After three years of organizing by a broad coalition of civil society organizations and community members, New York’s City Council has passed the POST Act with an overwhelming—and veto-proof—majority supporting this common-sense transparency measure.
The POST Act’s long overdue passing came as part of a package of bills that many considered longshots before weeks of public protest calling attention to injustices in policing. However, in recent weeks many of the bills detractors, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, came to see the measure as appropriate and balanced.
The POST Act provides a much needed first step toward transparency. Once signed into law, the act will require the NYPD to openly publish a use policy for each surveillance technology it intends to use. After this notice has been made publicly available, and members of the community have had an opportunity to voice their concerns to the department and City Council, the NYPD Commissioner will be required to provide a final version of the surveillance impact and use policy to the City Council, the mayor, and the public.
The bill lacks the community control rules included in similar Surveillance Equipment Regulation Ordinances (SEROs) like Oakland’s Surveillance and Community Safety ordinance and San Francisco’s Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance. In those communities, city agencies must get permission from their city councils before acquiring surveillance technologies. Still, the new transparency requirements of New York’s POST Act are an important step forward.
With federal agencies expanding their spying programs against immigrants and political dissidents, and concern that the federal government will commandeer the surveillance programs of state and local governments, the police surveillance transparency movement continues to gain momentum on the local and state level.
EFF will continue to work with our Electronic Frontier Alliance allies like New York’s Surveillance Technology Oversight Project and the Bay Area’s Oakland Privacy to develop and pass comprehensive legislation ensuring civil liberties and essential privacy. To find an Electronic Frontier Alliance member organization in your community, or to learn how your group can join the Alliance, visit eff.org/fight.