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Surveillance Testimony

Richard Stallman's statement to the Cambridge City Council, Jan 22, 2018, about the proposed Cambridge surveillance ordinance.


Mayor McGovern: Thank you. Richard Stallman followed by Elaine DeRosa.

RMS: I'm here to speak about the proposed surveillance ordinance. I've got a copy of what I printed out, and I have some suggestions.

First of all there's a Definition of “surveillance” which I think is too narrow. In addition to “movements, behavior and actions,” it should include communications.

Furthermore, instead of just saying “in a matter that is reasonably likely to raise concerns,” any recording of what is observed should be assumed to raise civil liberties concerns.

There's also a definition of “surveillance technology”, which I think is far too limited.

I suggest that any physical device or system including computers running software that has surveillance capability is surveillance technology. Any technology that can do surveillance is surveillance technology.

The definition of “surveillance capability” I think is pretty good.

In addition, when it comes to what to do about surveillance technology, the Emergency Permission seems far too loose. It would be easy to interpret this such that one could decide there's nowadays some sort of threat, and there always will be [that threat], so surveillance is permitted on an emergency basis forever.

Well, that's the kind of false emergency that we shouldn't accept. This requirement should be specific and clear enough that that can't pass under it.

I suggest treating it like a wiretap or searching people's houses.

Now there are times when it's possible to search someone's house urgently. That's permitted. But in general you have to get a court order [to do a search].

And I think that same requirement should apply to any kind of surveillance that hasn't gone through the regular process.

[Item] number 9 talks about “persons injured in violation of the Ordinance”, but I don't think there's a definition of what it means to be injured.

I'd like to suggest that to be surveilled is to be injured.

Thank you.

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