Save the Rave: Stop Surveillance in San Francisco

Save the Rave: Come down to City Hall TOMORROW night

Hot on the heels of last month’s joint San Francisco Youth and Entertainment Commission’s hearing on electronic dance music, we’re back with a sequel.   Now, in what Jim Harper of Cato calls a “jaw-dropping attack on privacy and free assembly“, the San Francisco Police Department has proposed onerous new conditions for permitting for all venues with more than 100 people.  For example:

3. All occupants of the premises shall be ID Scanned (including patrons, promoters, and performers, etc.). ID scanning data shall be maintained on a data storage system for no less than 15 days and shall be made available to local law enforcement upon request.

4. High visibility cameras shall be located at each entrance and exit point of the premises. Said cameras shall maintain a recorded data base for no less than fifteen (15 days) and made available to local law enforcement upon request.

Yikes!   As Deborah Pierce of Privacy Activism says, “We go to clubs to relax and spend time with friends. Knowing that all of your interactions are being recorded and that those images may be matched to your driver’s license information and handed over to the police at any time chills all manner of speech and association.” Yeah really.   And there are issues from the business perspective as well; on his Facebook profile, Save the Rave organizer Liam Shy summed it up as “Increased unnecessary burden/right to privacy conerns = fewer events, fewer folks attending events.”  Indeed.

But it’s not a done deal.  Tuesday’s hearing is a great chance for public discussion.   Save the Rave is encouraging members to attend the meeting; these regulations affect all kinds of nightlife, so hopefully we’ll also see outcry from the hip-hop, goth/industrial, and Burning Man communities too. And the privacy advocacy community will be out in force.

Privacy Activism’s one of a all-star coalition of privacy and civil liberties groups filing written comments, along with EFF, IP Justice, Beat the Chip, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and BORDC.   Eva Galperin’s EFF to San Francisco Entertainment Commission: Don’t Turn SF into a Police State builds on the point I made at last month’s meeting about political speech:

Events with strong cultural, ideological, and political components are frequently held at venues that would be affected by these rules. Scanning the ID’s of all attendees at an anti-war rally, a gay night club, or a fundraiser for a civil liberties organization would have a deeply chilling effect on speech. Participants might hesitate to attend such events if their attendance were noted, stored, and made available on request to government authorities. This would transform the politically and culturally tolerant environment for which San Francisco is famous into a police state.

Save the Rave’s grassroots activism has been extremely successful so far in San Francisco (1, 2, 3), leading to the Supervisors unamimously passing Scott Weiner’s resolution in support of youth events. Now with the involvement of non-profits who have experience with activism and media on a national scale it’s starting to look a lot like some incredibly effective campaigns from the past — most obviously 2007’s Stop REAL ID Now, which involved many of these same groups.  And the Save the Rave Facebook group continues to be a very effective communication mechanism; I found out about the SFPD rules there, and got word out via Deborah and PrivacyActivism to the broader community.  So it’s very exciting from a social network activism perspective as well.*

Even if you can’t be at the hearing in person, you can submit your comments by email to crystal.stewart { at } sfgov { dot } org.  And you may be able to watch as well — last month’s hearing was broadcast live, and a friend of mine who spoke told me his buddies in Maryland and London saw it.   It’ll be interesting to see how the entertainment commission reacts, and whether there’s media interest in the story.  Stay tuned!


* speaking of social network activism, this is going to be one of the topics of for Tuesday’s Twitter privacy chat — 9 a.m. Pacific, 12 Eastern.   Deborah and I are #privchat regulars, and last week EFF and BORDC were there as well, discussing the PATRIOT Act phone-in day.  If you’ve never been to a privacy chat before, it’s easy: just visit and you’re good to go.