Big Brother In Oakland? There Might Be An App Coming For That

Multiple camera and data feeds from across
Oakland would flow to a proposed
video and information center.

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL//PRIVACY | In the next year, authorized personnel in Oakland will be able access multiple video feeds from a large swath of the city, along with real-time information such as weather and detailed crime information all in one location, even on their laptop and mobile device.

While officials say the $2 million set to be approved later this month by the Oakland City Council for the second phase of a virtual data warehouse called a Domain Awareness Center (DAC) will be an “immense time-saving tool” for police and fire, the wide-ranging ability of the system to cobble together disparate video streams from across city streets, including the O.Co Coliseum may make privacy advocates cringe. The system will also be able to pull in data obtained by license plate readers.

Phase two of the program will allow the city and port to reach out to other government entities to share additional data and video feeds for the DAC, said Renee Domingo, Oakland’s director of emergency services. The city and port can now enter into external collaborations with various transportation bodies such as the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Caltrans, said Domingo, along with the Oakland Unified School District and even the Coliseum and Oracle Arena. Between the two sports and entertainment facilities, 135 surveillance cameras can be trained on spectators, Domingo added. “If we needed ability into what was going on there, we could do so.” The city and port is also looking to attract state and regional partners.

The federal port security grant for the DAC was first sought by the Port of Oakland and supported by the city of Oakland. Initial approval by the City Council came in 2010, however, funding for phase two of the project, the implementation of its software, was moved Tuesday to the full council for discussion later this month. In addition, yet another $2.6 million federal grant to fund a minimum of three technicians–a police sergeant, an analyst and a Port employee–to monitor the DAC for two years is pending, said Domingo.

Ahsan Baig, the manager of information technologies for the city of Oakland’s told the City Council’s Public Safety Committee use of the DAC would not only be localized to the Oakland Emergency Operations Center, but the software could also be downloaded to secured laptops and iPads of approved public safety officials. The impetus for the DAC and its ability to draw into numerous nodes of data and video, Baig said, came from dealing with many different systems and information formats flowing to the city and port. “We lacked a common operating picture,” he said.

While the foundation for the original proposal for the DAC centered primarily on security at the Port of Oakland, it has morphed into a consolidation of many real-time data flows, surveillance cameras and law enforcement statistics in a centralized location. One item listed in the staff report also lists coming improvements to DAC include, “surveillance enhancements for City of Oakland’s historically high crime areas.” The DAC in Oakland is the first of its kind in Northern California. A similar operation exists in Long Beach, Calif., another large west coast port.

No public speakers participated in the discussion Tuesday evening and details of the program were met without resistance by two council members. “Does this allow for facial recognition?” Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney asked Baig, the city’s information technologies manager, who said the current software only scan for body and movement, but the system also be easily upgraded later.

Later, after Councilmember Dan Kalb was satisfied no current police officers would be taken off the beat to monitor the DAC, he added, “Very exciting. I assume none of these cameras go into people’s living rooms?” “Nooo,” replied Domingo.

“Alright,” Kalb said. “Sounds good to me.”

Categories: Ahsan Baig, big brother, Dan Kalb, Domain Awareness Center, Lynette McElhaney, Oakland, Oakland committees, Oracle Arena, Port of Oakland, privacy, Renee Domingo, surveillance, technology

2 replies

  1. As this is Oakland, expect perfect implementation.

    I wouldnt fear for my privacy rights any time soon.


  2. As of Tuesday July 16 this consent item on the City Council Agenda was put off to the July 30th meeting. A dozen of us spoke against this “NSA in Oakland” project and were able to highlight the Council's lack of knowledge on this item.

    All hands on deck July 30th 5:30pm Oakland City Hall. Come with signs and prepare to speak against Big Brother in Oakland which in Phase 2 will link up with the Federal data collection system = NSA = everywhere. Some jerk in a Booz Allen, OPD or NSA could be watching you on a camera in Oakland and do….?


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