Privacy SOS

Oakland police are using high-tech tool to monitor black people’s driving habits

When Massachusetts-based reporter Shawn Musgrave obtained some of the Boston Police Department's license plate reader data, he found that police appeared to be targeting working class and black neighborhoods with the controversial surveillance tool. Now the Electronic Frontier Foundation has found the same is true in Oakland. If you drive around predominately white, well off neighborhoods in the city, you're less likely to be scanned by a plate reader than you are if you drive through lower income, black areas, the data show.

Even though we are all under surveillance, all is not equal. The police watch some of us more than they do others. This likely doesn't come as a shock to people of color and low income communities, who know full well that the police treat them with extra scrutiny and suspicion. But having the data is useful for those disbelievers who think the New Jim Crow is only a book title.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.