Creating Technology for Social Change

ICU Oakland: Surveillance Camera Walking Tours and Anti-Surveillance Community Organizing

contributors: Sarah Reilly (Design Action Collective), Salima Hamirani, Jesse Strauss (Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant), Bex Hurwitz (RAD/MIT Center for Civic Media), Mark Burdett (EFF), Emi Kane (Allied Media Projects)
orig post date: Oct 2013

UPDATE: Check out Oakland Privacy Group’s post for the latest about the DAC!

Surveillance Camera Map made from walking tour in Oakland CA.
Surveillance Camera Map made from walking tour in Oakland CA.


How to map Oakland surveillance:
1.        SEE a camera
2.        SHOOT a photo of it
3.        SEND it as a picture message (MMS) to
and include some information with the picture message
MAP IT: add a % sign to map this (ex. %100 Broadway Oakland)
TAG IT: #traffic #name of business at camera

see the group and the map at

Oakland Domain Awareness Center: What’s at stake
Oakland City Council approved a proposal for the Oakland Domain Awareness Center (DAC) on Jul 31, 2013.  The City of Oakland will receive a $2 million grant from the federal government to implement plans that will integrate surveillance data — cameras, license plate readers, other sensors, from state, city, and private sources including the state Department of Transportation, Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Oakland Unified School District, the Coliseum and Oracle Arena.  Construction is already underway on a building that will house people and tools for combining this data.

According to an October article in the Nytimes…

  • Phase 2 of the DAC will integrate public and private cameras from all over the city into one mass surveillance system to be analyzed with license-plate-reading technology, biometrics, thermal imaging, and possibly facial recognition technology, without any privacy or data-retention guidelines. The city plans to create privacy policies internally and have the council vote on them no later than March 2014. So far, funding for the DAC has come solely from theDepartment of Homeland Security (DHS). Phase 2 of the DAC will be implemented by the private military contractor Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), who faced no competition in the bidding process for Phase 2 since they were selected as the Phase 1 contractor as well. The city still needs to get Phase 3 and 4 DAC grants from DHS to staff and maintain DAC for the first three years (2014–2017). After the first three years, in 2017 all maintenance and staffing costs associated with DAC will become the responsibility of the City of Oakland and will no longer be covered by federal grants.
This is a slide taken from a presentation delivered by Port of Oakland representatives giving an overview of sources to be combined.
This is a slide taken from a presentation delivered by Port of Oakland representatives giving an overview of sources to be combined.

The DAC was not approved without resistance.  This article in ArsTechnica by Cyrus Farivar covers local resistance to the DAC from the time it was proposed to the time that it was approved.  Resistance continues and on Tues Nov 19, there was a public demonstration in Oakland at Oscar Grant Plaza, the open square adjacent to Oakland City Hall.

Oakland is not alone in proposing or approving such a center.  NY and LA already have fusion centers.  DHS has a series of pages online about fusion centers and their roles.

As of now, the city is building out the facility at the Oakland Emergency Response Center on Telegraph @16th and groups like the Oakland Privacy Group are getting the word out about ways to voice opposition.

Surveillance Camera Mapping Tours
And! A group of us who connected first at the Allied Media Conference 13 reportback in Oakland are now leading Surveillance Camera Walking Tours. We are leading groups around the city on walking tours to map surveillance equipment, both to raise awareness about the prevalence of this equipment, and to engage people in dialogue around power and control expressed through the use of this equipment.

We’re using during these tours and everyone on the tour can contribute to a collective map by taking a picture and sending a picture message to our blog there.



More resources from Oakland about DAC and DAC resistance:
Oakland WIki:
Oakland Privacy Group: