California: No Police Surveillance Without Public Accountability

Police departments should not have the unilateral authority to decide which privacy invasions are in the public interest. The public must have a say in the surveillance technologies that police acquire and how they deploy them. And elected officials must have veto power: the authority to decide what surveillance systems do not belong in our communities.

California: help us pass S.B. 1186 to shine light on police surveillance technology and limit and regulate its use in cities across the state.

S.B. 1186 would ensure that police chiefs, sheriffs, and district attorneys cannot acquire and use surveillance technology without first getting permission from city councils and county boards. It also would require state law enforcement agencies to be transparent about their use of these technologies and hold public meetings before they acquire new surveillance equipment or software.

In recent years, we’ve seen an influx in automated license plate readers, cell-phone tracking equipment, drones, and biometric technology (such as face recognition) flowing into our communities. Often these purchases are driven by relationships between police executives and vendors, with little input or oversight from the communities being surveilled or the city councilmembers and county supervisors elected to represent them. Many of these powerful surveillance technologies invade our privacy, chill our free speech, unfairly burden minority neighborhoods, and threaten immigrant residents.

Also, the public deserves clear data about how often these technologies are used and information about when they’re abused. We deserve to know how much spy tech costs and whether there’s an actual return on investment. S.B. 1186 will ensure this transparency.

Under the current administration, we cannot expect federal oversight over abuses of this technology, but instead we can anticipate even more surveillance equipment flowing in through federal grants, equipment transfers, and asset forfeiture programs. As the federal government ramps up deportations, it is even more important that communities have greater opportunity to make decisions about police surveillance technology.

Tell your state lawmakers to support S.B. 1186 so that the public and our elected officials control police surveillance.


 EFF uses the information you provide to help you take action in support of digital civil liberties, including submitting your message to support S.B. 1186 to California lawmakers.  We may also add your name to a petition that civil liberties advocates may deliver to  decisionmakers to urge them to support this bill. We may work with coalition partners to execute the petition delivery. Learn more about EFF's privacy practices at https://eff.org/policy