L.A. Activists Want to Bring Surveillance Conversation Down to Earth

Government surveillance is not an abstract thing, says Hamid Khan, coordinator for the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition. For the communities Khan works with in Los Angeles — from transgender people to recipients of government benefits to the homeless on Skid Row — surveillance is a daily reality that impacts their lives and exacerbates other societal ills, like mass incarceration and police violence.

Khan’s coalition works to track, publicize, and ultimately dismantle the highly intrusive ways the Los Angeles Police Department surveils the area’s citizens, using an infrastructure of advanced intelligence gathering linked to federal government counterterrorism initiatives.

The LAPD uses big data for “predictive policing,” street cameras with highly accurate facial recognition capabilities, stingrays and DRT boxes — which imitate cell phone towers to track nearby phones or jam signals — automatic license plate readers, body cameras, and drones.

“How many different ways are our bodies being constantly tracked, traced, and monitored, not just online?” Khan asked in a phone interview.

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