ACLU Urges City Council to Put Teeth into Surveillance Law, Delay Vote to Add Auditing Process

News Release: 
Monday, March 18, 2013

For Immediate Release - Doug Honig, ACLU-WA, 206-624-2184

The following can be attributed to ACLU-WA Deputy Director Jennifer Shaw:

The ACLU of Washington welcomes the proposal to establish a process for the acquisition of surveillance technology by the City of Seattle. Transparency and opportunities for public input are essential , as we have seen recently with controversies generated by the City’s acquisition of drones and  also a system of surveillance cameras and a mesh network.

In order for the proposed ordinance to be effective, it must have teeth. The ACLU strongly believes that there needs to be an auditing process written into the legislation. An auditing process would involve having the city auditor  examine relevant documentation and produce a report on how police have carried out the ordinance. The report would address whether the procedures of the ordinance have been followed, whether the deployment of the surveillance technology has accomplished the stated goal of acquiring it (e.g., if it is for crime fighting, is there evidence that it is reducing crime or helping to solve crimes), and  whether surveillance activities have improperly invaded privacy.

The ACLU-WA calls for a vote on the legislation to be postponed until an auditing process is added. We will be testifying on this concern at today’s City Council hearing at 2:00 pm.