Demonstrating the power of local activism, the Boston Police Department (BPD) officially canceled their plan to acquire dangerous online surveillance software after thousands of Bostonians raised their voices to oppose the program. The BPD scrapped their plans shortly after the ACLU of Massachusetts and the digital freedom organization Fight for the Future announced they would deliver petitions from thousands of Bostonians to Mayor Walsh, urging him to drop the expensive and controversial plan.
Boston residents have a lot to be proud of with this victory. It is a direct result of their quick action and organization to stop surveillance that would be used to monitor First Amendment protected speech and association, and would disproportionately impact communities of color, Muslims, and other vulnerable people and groups.
The following statement can be attributed to Kade Crockford, Director of the Technology for Liberty Program at the ACLU of Massachusetts:
"We are very happy the Mayor and the police commissioner heard the people of Boston, over three thousand of whom raised their voices against this dangerous proposal. This is a victory not only for privacy and transparency but for the democratic process. The people flexed their muscle and the powers that be listened. That’s how our system is supposed to work.
"The ACLU will continue to work to pull back the curtain on secretive surveillance programs at every level of government, and push for programs, policies, and accountability mechanisms that protect civil liberties and civil rights. Like the commissioner, we look forward to working with City Councilor Andrea Campbell and the other city councilors on the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee to ensure transparency and public participation in policy making going forward. Crucially, part of that process must include examining existing BPD surveillance programs and policies. We are confident that together, advocacy organizations, public officials, and most importantly members of the public will be able to further strengthen civil liberties and civil rights in our great city while also advancing public safety."
The BPD released the bids submitted by companies in response to its request for proposals. View the bids here.
- VICE: When It Comes to Police Surveillance, Local Politics Matter
- MassLive: Boston Police end plans to buy software used to scan social media for criminal activity
- Washington Post: Boston police scrap plans for social media combing software
- WBUR: Boston Police Delay Picking Vendor For Social Media Monitoring Program
- Boston Globe: Boston police will think twice about monitoring social media
- Boston Herald: Boston cops rethink social snoop tech
- NECN: Boston Police Back Off Plans For Social Media Combing Software