July 6, 2020
Dear D.C. Councilmembers:
The undersigned civil rights and civil liberties organizations, grassroots advocacy groups, and other local stakeholders write in support of the amendments offered by Councilmember David Grosso that would prohibit D.C. law enforcement’s use of two dangerous surveillance technologies: facial recognition technology and IMSI-catchers (also commonly known as cell site simulators or Stingrays).
In the hands of law enforcement, these technologies pose a significant threat to the civil rights and civil liberties of all District residents. Reports demonstrate that in other jurisdictions, police have used these tools to facilitate the mass surveillance of protestors who have taken to the streets to exercise their First Amendment right to demand accountability and justice for systemic racism and police brutality.
These technologies are also often used to subject over-policed Black and Brown communities to invasive, indiscriminate surveillance in neighborhoods and even in schools, contributing to further policing of these communities. In regard to facial recognition technology, three major companies (Microsoft, Amazon, IBM) that develop and sell the technology have recently announced that they would halt sales to law enforcement, acknowledging its contribution to racial injustice.
We urge you to do as other major jurisdictions across the United States—including Boston and San Francisco—have done, and protect your residents from unchecked and unwarranted government surveillance by supporting these amendments.
ACLU of the District of Columbia
Center for Democracy & Technology
Jews United for Justice
Justice For Muslims Collective
Law 4 Black Lives DC
Lucy Parsons Labs
New America’s Open Technology Institute
Stop Police Terror Project DC
Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs