Advances in technology over the past few decades have improved our lives in countless ways. Yet, these advances have come as a double-edged sword. While technology has made it easier to connect with faraway family and friends and gain access to the world’s libraries of information, it has also led to a stark loss of privacy through widespread data collection and surveillance by both government agencies and for-profit companies, including the imposition of electronic monitoring at workplaces. This livestream event featured representatives of organizations using research, community organizing, and policy advocacy to expose and challenge the inner workings of the corporations and government agencies that are tracking us every day.
Jerry Quickley: (music)
Jerry Quickley: ... or having me be a part of your event today. And I'm going to read a brief excerpt to open us up today from whistleblower, the project that I've built with Phillip Glass. This section talks about a very lethal form of state surveillance that killed 1,000s of women.
Jerry Quickley: We tried walking into the water, but brought our fears with us and stepped away. From the start of the last century, 1,000s of women were drowned. Their swimsuits, covering them head to toe, high, cinched collars, long sleeves, tightly buttoned at risks flounced wore flannel skirts and shoes, pulling them under made sure that when their corpses were fetched from the water, their modesty was intact. The bathing suits did their job. Our ancestors would rather drown themselves and the people they loved instead of chancing the scene of a woman's naked calf. We believe the sight of their wet legs walking from the surf, blistering on the beach would have been more harmful to us than their corpses.
Jerry Quickley: Wait for large storm, preferably a hurricane or typhoon. Find a-- find a tall building, find the 100th floor, strip naked, press your body hard against the floor to ceiling windows, the sharp cool presses back. You are floating. You cannot see the ground now, only the roiling clouds and rain. The sharp cool of the blast presses back against you. You push harder trying to will yourself through the glass. You will feel the floor move and shift. You will hear the tower power as it sways in the storm. And you will know that if the wind blew just a little bit harder, and the earth turned just a little bit faster, and gravity lost its focus for just a moment, you could be flung up off this world, ride a perfect elevator up, spin and slip your way into the heavens off this rock.
Jerry Quickley: But right now, water and rain lick and twist and pour at you with inch of glass, and you not knowing who is watching or recording, and you not caring who is watching or recording, because one day soon, each of us will have to find our way through the 100th floor in all of our storms. And as we are pressed against the windows, begging for release, there will be a moment of clarity. We are those drowned women. They have never left us. We are the Victorian bathing machines responsible for all this murder. We will leverage our dead through culture and transparency, push and pull ourselves through multiplexes, haul corn or bots of Vermont maple onto our servers, and look for ourselves to respond from the other side with familiar language, will ourselves into pulses of light with the same abandon we used to will our ridiculous bathing through the crowding windows of our skyscrapers.
Jerry Quickley: The top floor of every tower disappears now. You are no longer tough safety inside the engineers envelope. How safe is a broken heart? How safe is it? How can you read it looking for fake digital traces of what used to be this broken thing, this organic encryption that finds rune stones and bond markets. What is it? What is this worth, if not my life? The divide grow with suite of assumptions, press between crisis and broken mirrors. And I know what I'm going to do, and I know what I'm going to do, and I know that I will miss you. I am caught between my shadows and the sun of you. And that's an excerpt from whistleblower.
Jennifer Jones: Thank you, Jerry, for that very compelling opening performance. And I'd like to give a warm welcome and thank you to everyone else for joining our event today. The surveillance state, social safety, and building power, which is part five of the rise up for justice series black lives and our collective future. This event is co-hosted by the uttering of the law Institute at UC Berkeley and the ACLU at Northern California. My name is Jennifer Jones, and I am the fellow with the Technology of Civil Liberties Project at the ACLU of North Cal, where all of the panelists that we'll hear from today, my work focuses on defending civil and human rights and liberties in the digital age. I'm very excited to be moderating this esteem panel, which features organizers and activists whose work involves exposing, disrupting, and dismantling the surveillance state that we currently find ourselves in.
Jennifer Jones: We're looking forward to a very vibrant discussion and also want to make sure that we have an opportunity to hear from our wonderful audience. So during the event, we encourage you to comment on Facebook or YouTube with any questions that you have for our panelists so we can hopefully address them towards the end of the event. And we also encourage you to stay for a closing performance from spoken word artist, Jerry Quickley, who you just heard open the event with an excerpt from his critically acclaimed piece whistleblower.
Jennifer Jones: So you may be wondering what brings us here today. And it goes without that it has been a very tumultuous year as we are facing unprecedented pandemic, growing economic inequality, and the massive growth of an ongoing movement to end state violence and repression, and dismantle systemic racism and response to continued violence against, and subjugation of BiPAP communities.
Jennifer Jones: And yet through all of this, while people have struggled to make ends meet, and stay safe and healthy, adjusted to working and attending school online, and taken to the streets, and an unprecedented number to protest state-sanctioned violence, we witnessed ongoing efforts by tech companies and government agencies to exploit the horse of this year by using them as a justification to wrap up the surveillance apparatus that has become deeply entrenched in our communities, particularly in the post 911 era, but really since the earliest days of the Republic.
Jennifer Jones: Protesters were spied on with surveillance tool like social media monitoring and facial recognition. Tech companies marketed the use of drones to spy on unhoused under the pretext of COVID safety enforcement, and many children were forced to install spyware on their laptops as a condition of participating in distance learning.
Jennifer Jones: For people who have historically been targeted for surveillance, none of this is new or even surprising. Today we'll hear from our panelists about the ongoing efforts to educate the public on how technology and surveillance have always been deeply connected to issues of racial justice, immigrants rights, labor rights, and mass incarceration. You'll also hear what the implications of the surveillance state are, the organizing resistance and democracy. And one of you may find a lot of what you hear today to be stressful, frightening, and overwhelming. Our hope is that you'll walk away with a heightened awareness and knowledge of how we can fight back, take action, and ultimately reimagine a world where technology and justice are not incompatible.
Jennifer Jones: On that note, I'm very happy to introduce the panelists who will share their insights and their expertise with us today. First up, we have Nathan 'nash' Sheard, who is the Associate Director of Community Organizing at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Nash leads EFF's grassroots, student, and community organizing efforts. As the lead coordinator of the Electronic Frontier Alliance, Nash works to support the Alliance's member Organizations in educating their neighbors on digital-privacy best practices, and advocating for privacy and innovation protecting policy and legislation. nash has also worked extensively to help mitigate the damage of harmful interactions with law enforcement online and in over-policed communities. Before joining EFF, as co-founder of Black Movement Law Project and a member of Mutant Legal, nash spent close to a decade training communities in crisis on how to document police conduct, exercising legal rights, counteract state repression, and actively participate in their own legal defense.
Jennifer Jones: Jacinta González is the Senior Campaign Organizer at Mijente in Phoenix, Arizona, a group organizing Latinx and she connects communities around issues of immigration, detention, and deportation. Previously, she worked at PODER in Mexico organizing the Rio Sonora River Basin committees against water contamination by the mining industry. Jacinta was the lead organizer for the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice Congress of Day Laborers from 2007 to 2014. in Louisiana, Gonzalez helped establish a base of Day Laborers and undocumented families dedicated to building worker power, advancing racial justice, and organizing against deportations in post-Katrina New Orleans.
Jennifer Jones: Sheheryar Kaoosji is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Warehouse Workers Resource Center in Riverside, California. He has spent 20 years developing research, policy, and campaign strategies to support deep and sustained organizing among the most marginalized and critical communities in California, including families facing displacement of San Francisco, farm workers in the state's agricultural valleys, misclassified truck drivers at the Port of Los Angeles. And for the past 10 years, workers and communities by the massive warehouse and logistics sector of Inland Southern California. He was behind the WWRC's innovative campaign model to organize workers in the supply chains of the largest companies in the world and the WWRC's product communities to demand a sustainable and justice movement sector in Southern California.
Jennifer Jones: And finally, we are joined by Hamid Khan, who is the coordinator of the Stop LAPD Spying coalition. The mission of the coalition is to build community-based power to dismantle police surveillance, spying, and infiltration programs. The coalition utilizes multiple campaigns to advance an innovative organizing model that is Los Angeles-based that has implications regionally, nationally, and internationally.
Jennifer Jones: So with that, we will turn to our very first question. Just from reading all of your files, it is pretty clear that each of your organizations has a very broad focus on vision, racial justice, workers' rights, and police state repression. On the surface that may seem unrelated to tech or artificial intelligence to some folks. So the question is, why care about technology? How is technology shaping the issues that your communities are organizing around? And we'll have each speaker speak in the order that you were introduced, which means Nash will go ahead and start with you.
Nathan 'nash' Sheard: Okay. Awesome. Thank you. It's a great question. I think to answer the question effectively, I really need to kind of paint a little, give a little bit of background on what brought me into this work. So as you might imagine, I work at Electronic Frontier Foundation right now. Technology is a significant part of the work that I do, but unlike a lot of my colleagues at EFF, I'm not a traditionally trained technologist, I'm not an attorney, I don't have an extensive background in journalism. What brought me to this work is that I originally started my activism career as a facilitator and as a direct action trainer. And so because of the work that I was doing to call attention to injustice and to advance social and economic justice, I ended up having interactions with the law enforcement, being arrested, and folks that I was organizing with, folks that I was collaborating with also ended up having unintentional, or sometimes planned, interactions with law enforcement. And for me, I've always, as an organizer, believed that the action isn't over until everyone's out. So because of that, that kind of is how-
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Nathan 'nash' Sheard: Action isn't over until everyone's out. So because of that, that is how I ended up transitioning from doing direct action organizing to doing legal organizing and working with a collective in New York called Mutant Legal. And that work that we did there, supporting folks that were originally being engaged with a law enforcement system or the criminal justice system, as a result of political action, we ended up ultimately obviously expanding to also really can be maybe even more concerned with folks that were engaging with that system as a result of simply being black, brown, or poor.
Nathan 'nash' Sheard: And that work led to me being invited by folks that were organizing in 2014 after Michael Brown had been killed, organizing to build a legal support infrastructure to support the folks in the streets during the Ferguson uprising, I came back to New York the day before Daniel Pantaleo wasn't indicted for killing Eric Garner. And four months later, I was asked to come out to Baltimore and set up the legal support infrastructure when Freddie Gray was killed in custody by police.
Nathan 'nash' Sheard: And as a black man in America, as a political organizer, law enforcement surveillance has been a constant in my adult life anyway, right? And then when I really got into legal organizing, there was the additional responsibility in understanding that we need to collect a lot of information in order to protect folks and give them the legal support that they needed so they could consider the political work they were doing was sustainable. And in doing that then it was forced to become a steward and need to learn how to responsibly manage that information and secure that information and help folks to be able to communicate effectively in ways that wouldn't further the potential harm of either that they were calling attention to or potential harm as a result of those that would want to stop their political work.
Nathan 'nash' Sheard:
So it was really out of necessity that I became an unintentional techie and now advocate to protect our liberties from bad tech and from bad tech policy. So when you ask about why care about technology, I smiled because I would love to not care. I would actually love to not care about technology. I would love to not care about policing. I would love to not care about the digital divide and how it exacerbates inequity, but what I would have to do to stop caring about my family and my community and the ways that tech threatens our freedoms and power and existence, it's just not an option. So really any of us and I imagine that a lot of the folks that are here on this call, the reason our intentions, our goals are much bigger than tech, but tech, you referred to it earlier as the digital age now tech forces itself into affecting our ability to advocate for material change.
Nathan 'nash' Sheard: And so that's why the answer, why care about tech, because I have no other choice.
Jacinta González: Should I just jump in?
Jennifer Jones: Yeah, go ahead Jacinta.
Jacinta González: Awesome, thank you. So I think for us, as you know, Mijente, we've been fighting against deportations for a very long time now. Right? For probably even longer than we've existed as Mijente, but for longer as the Not One More Deportation campaign. And I think throughout the years, we've started to realize how, since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, since the creation of ICE, we've seen this police force, this federal police force, which has ICE kind of grow in power and control in terms of how they're going after immigrants to surveil, detain, and deport them. So for a long time, the focus of a lot of movements has been around focusing on information sharing between local police or local jails and ICE. But with time, we started to realize that ICE was doing more and more raids at our workplaces, in our neighborhoods, in our communities, and folks were coming to us and just kind of asking really point blank, how did they get my address?
Jacinta González: How did they know where I lived if I've never gotten a ticket? Or how do they know that so-and-so was my cousin or that I had been at an event with them? And so that made us really kind of decide to do some research into how ICE was getting this information. And basically when we popped the hood and started to look at how ICE was operating, we realized that they had tremendous amount of tech and data contracts with private corporations that were really building up ICE's infrastructure and ICE's as ability to, again, surveil, detain, and deport people. And so we started to identify tech companies that were creating mobile fingerprinting devices or companies like Clearview AI that is helping with facial recognition technology based off of pictures that are scraped from the internet. We started to realize that there were data brokers, right?
Jacinta González: Private companies that were buying and selling information many times from our utilities to ICE. And these kinds of companies or companies like Thomson Reuters or Aria Lex that many lawyers might think are just research tools, but are actually data brokers that are helping ICE create target lists to be able to go into our communities. You know, we started to figure out that there was companies like Palantir that were offering data analytics to ICE to take all of this data, process it, and kind of create a file on people to give over to ice agents so that they conduct more enforcement. And we found out there's companies like Amazon, right, that are providing cloud services to ICE, to be able to store all this information. So we got into tech because tech was getting into ICE. I think the lines that have existed, or basically companies are starting to get even more and more embedded in policing agencies, whether they're federal agencies, state agencies, local agencies, to develop technologies, to really expand the power of police, expand the power of the state to be able to monitor, control people with the purpose of caging people and deporting them.
Jacinta González: And so for us, it was really important to not only go after the federal government and the policing agencies like ICE, but also against all of the companies that were really kind of creating this infrastructure for them and making sure that we could peel back the curtain, right. So much of what they're doing is so secretive. And so there's a lot of power in being able to actually just call out what we're seeing and being able to figure out organizing strategies of how we can fight it in a comprehensive way that both takes on government and takes on companies.
Jennifer Jones: Great, thank you. Sheheryar would love to hear from you.
Sheheryar Kaoosji: Sorry, just getting off of mute. Hi. So yeah, from our perspective, as the warehouse worker resource center, we organize workers in supply chains of major retailers. And as I said earlier, it kind of came to us. We started engaging with workers in the Amazon supply chain the last few years. And we've seen that Amazon is a different kind of warehouse company. It's a different kind of business. And the last year Amazon has become the dominant employer of our era of this COVID era as people are purchasing more and more from their homes. We've seen these kinds of interactions with surveillance become really important. So as a worker rights organization, generally we see that people have fewer rights at work than almost anywhere else in society. You don't have freedom of speech, privacy, or protection from search in the workplace.
Sheheryar Kaoosji: You don't have the right to ask questions. If you're injured, you don't have the right to sue. You have to go through workers' comp. Our rights are constantly being stripped away in the workplace. Moved to arbitration agreements, taken away by the courts. Surveillance is a longstanding piece of workplace control. American policing is rooted in maintenance of the labor relationship from the days of slave patrols, but also the era of strike breakers companies like Pinkerton or Wackenhut that were established to discipline employees physically and through force and now do things more through softer forms of coercion, including surveillance. So there's always been spies in your workplaces and this has grown into a technological spying in recent years. In the early 20th century similarly, the innovation was watching workers and watching them closely to make sure they're moving as efficiently as possible through what's called Taylorism. Time and motion studies, how quickly does it take you to move a box, right? How can you do it more efficiently? All those kinds of tools of watching people and surveilling them have been combined together in work places like Amazon now to create what we see as a situation that's way out of control.
Sheheryar Kaoosji: So in a workplace, corporate climate where technology is unregulated and used in every possible way. We also see a corporate climate where companies have basically the authority and the power to test these technologies out on their workforces. So, like I said, we're looking at Amazon, which is the biggest employer in our region of the inland empire. Southern California, the second biggest employer in our country now. And it's the largest employer among the tech companies, right? It's the one that has a big working class workforce. And so what we're seeing is that similar to other companies like Uber and Tesla, but Amazon, especially it's collecting as much data as they can about the workforce. And then they're going to figure out what to do with it, which seems to be the model of any kind of tech company.
Sheheryar Kaoosji: At Amazon what that means is having a camera on every worker at all times, watching how fast they move, how fast they're scanning, how fast are they walking and calibrating productivity standards and quotas to get them to move as quickly as possible and to identify incentives, to make people move fast, whether they be gifts and things that can incentivize people or punishments, things that can force people to work hard because they're afraid of being terminated or disciplined. So what we're seeing is that they're surveilling people's habits outside of work as well ,of their workforces. Who's willing to come in on the extra shift, who's willing to call back when they got called in. All those kinds of things go into Amazon's algorithm about their workforce and their way of crunching data about the workforce, their future workforce, their past workforce, and all that information is being collected and turns into information that they can use to racially profile workforces, to bust unions, to discriminate based on all sorts of factors, gender, age, race, and with workers who can not keep the pace, push workers to work at it very quickly, and potentially get injured.
Sheheryar Kaoosji: So we see is that Amazon, other companies are using this data to figure out how to squeeze everything they can out of every worker, both on the information side and on the productivity side. And what we're doing is we're focused on organizing workers to fight back against these forms of surveillance and also the ways that companies like Amazon are using that information to further exploit workers.
Jennifer Jones: Great. Thank you so much. And last but not least we have Hamid, can you share with us how technology shapes the issues that your community organizes around?
Hamid Khan: Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity, happy to be here, happy to see some friends on the screen as well. I think before I addressed the question itself, just want to share that what are some of the grounding values or principles that the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition builds its work on, which would help us sort of just address the question a little bit more in-depth as well. The first one is that what we are doing right now or looking at is not a moment in time, but a continuation of history. One of the other principles that we follow is that there's always the creation of the other, the enemy that can be then used to justify the practices as well. The third one is that to sensationalize the whole rhetoric of technology and scientific objectivity and national security. And the fourth one is that our fight is rooted in human rights, whereas constitutional rights and civil rights and civil liberties are critical, but yet at the same time, they offer a much more limiting redress or just remedies to these issues.
Hamid Khan: So I think what we are hearing from the other panelists, that if we were kind of bring it all together, in a sense, we are talking about practices. We are talking about operations. We are talking about practices that ultimately serve a much larger purpose of white supremacy, of capitalism, of settler colonialism, patriarchy, and then increasingly the pseudoscience scientific language of scientific objectivity. So when we start using those lenses, then we start understanding that this whole sensationalism about tech needs to be seen through that historical lens as well. And whether we are looking at lantern laws from the early 1700s, where if you were an enslaved body and you had to walk with a lantern in the public to identify yourself as a threat, or whether we are looking at the red squads, which were developed as covert sections in 1880s in response to labor organizing, and particularly the Haymarket strike in Chicago, which led to the creation of Mayday, or we are looking at COINTELPRO, the counterintelligence programs, or now post 9/11, the massive expansion of the national security police state, given the rapid pace at what information can be shared and built as well.
Hamid Khan: I think in a sense when we start putting this picture together, it helps us understand that if we only limit our vocabulary or understanding to tech, then our approach, our response and our understanding and unpacking of it becomes very limited as well, because was one of the things, what it does is in our fight is that it's sort of like, you know, takes away a lot of energy because the narrative is that it's here to stay. So just accept it. And yeah, we can tinker with it, we can form it, we can create some policies for transparency and accountability, but still you have to live with it and you have to deal with. But if we just step away and start looking at the broader ecology, for example, predictive policing. So, you know, just in a sense driving while black was predictive policing, but then more recently, you know, just to do a shout out by comrades in the coalition, we were able to dismantle LAPD's predictive policing programs.
Hamid Khan: But when we through public records got the records of hotspots in predictive policing, and then we started mapping out where we are based out of in skid row, in downtown Los Angeles. What we saw was these hotspots were being deployed in the service of massive gentrification and land development that was going on. And it literally created a quarantining effect around the communities in skid row. So it was almost like a digital Jim Crow that had been established. Then we started unpacking it more that okay, so what does this ecology looks like? And then we looked at the academic complicity that how deep the Academy is involved in creating these intellectual frameworks and these tools as well. We looked at the, of course, the monetization and the mega profits that get to be made. And the corporate interest we looked at land developers, and of course in Los Angeles land is and land and policing, you can't separate these two at all.
Hamid Khan: Looking at the government itself and the role of the state that absolutely not. That's not where their answers lie. So in a sense, and Jennifer, I'm glad that you raised this thing that we would hear things that could be fearful, but if we shift the focus, then what happens is then we start looking at building power and not paranoia. And then we get to know our fight, which helps us in strategizing. So technologies, just through right now, electronic monitoring now, electronic monitoring, is it a far cry to think of lantern laws and electronic monitoring, because both were designed to be on your body and attached, in a sense, one holding, one attached to monitor you and to look at the other and look at the track. And for the person who is carrying it, it basically sending a message that I am the threat, you got to keep an eye on me, and I'll stop right there.
Jennifer Jones: Great, thank you so much for those very thoughtful and thorough responses. It's great to get a better understanding of all of your work and how it relates to technology and surveillance. And I think you all laid a really good foundation for the rest of the conversation. So I know early on in the intro, we touched on already that this year we've faced an unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and witnessed the growth of a mass movement and systemic racism and police violence, specifically with calls to defund or abolish the police. I'm curious if either of these events have changed or influenced your approach to your tech equity work. And if so, how have you changed it? And Nash, we'll go ahead and start with you again.
Nathan 'nash' Sheard: Sorry about that. So COVID-19 has obviously has a significant impact on the way that we do our work and as I mentioned, I'm really a community organizer more than anything else. And so I'd much rather be in a basement, planning with folks on how we're going to conspire to decolonialize political and technological systems. And I have to say I haven't been able to do that since February, but we've adapted and we've figured out how to stay connected and even expand our systems of mutual aid and support. And actually my introduction to EFF was through their surveillance self-defense guide and their street level surveillance work that is always been about ending invasive police surveillance. And so if anything, what's changed the most there is really just the scope of the conversation. And I think Hamid had mentioned earlier, really how we think about this and thinking about it broader than just focusing on the technology itself and actually the role that the technology plays within our society and within historical systems of oppression.
Nathan 'nash' Sheard: And so it's great now that that conversation has become more mainstream. So I really appreciate that. One of the things that I'm excited about right now that's at the intersection of these issues in New York, right now there's a bill it's assembly bill 10500 C, the Senate side is 8450 C. And that bill is really at the intersection of what you mentioned around the COVID crisis, as well as the efforts to both defund and also to just take away the idea that police should have this omnipresent power. And so we know that contact tracing is one of the essential ways that we can help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Nathan 'nash' Sheard: But obviously, we know that black and brown communities have been disproportionately affected both by the COVID crisis and by systemic bias. And so therefore our communities are going to be less likely to participate in this really essential practice of contact tracing, if there's fear that that information is ultimately going to be shared with law enforcement or with immigration officials. And so this bill in New York, which I hope will ultimately be replicated in other places, it was passed unanimously in New York, by New York state and New York's assembly. It's waiting for the governor to sign it right now. What do we do is it would prohibit police and ICE officials from being engaged in contact tracing, from using information or acquiring information that was gained through contact tracing or for using them in criminal or administrative procedures. And so hopefully that will be replicated in other places, because it is an essential and common sense way that we can both protect privacy as well as public health.
Nathan 'nash' Sheard: And so the idea that we're looking at all of these things and the way that technology is impacting it, either empowering or disempowering people or taking power away from communities or putting power into systems that the conversation has evolved into really reimagining what public safety looks like. That's really what I think has changed in this time of these mutual challenges.
Jennifer Jones: Great. Thank you so much. Jacinta, I'd love to hear from you.
Jacinta González: I think both moments present both tremendous challenges and tremendous opportunities. You know, I think in this moment where folks are talking openly about the demand to defund the police, the movement to be able to end policing has been incredibly exciting to see. I think that one challenge that we have is that in many places, companies and governments alike are trying to frame technology as a safer and better alternative to different carceral strategies. And so when folks are talking about let's end bail, they're like, yeah, that's great. Let's have an algorithm predict who's a risk, right. And use that as a way of determining who's going to be locked up, or we're saying, let's have less detention centers. Like that's great, let's have ankle shackles on everybody to be able to control them.
Jacinta González: And so I think that the challenge for us here is to really make clear that a lot of these technologies are just a continuation of the carceral state that are just expanding the power of police and their control. And in that way, be able to actually get at how do we reduce those contracts. I think the opportunity here is, and then we can go after those contracts, right? So it's been really exciting to see cities that are pushing back against policing that are trying to defend the police, also look at how some of these private contracts can be part of those efforts and can help redirect funds to education and health and everything else that our communities need. So I think it's a little bit of a double edged sword where we have to push back. But if we're able to do that, we're actually able to really create some space for local groups to be pushing against surveillance technologies and data technologies that are being used by local police departments.
Jacinta González: You know, similarly with COVID, I think, in a moment of pandemic, more and more folks are trying to use data to be able to use it in the benefit of public health and try to figure out where folks are getting sick, how to control medicine, how to control hospital beds. I think the biggest flag that we have had is a lot of these tech companies would love to tell you that they're profitable, but the truth is that the only way that they're making money is by getting government contracts. So not only do they pay very little taxes like companies like Amazon, but they also make a lot of money off of government contracts from our tax dollars. And so one of those companies that we've been watching very closely has been the company Palantir and Palantir historically has had a lot of contracts with the military, a lot of contracts with local police departments, like in LA and Hamid can talk much more about that.
Jacinta González: You know, they have this contract with ICE, but it's been really alarming to see in COVID how Palantir has used lobbying to get back room deals and contracts, to be able to literally build up the protect platform for health and human services. They just got a new contract with the FDA. They also have a contract with the IRS and you start to realize how there's this kind of rotation between lobbying and getting these corporate contracts and then creating the same policies that reinforce the need to have this type of surveillance.
Jacinta González: And so that revolving door, I think, has gotten a lot stronger because there's just so much money that is kind of on the table because of this. The contract that Palantir got to do HHS protect, they literally it was written into the bill, right? So it was all backroom deals. There was no open conversations around what should happen with this types of surveillance. And so I think that there's just a fear that in some places they are able to push for more protections, but in many other places, it's very unclear what's happening with that information.
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Jacinta González: In many other places, it's very unclear what's happening with that information. And so, I think at best folks are just really scared about, "Well, if I get COVID testing or if I go to a hospital, does that mean ICE is going to get my information?" But at worst it just means that people are not actually accessing the services that they need. And so there has to be real conversations about when excessive policing, excessive surveillance starts to impact public health starts to impact the way that people approach public services and the horrible impacts that that can have. So I think there's kind of, those are just two of the things that I would highlight in terms of this moment and surveillance.
Jennifer Jones: Great. Thank you. And before we hear from Jerry, I would like to just remind the audience that if you would like to ask any questions, you can put them in the comment box if you're watching on Facebook or YouTube.
Sheheryar Kaoosji: So for us, I think this year has definitely been kind of one step forward, two steps back. I think a lot of us who are organizing workers have seen a lot of awareness and information collection and really understanding grow. But at the same time we've seen again, Amazon really consolidate its power in a really amazing show of force this year. Becoming I think again, the most important company in capitalism right now, and a company that not just in retail, as the company, that's delivering all of our products, but as it has shown in their reports and research is a key player in the police state and the surveillance state that we're dealing with. So on the kind of workplace level we've seen, the Amazon has weaponized, essentially social distancing. They've utilized the tracking of workers in the warehouses and said, we're tracking you.
Sheheryar Kaoosji: We know exactly when you're within six feet of a coworker and that's a fireable offense. In certain contexts, you have to be within that distance to be able to do the work. And if you don't want to get fired, but they don't ... were disciplined or punished workers who are at the conveyor belts for instance, where they have to be really shoulder to shoulder. But if they have workers who are talking to each other, if they have workers who are organizing, workers who are organizing like Christians Smalls, a leader in organizing where else in Staten Island and other black and Latino leaders who have organized across the country this year at Amazon workplaces, that's a way that they can, they have you, they have a fireable offense on you, and they can say it's because of public health.
Sheheryar Kaoosji: So they very quickly pivoted the kind of opportunity of saying, we need to be able to protect our workplaces into a tool for surveillance and work, organized oppression of workers who are organizing. What we're doing to address this is sharing information, in San Bernardino, San Bernardino County the economy really is warehouses and prisons. Those are the places that people can get jobs. And so breaking across those lines and really sharing information with our community about the way that companies like Amazon have a hand in both of those roles, both of those systems, both in the workplaces and the warehouses, of course, but also in their contracts with ICE in the fact that San Bernardino sheriffs and police departments are some of the most common users of Ring data, Ring doorbells, which are again, an Amazon service, which they contract directly with police departments to share that information so that they can survey all basically communities through people's doorbells.
Sheheryar Kaoosji: So what we've seen is that as we're able to share that information with people in San Bernardino County and Riverside County, that Amazon is not the friendly employer and beneficial company that they try to make themselves out to be, but actually have a hand in surveilling and oppressing black and brown communities across our region. We're trying to make sure that people understand that this is a place where communities should be, and can take action to hold that company accountable.
Jennifer Jones: Thank you so much. Same question for you, Hamid.
Hamid Khan: Sure. Thank you. Well, first of all, just to acknowledge and that the pandemic, so over like 16 million people around the world have been impacted and we all have been impacted, this is something, and I don't want to, I'm not going to age myself, but this is something so extraordinary that, I mean, many of us have never seen anything like it before. And then of course, just the issue of just the number of deaths in the United States and all over the world, they're astronomical. But I think on so many levels, what both of these events have really done is exposed and reminded us the inherent violence and the cruelty of the system, but that's on one hand.
Hamid Khan: But it's also helped us to be creative as well. It really gives life to what we always talk about that what does sanctuary really mean? What does mutual aid and self-help really mean? What does ... and why, when people talk about it, like they don't trust things like we've heard stories about, and the histories of Tuskegee experiments and various other things as well. But, there's something to be said as to how, and who is being impacted and how the cruelty and the injustices for the system that completely just commodifies human body, as it has been fully exposed at who was disposable. And who's not. So, and who has access, who has not, who is in whose house. Who can have shelter, who doesn't deserve that.
Hamid Khan: So I think on that level, in a sense, there's a broader understanding. And I think also someone else also already mentioned that as well. I think the question really is that how are we then responding to the, and I was just taking notes as folks were talking to as well, that one of the things that the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition has done is that because we, as Max said, that we are grassroots organizers, we're out on the streets, we're just bringing and building collective knowledge and understanding. So we had to pivot, and we would have a meeting every Tuesday in Skid Row where folks would come in on addressing different issues and the intersection of the police state with gender and sexuality or the intersection for police state and the war on youth or data-driven policing or whatever the political moment is that we have been able to at least build the capacity in a way that we had just sort of pause and come back to digital organizing, but still maintaining that weekly presence and the bandwidth and the conversations in the community as well.
Hamid Khan: Just last night, we had our 38th webinar, every Tuesday that's been going on since the middle of March. So in a sense, what that did was that how do we flip the script? So since we are stuck in this situation, so we've been able to talk to, for example, just last night on our war on youth campaign, we had folks from UK with the group called Cage who are fighting against this whole radicalization and various programs that the British government has. We had folks from the Palestinian youth movement who've been talking about it just about a month ago in our, the gender and sexuality piece. We had folks who are trans siblings who are organizing in Colombia against police violence. We were able to talk to a trans activist in Saudi Arabia and other places as well.
Hamid Khan: So in a sense, how are we then where physically, we can't be present. We always talk about just organizing locally, but thinking globally, but how do we operationalize that? So I think this has been, and then all these webinars are posted on our website as well, and stopLAPDspying.org. So that is something that we've been able to do. But concurrently, I think it's also going to your point and what others have said as well, that yes, I mean, having volunteer these contracts with DHS, HHS protect, and then also we just yesterday, the state of California and this contact tracing piece announced that Lexus Nexus is going to get a contract as well. We've been working with some public health folks, too. So this is also an opportunity for us to broaden our scope, our understanding of the stalker state, that how information moves, how we are being traced and tracked and monitored, and literally being stalked by information sharing between the public sector and private sector.
Hamid Khan: And actually the coalition has drawn out what that stalker state potentially could look like. So now we are looking at that centering public health as a key mover in that stalker state, that how public health historically, we had Dorothy Roberts on one of our webinars who was talking about how public health has been the tip of the policing knife, just the people of genocide and oppression. This whole idea about where we would hear things about predisposition. Well, is it predisposition, is genetics, or is it environment, is it poverty? Is it oppression and various kinds of things? So it has had both, but I would say in summation that definitely the ground has shifted. I mean, I think, and in a sense of understanding that, hey, we do have the power and we can survive.
Hamid Khan: We do have the power and then we are able to mediate and through that power, by navigating the various structural just violence that happens by through mutual aid. We do have the power by thinking of alternatives that were in our, as we embody evolution in our journey towards, a multi-generational journey towards abolition, what would that really look like? And how do we embody those things? And lastly, also the whole idea that just being able to look at in a more detailed way and being in Skid Row we have do this firsthand, but experience, but what does organized abandonment look like as well? And how does that organized abandonment really just play out? And what is our response to that? So, I'll end with that.
Jennifer Jones: Great. Basically just general talk about surveillance that there has definitely tend to be a focus on how local law enforcement and federal law enforcement agencies use technology to harm communities of color, but we are increasingly seeing technologies being used in other contexts, including family regulation, or what is commonly known as the child welfare system surveillance K through 12 public schools and also surveillance of university students. So can you all speak to some of the emerging issues that we're seeing and how they also contribute to the further marginalization and criminalization of BiPOC communities? We'll start with you again, Nash.
Nathan 'nash' Sheard: Yeah. So the work that I specifically do at EFF as associate director of community organizing is I helped to organize a network of grassroots community, student led groups around the country called the Electronic Frontier Alliance. And one of the things that a lot of our student groups started to see around the country as a result of the COVID crisis was that schools were mandating proctoring apps. So these were apps that when students were taking tests, instead of re-imagining how education, which I think we have a great need to do, we just get educating re-imagining how education would work during the current COVID crisis.
Nathan 'nash' Sheard: There's this knee-jerk reaction to continue to monitor and surveil students that they take tests in the same ways that were possible in person. But in order to do that, what schools have been doing is mandating these proctoring apps and these proctoring apps often require root access to the person's device. And they're also asking for some really concerning and kind of disturbing things, they'll ask students to, can you move the camera to your crash area, move the camera to this area, or that other area, or you have proctors sending notes to students that their eyes have moved a certain amount of time with a certain amount of time during the test. And at least one message that I'd seen was where the students were threatened if their eyes continue to move at that rate. So certainly things ... And the idea, and I mentioned earlier that in the case of these proctoring apps, that they also require root access to the device, which would mean that anyone at the university or anyone that gets access to the university store of the keys to these apps will actually have very concerning levels of access to each individual, to each student's device. So, those are certainly some things that we've seen develop that are, that are concerning.
Nathan 'nash' Sheard: We actually just last month launched a campaign, an app mandate campaign around COVID tracking on campuses where not just students, but students, workers, many members of the university communities have been mandated by some schools to use these contact tracing apps on their devices. Now, consensual, and like an optional app in use of contact tracing apps could be helpful, but by mandating that students install this software on their device and that they're allowing themselves to be tracked without consent in, without a really balanced consent. It's one thing if you're offering consent, because the alternative is to miss out on your education, right? That is not real consent. So if you're being mandated by our university, those are of great concern and a great example of how technology is seeping into the education and to the education environment.
Nathan 'nash' Sheard: We also know we've seen in New York, in New York State where Lockport, New York, the schools there were adopting a face surveillance system. And so there's been a lot of work. The New York Civil Liberties Union NYCLU has led a large coalition of New York area groups that have been fighting back and pushing back on the use of face surveillance in public schools. And so that's, again, another hard example of ... I've recently this week, I heard someone kind of like reframe the school to prison pipeline as the prison to prison pipeline. And the idea of this normalization of the surveillance state within the education system, in this indoctrination into acceptance of that is certainly quite concerning and an example of exactly what you speak to, which is this evolution, or this further encroachment, I don't even know if it's an evolution, but a further encroachment of the type of surveillance that we've seen on the state and by state actors now going and seeping into other areas of life and cross-pollination of and this cross-normalization of that in ways that are really concerning.
Jennifer Jones: Thanks so much. Jacinta, are you seeing any other new emerging uses of surveillance sort of outside the law enforcement context?
Jacinta González: Yeah, so just to reframe the question a little bit, but I think the whole conversation around defunding the police has really like brought up a lot of conversations like, "Okay, well, if we're not going to be funding police officers, who are we going to be funding?" Right. And so folks have come up with like, well, social workers or family care and all of this. And I think in that process, there has been a visibilization right. I think folks have known this for a while, but I think it started to become more visible, how a lot of these institutions are also so connected to policing. So as was previously mentioned, the connections between our education system and policing family law and policing, like all of these systems have been linked for a very long time. And I think that what is happening is as new surveillance technologies are being inserted, it's kind of facilitating that transfer of information and kind of making it happen faster.
Jacinta González: So, whereas before you would have to rely on a social worker who would have to go and tell the police that this was happening in the home. Now, it almost becomes streamlined in such a way that makes it more automatic and more dangerous. And so I think what we're seeing is that these new surveillance technologies are really kind of, yeah, again, visible. Using this connection and how so many of public services are linked to the police departments. You can talk about Ring doorbells as being a new technology, right. It's not really a new technology, it's just once again, corporations trying to connect your doorbell, your video to their information, to be able to get that to happen faster. So I think it just is really a really big question for us about how we're ... All of these technologies are being used to expand the power of the state and the power of police. And so yes, they are happening in different places, but they're just really visiblizing how it's all connected to policing in a lot of ways.
Jacinta González: But I do think that it's really exciting to see how young people are starting to interpret this differently. I think there was a kind of a prediction for a long time that because young people were so comfortable with cameras or so comfortable with technology that this was going to be happening passively. But I think what is exciting is starting to have these conversations in such a way that not only pushed back against the surveillance technology itself, but actually force us to have conversations about why these punitive systems are so connected to the police if actually what we're trying to do is educate our folks or get them to health services. So I think it's just a question of having a different conversation around the connection of how all of these things are trying to control the movement and freedom of mostly folks who have been at the margins of society for some time.
Jennifer Jones: Great. Thank you. Sheheryar I know you've already spoken largely to surveillance outside of a law enforcement context, but have you seen any other emerging types of surveillance technology that you wanted to let us know about?
Sheheryar Kaoosji: Nothing people don't already know about, but just again, in the kind of Amazon universe, which is where we've focused, I think the most concerning and I think revelatory thing is just really how seamlessly corporate information flows to the government and back. And again, Mient's research is about kind of the fusion center the volunteers organized and how that information flows across government agencies, but also the fact that private information flows into that. It's really important for us to understand that there's, those lines aren't really very tight and that information that's collected in the private market is, is quickly shared with the government and vice versa.
Sheheryar Kaoosji: For Amazon, again, like we have some classic examples of kind of opt-in technologies that people buy into for convenience, but actually is essentially a data collection tool, Alexa and Ring, right? And those are things that people purchase for their own convenience, but it's essentially a way for the company to collect information about your consumer habits and whatever else they want to collect. And then in Ring, especially, not just inward facing for people who have opted into that resource, but also outward facing, looking out on to whoever's walking past your door. I saw reports of during the BLM movement in the summer, people in some places being charged because of activities that were recorded on Ring doorbells. And we've seen that Ring is really kind of a tool of Amazon to ingratiate themselves with police departments and basically produce a huge data set that they can share with police departments. So those are things that we've seen, again, Amazon really kind of doubling down on in recent years. And we think that that's something that we should be watching really closely as that interface between corporate and and state power.
Jennifer Jones: Thank you. Hamid.
Hamid Khan: Thank you. I think when we talk about surveillance, it's also instructive to unpack what the process of surveillance is and what purpose does it serve? And I think I would maybe start by saying that surveillance is a process of information gathering and storing and sharing. Now, when we start thinking about it, it also helps us understand that technology or the way we think of technology somehow assumes that it's attached only to the material, the being of things, for example, a cell phone or laptop, or these name technologies like Ring and various other things, but if we think of a technology, well, like I was saying earlier as a practice, then it helps to understand that surveillance and the process is really about social control and how that has been deployed, again, going back to the whole ideological premise of sustaining patriarchy, of sustaining white supremacy of sustaining capitalism, of sustaining settler colonialism.
Hamid Khan: So I think in a sense what then that it does is to really debunk some of the notions. And one of them is that really broaden our scope and our understanding as well, that no, it's much bigger than the invasion of privacy, because I would also argue that that privacy is also a very privileged place to be in. I mean, it's a very, it's almost like in this system in the United States, we'll take it a step further that it's a very white privileged space. So in a sense, what we then find out is, learn that it's really the intent to cause harm. And this has been deployed for centuries, that how communities, how the other needs to be contained, how they need to be controlled, how they need to be criminalized and how they need to be sort of just kept in check.
Hamid Khan: So that's where the deployment comes in because otherwise, just technology and the material existence of technology then takes away the years and programs like, for example, see something, say something which are way more pervasive and have always been going on forever. Now, we can tell you draw parallels and technology as nextdoor.com or various other things, but behavioral surveillance has now become the primary mode of surveillance as well, which is so subjective in nature that there is no, you can't just use a body camera or use a license plate reader or trap wire or stingray or digital receiver technology or facial recognition because behavior, in a sense, and now folks are going into the next realm of ... So in a sense thought is being commodified. So I think that's where it helps us in understanding our fight that what is being presented to us, which the previous question you raised as well, Jennifer, this is sort of a, I think the term is called techno solutionism.
Hamid Khan: I mean, I'm sort of new to this jargon as well, that our response is also like then how can we make technology more friendly? How can we make technology less biased? How can we clean out the data? Well sort of like fight back against those notions because what they do is, is they sanitize the impact, they water down our fight as well, because the way we see that is that information sharing within public sector, private sector, corporations, law enforcement agencies. So when we talk about police, we have to think about it in a sense of the policing of our bodies in so many different ways, that information is constantly moving. And I wish I was able to show some slides, but I can't.
Hamid Khan: So in a sense that we just recently released a report on the LA County Department of Children and Family Services around child protective services and various other things as well. And in that we have mapped out the extensive scale of information sharing that is happening within DCFS and various other services as well. Similarly, DMV. I mean, we have mapped out the architectures of surveillance of LAPD and law enforcement agencies, but public sector agencies. And of course we know about the monetization and the profit making as well. So I think in a sense that what the scale is, it's very large and for us to understand in order to build our fight as well, also, it is incumbent upon us that no, the fight is not ... Things will not change because mathematically it's not possible to have an unbiased or equitable algorithm. Mathematically-
PART 3 OF 4 ENDS [01:15:04]
Hamid Khan: Possible to have an unbiased or equitable algorithm mathematically because of now people talk about artificial intelligence. Well, artificial intelligence is informed, in guided, it's an extension of certain things as well. So, obviously, it'll serve those purposes. Well, do we want to make it less impactful? No. Do we want to dismantle it or do we want to just make it irrelevant and start reducing or being impacted by it, by understanding it and see that was the best way to fight back and what are the best ways to organize against this things?
Jennifer Jones: All right. Apologies. I had a minor technical difficulty, but I'm back now. I did want to give the audience an opportunity to weigh in with questions. So do we have any questions from folks who are listening in today?
Jennifer Jones: All right, it looks like we have one from Stephanie. What is the most effective way for an average community member to help disrupt the surveillance state and its agencies during COVID and post COVID? Anyone who'd like to can weigh in on this.
Jacinta González: I'm happy to jump in on this. I think for us, it's been really important. Folks have talked about how this information can feel really overwhelming. I really love how a Stop LAPD From Spying talks about the fact that we need to build power, not paranoia. And so for us, it's been really important to keep folks kind of in movement, organizing, and kind of really create a lane for different folks. So on our campaign website, NoTechForICE.com, there's a million kind of different tools that folks can kind of use. Whether it's, if you want to offer a workshop in your community around what is surveillance capitalism? How does the police use surveillance? How does ICE surveillance? We kind of give folks tools to be able to offer those workshops offer those trainings, for people. We have a comic book. So, if you're not into workshops and you just want to read a comic that's there.
Jacinta González: There's a toolkit for student organizing. We know that so many of these companies are going to campuses to recruit people to work at their companies. And a great intervention has been students organizing saying, "You can't recruit me. I won't work for you. I'm actually going to be working to cut ties between your company and my university." So there's been a lot of really great movement there.
Jacinta González: We also have some toolkits for folks that want to take action locally. We know that a lot of folks that are on the front lines have been working to expose some of the surveillance programs that their local police departments are using, organizing against them, figuring out different tools to try to change the local environment around how information is being shared. There's a toolkit for that online.
Jacinta González: So, I think there's a lot of ways that people can kind of get involved. And to me, it's just really a question of how are we: one peeling back the curtain to expose these companies, then building power to hold them accountable, but then really thinking about how we're incorporating this analysis into how we're fighting against police agencies, against ICE agencies themselves? Because at the end of the day, that's where the fight is. So it's not a question of kind of thinking about it as something separate, but really seeing the connections between all of our movements and all of our efforts. So that we're not kind of falling for the trap of false alternatives and actually really pushing against all forms of state control and state violence in these moments.
Jacinta González: So I really just want to encourage folks to go to NoTechForICE.com and check out some of those toolkits, check out some of those action items. There's also a bunch of digital petitions and online forms that people can sign up for. And I also think we're going to have a lot of opportunities under this new administration to push back against surveillance and tech companies. Unfortunately, this is not something that Republicans are awful at and Democrats are great at. Actually, I would say that the Democratic Party has been more willing to offer up technology and surveillance as an option. We saw it really clearly, for example, when folks were talking about a border wall. Right? Trump might be talking about a brick and mortar border wall, but all of the Dems were talking about a surveillance and tech border wall.
Jacinta González: So I think there's also going to be a lot of opportunities to be pushing back against that in the next four years. And we kind of have to take advantage of our growing movements', understanding of that to really say, "We're not going to accept it." And that we actually mean, you know what we mean when we say that we are against deportations, we're against policing and we're against incarceration.
Jennifer Jones: Great. Thank you.
Hamid Khan: If I could just quickly add-
Jennifer Jones: So it looks like... Sorry, go ahead.
Hamid Khan: Yeah. I was just going to thank you Jacinta for that. I think just to quickly add to that as well, that I think, again, going back to the Power Not Paranoia statement as well. It is about, look, this is the time that we're going through, this is something, fighting back oppression, fighting back colonization, fighting back in enslavement and genocide has been going on for centuries. Are we moving forward? Absolutely, we are. I think the question really is that riding on the shoulders of our ancestors, they didn't accept any shortcuts. They did not. I mean, this was a multi-generational fight. These were, with all the cruelty and everything else, knowing that how broad and deeply entrenched the system is.
Hamid Khan: So I think it's really helpful to know our fight and really not sometimes fall into the trap of a quick fix, just seeking reforms, seeking responses and answers some of the very same people who are directly responsible. So not falling into the trap of seeking ordinances or legislative fixes, but really building that power during that collective knowledge exchange. And decolonizing this knowledge. And I think lastly, I would say for the longest time with due respect to a lot of folks who are listening in, that we had to fight back the lawyers. That... Who were telling us to follow them. No, I mean, it is with the people. And now technologists are assuming a certain level of priesthood in our movements as well, but the power really rides with the people. It is our own lived experiences, which really help us understand our day-to-day experiences is the real history. Rather than there's so much data that keeps on being dumped on us.
Hamid Khan: So, I would just say knowing our fight and understanding, and just kind of identifying that on where we are a personal level. How we identify. What is our sexual identity. What gender identity. What is our... How are we defined by the other? I mean, my name is Hamid Hussein Khan, who is an immigrant from Pakistan. So what is my fight over here? Which is also nuanced in a particular way of we're fighting on many different fronts too. So, I would just add too, Jacinta's point.
Jennifer Jones: Great. Thank you so much.
Nathan 'nash' Sheard: And Jen-
Jennifer Jones: Sorry, go ahead Nash.
Nathan 'nash' Sheard: If I might. I'd also just like to say that, and this goes with even COVID times, not COVID times. If there's something... If there's a change you'd like to see, then find the group in your community that is working on that. And if there's not a group in your community is working on that, then start a group in your community that's working on that. Right and before I joined EFF, I was working with black lawyers, legal workers, and activists; and realizing that, when we saw... When we were working in Ferguson, we were working in Baltimore and we were working in Cleveland and Baton Rouge and all these places. We realized that they're a like most medium cities in the country did not have the legal support infrastructure in place to support activists, to help their work that they're doing on the streets be sustainable. And even where there was there, it certainly wasn't black led.
Nathan 'nash' Sheard: That's why the group of us kept seeing each other and kept running into each other in all these spaces. Because we were part of the very few black folks that were doing that work. And so we started Black Movement-Law Project to make sure that we were training and building knowledge within black lawyers, black activists, black legal workers, to be able to support their communities in that way. So if you don't... So if you want to create change, find the group that's doing it. And if you can't find the group then start the group that's doing it.
Nathan 'nash' Sheard: And certainly that has changed, in the COVID era. The week before everything shut down, we were expecting there to be three cities. I think it was Chicago, Portland, and Boston. Were all going to put... Were all on schedule to have face surveillance bans introduced, and all three of them at that point, everything came to a halt. Because we needed to adjust and we needed to move. Since then, over the last several months, we've... Like I said, I would much rather be in some basement somewhere organizing and conniving with folks face to face. Right? And conspiring with folks face to face. But we've had to adapt. Right?
Nathan 'nash' Sheard: So now we've moved to the online space and we've learned how to utilize these tools in ways that bring us together. And in some ways actually make it easier. Right? There's... I, you know... There's... If you want to go to your City Council meeting, you maybe in a pre-COVID era, you had to go to the council meeting, maybe it took six hours, and then you had to figure out how you were getting home if you didn't have a car. And if you lived in a place where public transportation wasn't going to be able to get you back home in time, it was a lot more difficult than now being able to, if you have...
Nathan 'nash' Sheard: Now mind, you I also want to call attention to the fact that our communities do not have equal access to these resources. Right? And so we need... So as much as we know, I'm glad that we're having this conversation about surveillance, but we also need to talk about the other ways that our communities are being disparately harmed by lack of access to resources. Right? And so, but those community members that... But if you do have access, if you're listening to this conversation right now, and you have that level of access, then you also have, it's now become easier if you want to get engaged and set appointments with the folks who answer to you as their constituents. It is now much easier because you can do that online. If you want to view what's happening in your City Council, you can do that online with not having to worry about how to get home when the trains have stopped running down, because the City Council meeting lasted six hours and ended at eight o'clock.
Nathan 'nash' Sheard: And since then I've talked about the three face surveillance bans that were on schedule to be introduced. Since then, two of them, Portland and Boston have both adopted those bans and all of that organizing happened... All of that organizing from March until Portland was passed the first week of September, all of that happened online. So there's still an opportunity and it's still... And folks have very much figured out ways to adapt and still come together and build that power together. And so if we can continue to do that is definitely a key piece of it.
Nathan 'nash' Sheard: Find out where the folks that are as concerned as you are, are at, and meet them. Again Electronic Frontier Alliance, EFF.org/fight there are 80 groups in 26 States around the country that are concerned about the ways that digital rights are impacting folks. And also the opportunity... The way the ability to innovate and create new things that protect them and build that people power are limited by laws and other things that would... And access that would restrict.
Nathan 'nash' Sheard: We saw this past week, we saw Dr. Timnet... Well it was revealed in the last week, Dr. Timnet Gebru, who was one of the folks that was instrumental in bringing attention to the fact that face surveillance technologies had a disparate efficacy rate for women, for people with darker skin, was let go from Google. Where she was one of the co-leads of their AI ethics team. Asked after she sent out an email calling attention to the diversity programs, the problems in their diversity program. And also after she experienced what her colleagues noted as unprecedented censorship on her work materials. Her colleagues and the people in that space, she's one of the founders of Black in AI, have been able to come together and to respond and to lift up that voice as a result... During this period. So as much as we have had to adapt, as much as the COVID era does tend seemingly make it harder for us all to connect to each other. There's also ways that we can continue to build that power and find the folks who are concerned about those issues.
Jennifer Jones: Great, thank you so much Nash. And unfortunately we are almost out of time. So I did just want to give the opportunity to Sheheryar to share anything that you have to weigh in related to what steps community members can take to fight back against surveillance.
Sheheryar Kaoosji: Just in the workplace context. I agree with everything that everybody has already said. But in the context of the workplace, our approach of those Warehouse Worker Resource Center has generally been that organizing should... That policy should be there to serve organizing, and not the other way around. The state has shown inability to regulate and hold corporate power accountable in the city, state, and country. Overtime in places... In contexts like Cal/OSHA or Labor Commission enforcement, Wage Theft enforcement. What works is direct engagement of workplaces and employers by groups of organized workers, like the ones you see right now. Even if they're not unionized, but if they're unionized, it's a little bit easier. But those workers taking direct action. Making demands of their employers around the way that they're surveilled. Around the ways that their information is utilized is really key.
Sheheryar Kaoosji: The way the regulation is so slow, especially engaging with tech. We see it as a real need for there to be direct action of workers., Groups of workers who understand what they're up against and know that it's a long fight, but also know that we can't wait around for the state to fix it for us. We can move policies that can help us and protect us, force the employer to share that kind of information. But we also see opportunities in bring workers together, just regular blue collar workers in warehouses, Uber drivers, those kinds of folks who are the front lines of these new experiments of surveillance. And to stand up and say, "We want to have a say in how this goes down before it gets expanded out to the rest of our civil society."
Sheheryar Kaoosji: So that's what we see as the opportunity of organizing workers in these kinds of frontline workplaces. And hopefully we can find different to do that across the supply chains and different systems of these new tech companies.
Jennifer Jones: Great. Thank you so much. Well, as much as we'd all love to keep this conversation going and hear more from you all. It is, unfortunately, time to wrap things up. So I do just want to give a huge thank you to our panelists for taking time to chat with us today. And we really appreciate and value your work and your advocacy, and look forward to seeing where this movement goes. And to close things out, we're going to hear once more from spoken word artists, Jerry Quickley, who will now perform another excerpt from Whistleblower. So Jerry we'll pass the mic to you. And thanks again to everyone for joining us today.
Jerry Quickley: Thank you everyone. It was really enlightening for me as an artist and a citizen.
Jerry Quickley: Moving forward, leaving tracks in invisible, digital snow. Our footprints filled with our histories, desires, and wants. Laying there, looking back at us like accusations. When I was 12 years old, I was detained for spitting on a law retired Nixon's limo. "Fuck it. Fuck him." I explained that I was half messiah, and that we always greet each other and we seal deals this way. I was given a ticket for disturbing the peace that I probably mailed to myself at my old address in Mombasa.
Jerry Quickley: A Flight delayed taken, in by a beautiful lesbian. She clothed us and fed us. We took the VW back to Serengeti, back to the village. Everyone was crying. A hyena had crossed the head man's path that morning. Now the village was cursed. "What if no one had seen it?" I shouted. What if the pythons had been ignored and the Cape Buffalo and every blade of grass hadn't been recorded by Edward Snowden plowed through and wrench from inside our heads like pocket lint. What if no one had seen it with the village still be doomed?
Nathan 'nash' Sheard: I am clothed in millions of my accumulated choice, shining like dragon scales. As I move each thought, each movement generating more armor and scales. Each weighed and measured until all the machines stopped. All the schools closed. All the buses empty into depots. We grind to a halt from the commitment and dedication of counting our own scales. Because work that should have been farmed out, Bluffdale, Utah is just a village. The hives all filled up and humming with tech workers. Wordlessly recalibrating ownership of my memories and deep moments of trust. And the wires of stretching. Across the fields, rivers and bays. We buttoned a landscape, the color of a Telegraph wire.
Jerry Quickley: Pushing it all through, hoping the colonies were returned to us, shorn of pesky Indians and their quicksand eyes that make you wonder which of you is caught and drowning. I wake from this fever, riding the bullet train powered by refrigerator magnets, the mania of empire, and loopholes. I stare blankly at the blur dancing poles and wires flashing by overhead until it becomes clear that we need to bring back the stage coaches to run back and forth stirring the distances, carrying all the messages between head and heart. And once we're all completely out of sync, through all the delays, we collapsed with pride. A job well done. A drunken tourist passed out in the sand.
Jerry Quickley: A beautiful hillock on the horizon covered in clover and sun. And one day it appeared not a grim army of horseman and siege weapons appearing on the crest. Just a single Telegraph pole planted like it had grown there. Somewhere a glass bell rang gently. Just telephone pole, just a bit of copper, just a scrap of wire. We knew that everything would change. We had no choice, but continue to move forward.
Jerry Quickley: Samuel Morris sent the first message. His prophetic coding, tapping, and scratching encrypted cuneiform details. Witnesses claimed that his body seized, racked and raped by hidden and unseen forces. He sat at the Tele station, fingers sweaty, and hoovering. Eyes closed, bottom trembling, not in control of his own substations. His fingers suddenly thunder down on the transmit key. The first message sent down the wire, "What hath God wrought?" And the wires kept stretching. Across the fields, rivers, and mays, creeper vines that atomize and bathe their way through us. We are awash in our own radiation. A prophet Samuel Morse was possessed and correct. "What hath God wrought?!"
Jerry Quickley: From Whistleblower.
PART 4 OF 4 ENDS [01:36:20]