at least until community-approved privacy restrictions were in place. However, the concerns of Oakland residents, civil rights groups, and privacy advocates failed to sway the Oakland City Council from unanimously approving (6-0) DAC Phase 2 funding. Councilmembers who voted were: Noel Gallo, Dan Kalb, Rebecca Kaplan, Pat Kernighan, Lynette Gibson McElhaney, and Libby Schaaf. (Desley Brooks did not attend the July 30 council meeting, and Larry Reid left the meeting before the DAC item was voted on.)
Phase 2 of the DAC will integrate public and private cameras from all over the city into one mass surveillance system to be analyzed with license-plate-reading technology, biometrics, thermal imaging, and possibly facial recognition technology, without any privacy or data-retention guidelines. The city plans to create privacy policies internally and have the council vote on them no later than March 2014. So far, funding for the DAC has come solely from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Phase 2 of the DAC will be implemented by the private military contractor Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), who faced no competition in the bidding process for Phase 2 since they were selected as the Phase 1 contractor as well. The city still needs to get Phase 3 and 4 DAC grants from DHS to staff and maintain DAC for the first three years (2014–2017). After the first three years, in 2017 all maintenance and staffing costs associated with DAC will become the responsibility of the City of Oakland and will no longer be covered by federal grants.
The Oakland City Council approved Phase 2 of DAC on July 30, but says that it won’t “activate it” 24/7 until privacy guidelines and data-retention policies are developed (internally by the Port of Oakland and city staff) and voted on by the council no later than March 2014.
- Click here for the July 30, 2013 Oakland City Council Agenda
- Click here for contact information for the Oakland City Council
- Letter from the ACLU of Northern California to the Oakland City Council regarding the proposed DAC surveillance project (7/24/13).
- Watch video of the DAC item at the July 30 meeting of the Oakland City Council below:
UPDATE August 2: Oakland Unified School District Denies Involvement In Any DAC Discussions
UPDATE August 2, 2013 11:43 AM CT: In an e-mail sent to Ars, Troy Flint, a spokesperson for the Oakland Unified School District said that this relationship was “speculative/hopeful on their part and not the product of any discussions or agreements between the Port and the District.”
“To that point, it’s probably worth noting that, in a 2013 presentation, the Port uses an OUSD logo from three iterations ago that has been out-of-use for nearly a decade,” he added. “I don’t doubt that certain agencies may aspire to the citywide surveillance system that includes OUSD, but that does not mean we have been included in these plans. It certainly doesn’t mean that we have collaborated in them merely because someone has invoked the name of organization.”
Nov. 15: Updates Since August & Next Steps
Since phase 2 passed City Council on July 30th, Oakland privacy advocates have been organizing around this issue. According to this post on Daily Kos, "The Oakland Privacy Working Group ( Facebook) has been meeting semi-regularly to discuss DAC and other privacy concerns in Oakland. It has procured a boatload of information from a Public Records Request about SAIC and the DAC, and is now looking it over." As you may recall, SAIC is the contractor that's supposed to build the DAC.
In October, the DAC hit national news with coverage in the New York Times (with a hattip to OakWiki - great job everyone!).
"Staff recommends that the City Council adopt a Resolution authorizing the City Administrator to award a contract for Phase 2 of the Domain Awareness Center (DAC) project implementation to a vendor from the pool of vendors responding to the Request for Proposal titled "City of Oakland/Port of Oakland Joint Domain Awareness Center","
In October it came out (how?) that SAIC violated Measure T, Oakland's Nuclear Free Zone Ordinance (passed in 1988) that prevents the city from doing business with companies that "knowingly engage in nuclear weapons work." From that same Daily Kos article:
In 1988, Oakland passed a Nuclear Free Zone Ordinance which, although parts of it were found unconstitutional, contained a non-voided provision that
...prohibits Oakland from doing business with firms that "knowingly engage in nuclear weapons work."Being that SAIC is a multi-billion dollar company ($4B in revenues) that engages in defense work, one can hardly be surprised if some of that work were to touch on nuclear weapons technology.
And, in fact, they have now so acknowledged.
... after the city asked for additional proof of compliance in August, Scott Handley, the firm's operation contracts manager, wrote it likely had served "U.S. Department of Defense customers that arguably may be categorized as supporting 'nuclear weapons work' under the exceedingly broad definition" in the city's disclosure form.
SAIC emails explaining (non)compliance
The email (from August, 2013) says that a) the person in charge of filling out the forms didn't understand, b) the Ordinance stemming from Measure T was ruled unconstitutional and c) the division of SAIC contracting to work on the DAC is LSO, a division which does not do nuclear work.
Further, this email (received by public records request), from Deborah Barnes to Ahsan Baig, Renee Domingo and Shelley Darensburg dated August 2, 2013 after it was revealed that SAIC had nuclear ties, in violation with Measure T, indicates that the City had decided to go ahead with the contract anyway:
"You may have been briefed- but just in case, yesterday Renee [Domingo] and Ahsan [Baig] convened a meeting with city and port staff to include our legal, Mayor [Jean Quan]'s office and Karen B. It was determined that Compliance will follow up on the Nuclear Free Zone and Arizona policies and most importantly that we would collective [sic] stand by the decision to award to SAIC."
Nov. 19: Amidst protests & hints at Oakland WikiLeaks-style revelations, the Oakland City Council moves forward with Phase II of DAC
After passing the Public Safety Committee on Nov. 12th, on Nov. 19th the full City Council voted on a resolution that would allow the city administrator to pick a new vendor for Phase II of the Domain Awareness Center out of the list of vendors who previously responded to the RFP. This came after revelations that SAIC was out of compliance with Measure T, Oakland's Nuclear Free Zone Ordinance. This law prohibits the city from doing business with any contractors, companies, and/or consulting firms who knowingly engage in nuclear weapons work.
The companies now being considered as contractors for the DAC include Schneider, Motorola, G4S, & GTSI. It appears a number of these contractors would also violate the anti-nuclear measure (there's more information on the nuclear industry ties of the other companies in the DAC vendor pool in this Pueblo Lands blog post). If it failed, the city would have to issue a new RFP for vendors for Phase 2. Additionally, because there are timing issues with the Department of Homeland Security grant that the city received to fund the DAC, if the vote failed, the city would have to reapply for the grant. This is why the folks who want to see DAC happen want to pass this resolution.
Oakland privacy advocates geared up to stop the resolution from going forward. There was a rally and "pack city hall" event planned for the night of the vote on Tues. 11/19. More info here. Facebook event here.
More than 60 residents signed up to speak on the DAC item. The item was placed last on the agenda by city staff. It is regular practice for the council to move items with the most speakers up in the agenda, but Council President Kernighan refused to move the DAC item up in the agenda, even though the DAC item had more than twice as many speakers signed up to give public comment than any other item on the agenda that night. The item wasn't called until nearly midnight, more than 6 hours into the meeting. Dozens of residents waited more than 6 hours and spoke out against the resolution and the DAC. Protests and chants also arose from the crowd at various points. Residents/speakers/protesters also took photos of Renee Domingo to try to make a point about the erosion of privacy.
Watch the DAC item at the November 19 meeting of the Oakland City Council below:
One speaker spoke about emails that would include information relating to the waiver that SAIC received from requirements relating to Measure T and also Deanna Santana's role in the waiver. Here's a video of that speaker:
In the end, with members of the crowd chanting "TABLE IT", the City Council decided to move forward with the vote. For those who couldn't hear them, this could be seen happening via the teleprompter on the big screen behind the council. The vote on the resolution to move forward with the DAC passed with all City Council members except Lynette McElhaney voting for it. After the vote on the resolution at nearly 1AM, chants of "Shame" erupted from many still left in council chambers. Council President Kernighan then ordered the police to clear the council chambers completely and only allow members of the press with OPD press credentials into the meeting. Even members of the press that didn't have their credentials were forced out of the "public" meeting.
The hashtag #oakmtg was trending during the meeting & the general feeling from folks using that hashtag (aside from the neutral #oakmtg livetweeters) was disappointment in City Council & unhappiness with the DAC resolution passing.
(via Public Records Request)
What does this mean?
Check below for the next step in the process.
A new RFP only for phase 2 work will be expedited (Ahsan Baig, when questioned by councilmember, specifically said that they would be expediting the RFP in order to meet the terms of the DHS grant that's funding the DAC) to the vendors who responded to the previous RFP. Those vendors will have to submit self-audits (yes?) to indicate their compliance with Measure T, the city measure that prevents the city from doing business with companies that are in the nuclear weapons industry.
- When is the new RFP supposed to go out?
- How is the city dealing with the Measure T issue for the new contractors?
- What are the typical requirements for new RFPs (ie, do they typically go out to previous contractors only or to new contractors as well?)
Strategies moving forward
(please add here!)
- If Oakland city staff knowingly helped purger an arms contractor to break city law and land them a multi-million dollar federally-funded mass surveillance contract, that's a pretty big deal.
- Education and outreach in the community about DAC -- many are still unaware of it
- The Oakland Privacy Working Group has received more than 4,000 pages of documents and emails from the city regarding DAC from CA Public Records Act requests. There may be still more revelations in those documents.
- 2013-07-10: Big Brother In Oakland? There Might Be An App Coming For That (Analysis), East Bay Citizen
- 2013-07-18: Oakland surveillance center progresses amid debate on privacy, data collection, Center for Investigative Reporting
- 2013-07-19: A Proposed Citywide Surveillance Center in Oakland is Delayed as Opposition Builds, East Bay Citizen || Controversy Brews Over Proposed Oakland Surveillance Program, KGO Radio 810 || We Are Watching Oakland, Seattle Privacy || CIR Reporter Ali Winston Speaks On Domain Awareness in Oakland, KPFA Radio
- 2013-07-20: SAIC: Oakland’s Border Militarizing, Drone Flying, Nuclear Weapons Engineering Surveillance Contractor, Pueblo Lands
- 2013-07-22: #OakMtg Hashtag Flexes Its Growing Political Muscle (Analysis), East Bay Citizen
- 2013-07-23: Oakland’s Port Surveillance System May Expand to the Entire City, All Gov
- 2013-07-24: ACLU Urges Oakland City Council to Put the Brakes on Surveillance Center, ACLU of Northern California || Letter from ACLU Attorney Linda Lye to the Oakland City Council regarding the proposed DAC surveillance project || Urban Surveillance State Prototype in Oakland Exemplifies “Security” Mission Creep, Truthout
- 2013-07-26: Oakland Surveillance Center Progresses Amid Debate on Privacy, Data Collection, NBC Bay Area
- 2013-07-29: Oakland To Consider Privacy Concerns Over Surveillance Program, Oakland Tribune
- 2013-07-30: Oakland May Pull Together Surveillance Data for Law Enforcement, The California Report || Domain Awareness Center on Reddit (made the front page)
- 2013-07-31: Oakland OKs Money for Surveillance Center, San Francisco Chronicle || Oakland accepts federal funds for controversial vast surveillance setup, Ars Technica || Oakland says yes to surveillance center, no to hammers at demonstrations, Oakland Tribune || Oakland’s centralized surveillance plan faces public outcry, The Verge || Oakland City Council approves controversial surveillance center, KTVU || Amid Cries Of ‘Shame,’ Oakland Approves Funding Citywide Surveillance Program, East Bay Citizen || Oakland OKs First Step “Tools of Violence” Ban, Surveillance Cameras, NBC Bay Area || Phil Matier: Oakland City Council Approves Surveillance Center, KCBS Radio || Criminalizing California, Common Dreams || Nuclear Twist In Oakland's Surveillance Center Controversy, KGO Radio 810
- 2013-08-01:Oakland Approves Funding Citywide Surveillance Program, KQED News || Oakland’s Creepy New Surveillance Program Just Got Approved, Electronic Frontier Foundation || Oakland Domain Awareness Center Project Status Presentation: May 2013, Public Intelligence || Oakland promises to get data retention and privacy policies in place later, Metafilter
- 2013-08-02: News Panel: Immigration Reform, BART Negotiations, Oakland Surveillance, and FBI Bust, This Week in Northern California
- 2013-08-03 How One U.S. City is Becoming a Surveillance State, Care2 || Oakland’s creepy new surveillance program, Infowars || Seattle Privacy Coalition Discusses Surveillance in Seattle and Oakland, KEXP
- 2013-08-05 Oakland Approves Funds for High Tech Surveillance, Law Technology News
- 2013-08-07 All eyes on Oakland as Oakland has plans for eyes on all, Digital Journal || Oakland City Council accepts federal grant to create Domain Awareness Center, Loss of Privacy
- 2013-08-09 The Surveillance-Free Day (Part III), New York Magazine || One thousand cameras: how centralized surveillance snuck into American cities, The Verge
- 2013-08-12 If I were in charge … of reducing Oakland's crime rate, The Guardian
- 2013-08-18 Activists Publish Home Addresses of Oakland Councilmembers, San Leandro Talk
- 2013-08-27 Oakland's Surveillance Contractor Has a History of Fraud, East Bay Express
- 2013-09-09 Does your local government have a "black budget" too?, ACLU
- 2013-09-11 We Are Being Watched, East Bay Express || Oakland's City Wide Surveillance Network Being Built By Contractor With A History Of Fraud And Little Regard For Civil Liberties, TechDirt
- 2013-09-17 Domain Awareness Center May Bring Proactive Policing to Oakland, Digital Communities
- 2013-10-14 Privacy Fears as Surveillance Grows in Cities, The New York Times || New program sees big data used for local policing, Salon || Oakland dedicating anti-terrorism funding to surveillance supercenter, Russia Today
- 2013-10-21 The Sunny Side of Mass Surveillance, The Atlantic Cities
- 2013-11-06 Nuclear law forces Oakland to back out of surveillance center contract, Oakland Tribune
- 2013-11-06 Wednesday Must Reads: Oakland Kills Deal with Surveillance Contractor; San Francisco Vote Could Be Bad News for Warriors’ Owners" East Bay Express
- 2013-11-15 Seattle Presses Pause on Its Mass Surveillance Plans, The Atlantic Cities
2013-11-25 Oaklanders' crime fears outweigh privacy freak-outs (Chip Johnson, SFGate)
- Oakland Privacy Blog
- US Senator from Oregon Ron Wyden’s Speech on Domestic Surveillance, Center for American Progress
- United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: FEDERAL SUPPORT FOR AND INVOLVEMENT IN STATE AND LOCAL FUSION CENTERS (PDF)
- Awards to MTS Related Projects through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, 2010 (PDF)
DAC Documents: City Reports, Contracts, etc.
- City of Oakland DAC Surveillance Project Staff Report
- City of Oakland DAC Surveillance Project Supplemental Report
- Port of Oakland DAC Report
- Professional Service Agreement - City of Oakland and SAIC (pt 1).pdf
- Professional Service Agreement - City of Oakland and SAIC (pt 2).pdf
- Domain Awareness Center Purchasing Invoices March-July 2013 (many PDFs)