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This Thursday an Oakland Police Department helicopter pilot will brief the public on OPD’s use of Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) camera systems. Stop by 25 June 2015, 6pm – 7pm, Room 4, Oakland City Hall. This may be your only chance to comment on the policy before it’s sent to the council.

Why this briefing is important now: The best privacy policies understand the flow and storage of information and the people who have an interest in that data. We drafted a privacy policy that takes OPD’s statements at face value: that they don’t want to share or preserve any imagery from FLIR systems outside the helicopter. This limits the number of people seeing the imagery, the data’s lifespan, and the size and complexity of the system. The privacy policy basically holds them to this and to a limited number of acceptable uses. This briefing lets us check our assumptions.

A FLIR privacy policy is a milestone in Oakland. It prepares the way for drafting privacy policies for:

  • Newer FLIR and other imaging systems that share image and audio live streams, snapshots, and clips over networks to other devices inside and outside the helicopter. This multiplies the number of systems and people subject to a privacy and data retention policy.
  • UAV sensor packages piloted from the ground, like most consumer and industrial drones today
  • UAVs that fly autonomously (without a human operator) using software smarts to determine where to fly and what to observe.
  • Handheld devices, like the Flir One iPhone attachment ($399)

This is the last meeting of the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee. It’s been a pleasure serving.

P.S. The ruling you’ll hear mentioned most is Kyllo v. United States, which requires a warrant for infrared search of a residence.

P.P.S. Here’s a CNN story on the use of FLIR in a Los Angeles manhunt.


Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 7.57.11 PMCapturing the Boston Marathon bomber was a big win for police use of FLIR technology.

Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 7.54.12 PM
Here you see a residence, a car with a hot engine, and a man standing by the car.

Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 7.56.19 PM
Here you see a pedestrian on a sidewalk. When would this be allowed and when wouldn’t it be?

Domain Awareness Center
Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on Privacy and Data Retention

June 25, 2015
Hearing Room 4
1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, 2
nd Floor
6:00 PM

Meeting Agenda

  • 6:00pm: Call to Order, determination of Quorum
  • 6:05pm: Review and approval of minutes from May 28 meeting.
  • 6:10pm: Discuss DAC related action at June 2 City Council meeting.
  • 6:20pm: Presentation from OPD Helicopter pilot on FLIR use.
  • 6:35pm: Discuss and take possible action on Forward Looking Infrared thermal imaging system (“FLIR”) policy.
  • 7:00pm: Open Forum
  • 7:05pm: Adjournment