Delegation arrives for The Color of Surveillance conference to urge an end to discriminatory high-tech policing of working people and those living on low-incomes
Contact Info: Imran Siddiquee, [email protected], 217-390-6279
Washington, DC — A delegation of leading Black and brown activists, led by MediaJustice, arrived in Washington D.C. today to demand an end to the high-tech surveillance and harassment of workers in their communities. Members of the group are participating in and speaking at the annual The Color of Surveillance conference at Georgetown Law School, where the focus is on the monitoring of “poor and working people.” The delegation plans to urge legislators, academics, and major tech companies to join them in advocating for the protection of vulnerable communities of Black and brown workers in the digital age.
This year’s delegation includes leaders from organizations representing workers nationwide, including BYP100, Coworker.org, Street Vendors Project, The Utility Reform Network (TURN), and Freedom to Thrive.
Myaisha Hayes, a National Field Organizer at MediaJustice and one of the conference speakers, said she hopes the group will specifically help those on Capitol Hill connect the long history of government surveillance targeting Black and brown communities to the high-tech monitoring happening in today’s digital economy.
“From the expansion of electronic monitoring preventing our people from finding and retaining jobs to the chilling effect of the FBI’s surveillance of so-called ‘Black Identity Extremists’ on Black organizing, modern technology is helping to enforce frightening borders which isolate workers of color—online and off,” said Hayes. “We are bringing this delegation to D.C. this week to highlight the use of tools like ankle shackles, facial recognition cameras, and more in furthering the rise of white wealthy authoritarianism, but also to demonstrate the widespread resistance to this surveillance amongst workers of color around the country.”
The Color of Surveillance: Monitoring of Poor and Working People is hosted by Georgetown’s Center on Privacy and Technology, in partnership with Free Press and MediaJustice. Members of this year’s delegation added the following comments:
“Technology and technological developments should be tools that support and create improvements in our lives and in our work lives. Unfortunately, technology has been used to increase the pace of production while increasing profits for those who need them least. The intersection of labor and technology looks like a primary reason we have the worst inequality in recorded history today.,” said Gabriela Sandoval, Research Director at TURN.
“Race, gender, and economic status determine who gets to be seen and who is watched. In our communities, surveillance looks like increase patrols by police as well as social media surveillance. By painting communities of color as crime-ridden and violent, people have justified egregious derogations of privacy and personal liberty. We resist this surveillance by calling for the decriminalization and liberation of Black people, in particular, Black queer and trans people,” said Cameron Okeke, Organizer with BYP100’s DC Chapter.
“The political, social, and economic power dynamics make it so it is usually the most vulnerable and marginalized communities who bear the brunt of surveillance activities. This usually includes people of color, low-wage workers, women, and immigrant communities. At SVP we work with mostly immigrant communities who use street vending as a means to survive and provide for their families. Recently the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene program has instituted a GPS-Tracking program that places “location sharing devices” on many street vendors’ food carts and trucks. SVP fought back against this initiative, and won some privacy concessions, but, so far, have been unsuccessful to completely stop the program.,” said Matthew Shapiro, Legal Director at Street Vendors Project.
Launched in 2009, MediaJustice is a national racial justice hub for media and digital rights based in Oakland, California.