Brian Hofer

Chair and Executive Director

Brian Hofer

Chair and Executive Director

 

In January 2014, Brian Hofer became aware that an Orwellian sounding $11 million-dollar city-wide surveillance system called the Domain Awareness Center was being planned for Oakland. Intended to aggregate data inputs from facial recognition software, 700 cameras, automated license plate readers, and ShotSpotter, a little sidebar to the Eastbay Express cover story about the project mentioned that a newly formed Oakland Privacy Working Group had formed to oppose the plans, and would meet the very next day. Brian showed up to see if he could help. Three months later on March 4, 2014, and in response to overwhelming community opposition to the planned project spearheaded by Oakland Privacy, the Oakland City Council voted to dramatically scale back the project, removed the surveillance equipment from the remaining portion, and created an ad hoc committee of citizens to start drafting privacy policies for the city. Brian was appointed to and eventually chaired this committee.

 

In the few years since the Domain Awareness Center discussion, Brian successfully fought for a permanent committee tasked with oversight of surveillance equipment; successfully introduced ordinances throughout the greater Bay Area at both the county and city level to implement significant surveillance equipment reforms, advised on and advocated for state legislation impacting the right to privacy and surveillance oversight, and coordinated with and advised groups around the country on how to implement reforms through legislation and policy writing. Brian is presently consulting with various cities across the country regarding citizen oversight and participation pertaining to surveillance equipment and data sharing, Smart City regulations, and various “sanctuary” supporting legislative projects.

 

Brian has presented on his work at conferences sponsored by the California Department of Justice: Protecting our Communities, Respecting our Liberties; RightsCon: Silicon Valley; Left Forum: The Rise of Big Surveillance – How Oakland pushed back and won: The Eleventh HOPE Conference; National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers: Predicting Policing; Berkeley Law School: Policy, Politics and Problem Solving; Berkeley Law School Information Privacy Law Association: What are Stingrays?; NYU Law School: Privacy Localism; NYU Law School: Policing Project; Georgetown Law School: Color of Surveillance; Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy; Race & Policy Symposium; and Library Freedom Project/Noisebridge: Digital Rights in Libraries, and he has testified before various California state Senate and Assembly committees in support of privacy enhancing legislation.

 

Chair, City of Oakland Privacy Advisory Commission (2016-Present)

Chair, Domain Awareness Center Ad Hoc Privacy Committee (2014-2015)

 

Brian’s current legislative record is 28-0 (25 unanimous Yes votes). Listed below are some of the more noteworthy projects he’s worked on.

 

2015

Resolution establishing a cell-site simulator use policy with the first annual report in the nation, adopted by unanimous Yes vote (Alameda County); co-author 

 

2016

Ordinance establishing the first citizen’s municipal privacy commission in the nation with oversight of surveillance equipment and its use, adopted by unanimous Yes vote (Oakland); co-author

 

Ordinance establishing a vetting framework for potential acquisition and use of surveillance equipment, based on ACLU model, first entity in the nation, adopted by unanimous Yes vote (Santa Clara County); advocated for

 

2017

Resolution terminating existing MOU with Homeland Security Investigations, an arm of Immigrations Customs Enforcement (ICE), adopted by unanimous Yes vote (Oakland); author

 

Ordinance establishing greater transparency and stricter standards when Oakland Police participate in a federal joint task force, such as the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task force (JTTF), adopted by unanimous Yes vote (Oakland); co-author

 

2018

Ordinance establishing a vetting framework for potential acquisition and use of surveillance equipment, based on ACLU model, first city in the nation, adopted by unanimous Yes vote (Berkeley); co-author

 

Ordinance establishing a vetting framework for potential acquisition and use of surveillance equipment, based on ACLU model, second city in the nation, adopted by unanimous Yes vote (Davis); co-author

 

Ordinance establishing a vetting framework for potential acquisition and use of surveillance equipment, based on ACLU model, adopted by unanimous Yes vote (Oakland); co-author

 

Ordinance establishing a policy that vendors that supply data or extreme vetting services to ICE are ineligible for municipal contracts, first entity in the nation, adopted by 6-1 vote (Richmond); author

 

Ordinance establishing a vetting framework for potential acquisition and use of surveillance equipment, based on ACLU model, adopted by unanimous Yes vote (Palo Alto); advocated for

 

Ordinance establishing a vetting framework for potential acquisition and use of surveillance equipment, based on ACLU model, first transit district in the nation, adopted by unanimous Yes vote (Bay Area Rapid Transit/BART); co-author

 

2019

Ordinance establishing a true Sanctuary City, first in the nation, which prohibits city employees from proactively assisting ICE, adopted by unanimous Yes vote (Oakland); co-author

 

Ordinance establishing a policy that vendors that supply data or extreme vetting services to ICE are ineligible for municipal contracts, second entity in the nation, adopted by unanimous Yes vote (Berkeley); author

 

Ordinance establishing a vetting framework for potential acquisition and use of surveillance equipment, based on ACLU model, first city in the country to prohibit use of facial surveillance technology (San Francisco); co-author

 

Ordinance establishing a policy that vendors that supply data, extreme vetting, or detention facility services to ICE, CBP, or ORR are ineligible for municipal contracts, adopted by unanimous Yes vote (Oakland); author

 

Ordinance amendment to prohibit the use of facial surveillance technology (Oakland); co-author

 

Awards/Profiles

Defending Rights and Dissent – Patriot Award (March 2016) https://rightsanddissent.org/news/oakland-privacy-activist-brian-hofer-receives-march-2016-patriot-award/

 

East Bay Express Best of the East Bay – Defender of a Free Society (August 2016) https://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/defender-of-a-free-society-brian-hofer/Content?oid=4932846

 

Oakland Magazine – Brian Hofer Thwarts Authoritarian Power (August 2018) http://www.oaklandmagazine.com/August-2018/Brian-Hofer-Thwarts-Authoritarian-Power/

 

New York Times – The Man Behind The Ban (May 2019) https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/15/technology/facial-recognition-san-francisco-ban.html