OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | PRIVACY | Oakland’s Domain Awareness Center is being rolled back to its original purpose as a port-only surveillance project. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan cast the tie-breaking vote early Wednesday morning approving an amendment that considerably limits a plan to integrate surveillance video and other analytics from city streets into the controversial DAC. The motion offered by Councilmember Desley Brooks also changes its name to the “Port Domain Awareness Center.” The scope of the DAC also includes nearby Oakland Airport.
Earlier in the day, Quan acquiesced to rising skepticism by some council members over the DAC’s potential to undermine public privacy when she issued a letter urging for a slow down of the surveillance hub’s implementation in the city. Councilemembers Larry Reid, Pat Kernighan, Dan Kalb and Brooks voted for the motion. Councilmembers Noel Gallo, Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Rebecca Kaplan and Libby Schaaf voted no. Schaaf, incidentally, offered a second to the Brooks’ motion despite voting against. The 4-4 result forced Quan to break the tie. Although, she appeared apprehensive in the moment—asking Council President Kernighan to reissue her similar, but more moderate motion—Quan voted yes. Despite their no votes, McElhaney, Kaplan and Schaaf all registered opposition to the DAC in public comments Tuesday night.
Brooks’ successful amendment also includes City Council approval before any of the citywide elements of the DAC are again proposed. Most importantly to privacy advocates, language now exists prohibiting the sharing of the DAC’s surveillance content to other local, state and federal agencies without the council approving a memorandum of understanding.
The council’s decision initially elicited howls from the gallery of DAC opponents, many of whom sought only a decision to banish it completely from not only the city, but the port. Cries of “Shame! Shame! Shame!” similar to a late night council meeting last fall again rained down. Nevertheless, the council decision after four hours of testimony is a major rollback of the federally-funded surveillance hub which initially received zero protest when it first came before a City Council committee last summer. In the past few years, Oakland residents concerned over the potential infringement of civil rights have thwarted plans for gang injunctions, youth curfews and now the retreat of the DAC to the port.