Surveillance project in Oakland, CA will use Homeland Security funds to link surveillance cameras, license-plate readers, gunshot detectors, and Twitter feeds into a surveillance program for the entire city

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
By Paul Martin
JULY 31, 2013

With this city repeatedly roiled by civil protests and the public’s attention sharply focused on government surveillance, local officials are pushing forward with a federally funded project to link surveillance cameras, license-plate readers, gunshot detectors, Twitter feeds, alarm notifications and other data into a unified “situational awareness” tool for law enforcement.

The Domain Awareness Center, a joint project between the Port of Oakland and city, started as a nationwide initiative to secure ports by networking sensors and cameras in and around the facilities. The busy port is one of seven U.S. maritime facilities that the Department of Homeland Security considers at highest risk of a terrorist attack.

Since its inception in 2009, the project has ballooned into a surveillance program for the entire city. Some officials already have proposed linking the center to a regional Department of Homeland Security intelligence-gathering operation or adding feeds from surveillance cameras around the Oakland stadium and arena complex.
On Tuesday evening, the Oakland City Council was expected to approve an additional $2 million in federal grants to fund the build-out of the surveillance center at Oakland’s Emergency Operations Center on Martin Luther King Jr. Way. But following an outcry from public speakers about the center’s lack of privacy guidelines or data retention limits, the council pulled the item from the consent calendar and postponed a vote until July 30.

Councilwoman Desley Brooks criticized the decision to place the funding on the consent calendar, which normally is reserved for routine matters. “Consent items are supposed to be noncontroversial,” Brooks said. “Clearly, it is very controversial.”

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