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Surveillance Ordinance


Here's what I said at the Cambridge City Council on 10 Nov 2018 about the surveillance ordinance that was coming up for a vote.

I'm Richard Stallman from … I want to speak about the Surveillance Ordinance.

It seems to be very good except for one thing.

It has a loophole that allows the most dangerous possible source of surveillance to do whatever it likes without telling the Council or let alone getting permission to use the surveillance technology it's using. I'm talking about the cops.

Now we do have to depend on you to make sure we are not surveilled in unjust dangerous ways.

And to do that job fully you've got to make sure that there is no Exception that can go on for very long. A limited period of time, that we can live with.

But they must not be allowed to extend and extend and extend or say we'll tell you when we feel we're ready.

It's your job to make them tell you before too much time goes by.

So I hope you will amend the ordinance on that particular point and pass it.

The City Council passed the ordinance without fixing this point. Kade Crockford said it the ordinance seemed adequate based on what city employees have told her about how it is likely to be interpreted.

I don't think we should give city employees the leeway to decide whether or not to interpret a limitation on surveillance in a way that really protects us from them. Especially not the police department, because they are exactly the ones who are likely to use surveillance for unjust purposes.

Here's an example from two years ago.

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