“Just as the police have the right to use surveillance technologies to monitor people in public, the people have a right to monitor the purchasing and use of surveillance technologies by the police,” said Mustafa Abdullah, lead organizer of ACLU of Missouri.
Community Asks for Accountability of Surveillance Technology in St. Louis
Privacy Watch STL coalition holds lobby day, rally at City Hall
Today, members of the Privacy Watch STL coalition, 18th Ward Alderman Terry Kennedy, 21st Ward Alderman John Collins-Muhammad and allied organizations came together at City Hall to call for accountability in the deployment of surveillance programs in the city of St. Louis and support of the Surveillance Accountability bill.
Surveillance technology used without rules or regulations is a threat to St. Louisans’ constitutional right to privacy. The city’s Real Time Crime Center has increased invasive surveillance programs in St. Louis without legislative approval, oversight, or accountability.
“People like me who've been active in racial justice organizing have experienced a long history of federal agencies viewing black movements and organizations as a threat to national security,” said Organization for Black Struggle Executive Director Jamala Rogers. “Surveillance as a primary crime-fighting tool gives people a false sense of security. We need to know what surveillance technology is being imposed on us and how it's being used. The protection of civil liberties is our collective duty."
The Surveillance Accountability bill, sponsored by Kennedy and Collins-Muhammad, would require board approval and regulatory guidelines, as well as accountability reports for the implementation and continued operation of any surveillance programs within the city. The bill protects the people of St. Louis by requiring community input before increases in surveillance through methods including street cameras, body cameras, automatic license plate readers and facial and voice recognition programs.
After the press conference, community members joined Privacy Watch STL in speaking with members of the Board of Aldermen about the importance of protecting citizens’ right to privacy and improving government transparency at a lobby day, followed by a rally outside of City Hall.
In addition to the Privacy Watch coalition, others endorsing the Surveillance Accountability bill include: American Friends Service Committee, St. Louis; Anti-Racist Collective (ARC); Center for American-Islamic Relations-Missouri; Drone Free St. Louis; Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF); Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates (MIRA); PLEA for Justice; GrassRoots Accountability Movement (GRAM) and Saint Louis Democratic Socialist of America (STL DSA) and State Rep. Bruce Franks, D – St. Louis.
The following organizations are part of Privacy Watch STL: Amnesty International-St. Louis; Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression; Fight for the Future; Metro St. Louis Coalition for Inclusion and Equity; Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE); MoKaBe’s Coffeehouse; National Lawyers Guild, St. Louis; Organization for Black Struggle; Empower Missouri - St. Louis Chapter and ACLU of Missouri.
About Privacy Watch STL: Privacy Watch is a St. Louis, Missouri coalition with the mission of ending over-surveillance by government and government/corporate partnerships. We expose the methods, tools, and processes by which the people of St. Louis are being tracked without public discussion or approval. We work to end unwarranted targeting of our communities with surveillance tactics and technologies that threaten our civil rights and liberties. In all our work, we center communities of color and other unjustly targeted groups as those most affected by invasive government monitoring.