How communities can manage the risks posed by “smart” technologies

What you will learn

Identify the privacy and equity risks surveillance technologies pose

Explain how surveillance technology ordinances address the risks they pose

Explain how the Oakland Privacy Commission used its ordinance to identify and mitigate risks posed by Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs)

Explain why community oversight is critical for surveillance technologies and how “reciprocal engagement” works


This course is intended to empower communities to create transparent, equitable, and inclusive processes for assessing smart city technologies and to train students across disciplines to understand the risks these tools pose and how their expertise can help ensure smart technologies serve the public good.

Smart city planning processes often fail to incorporate systematic methods to address privacy and equity concerns by engaging affected communities and ensuring equitable access to their benefits. Most communities lack explicit policies requiring review of law enforcement decisions to acquire and use surveillance technologies, which are disproportionately deployed against marginalized communities. In this course, students will learn how a growing number of communities have passed local laws and developed innovative processes for identifying and mitigating these risks.

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After surveying the history of these efforts, the course compares and contrasts the programs created by three communities: the City of Oakland, CA, Santa Clara County, CA, and the City of Seattle, WA. Students then learn about some of the most commonly used surveillance technologies. Following a summary of how these programs relate to the broader field of information privacy and privacy impact assessments in the private sector, students walk through in detail the process the City of Oakland Privacy Advisory Commission used to evaluate Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRS). The course closes with a reflection on how these communities are changing how we approach data privacy in the U.S. and ways that students can address these risks in their own communities.



Introduction to Smart Cities, Privacy & Equity

Introductory Video

Smart Cities, Privacy & Equity Overview

What is Privacy?
What is Privacy?
What is Privacy?
What’s the Problem with Smart Cities?
What’s the Problem with Smart Cities
Shedding Light on Smart Cities
Shedding Light on Smart Cities
Shedding Light on Smart Cities
The Legal Gap
The Legal Gap
The Legal Gap
Community Control Over Policing
Optional Resources to Dive Deeper

Surveillance Technologies Overview

Street Level Surveillance
Street Level Surveillance
Police Surveillance
Police Surveillance
Interactive Surveillance Technology Tools
Tracking Data
Surveillance Meets the Internet of Things
Racial Equity and Data Privacy
Race and Regulation

Analyzing Privacy & Equity Impacts of Technology

Making Smart Decisions About Surveillance
Smart Decisions About Surveillance
Community Transparency, Accountability & Oversight
Privacy Impact Assessment

The City of Oakland Privacy Advisory Commission: Evaluating ALPRs

Oakland Privacy Advisory Commission (OPAC)
Oakland ALPR Use Policy
The City of Oakland Privacy Advisory Commission: Evaluating ALPRs
Additional Resources