When asked, groups that pushed for the passage of the Santa Clara ordinance emphatically denied that their efforts actually served to facilitate the purchase of surveillance technologies. Shahid Buttar is the director of grassroots advocacy at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit dedicating to defending civil liberties in the digital world. Buttar told AlterNet that surveillance technologies are already being deployed by local police forces across the US, often without any oversight or regulation. Stingrays, for example, which enable cops to locate a mobile phone by mimicking a cell phone tower, have been in use by police forces about a decade, but it was only last week that a federal judge ruled that the warrantless use of the device was unconstitutional.
“To claim that a transparency-advancing measure legitimates the technology, basically ignores the fact that the police are obtaining these technologies whether there are ordinances or not,” said Buttar. “Any transparency-advancing measure is a step forward from the current baseline.”