Last night, the Portsmouth Town Council unanimously voted to rescind its prior support for the implementation of Flock Safety surveillance camera systems in the town. ACLU of RI Policy Associate Hannah Stern issued the following statement today in response to the vote:

The Town Council’s vote represents a huge win for privacy rights. We sincerely thank the members of the Council for reopening the issue, for recognizing the harmful implications of this expansive surveillance technology, and for putting the civil liberties of their residents at the forefront of their decision.

The ACLU of RI has been engaged in an ongoing effort to halt the widespread use of these cameras across Rhode Island since August of 2021. As we indicated in our testimony to the Council, the severe privacy implications, the potential for infringement on First Amendment rights, the lack of transparency surrounding the capabilities of the technology, and the absence of meaningful legal safeguards to hold Flock Safety and municipal law enforcement departments accountable in making use of the surveillance technology all point to the need to reject it without robust substantive statutory safeguards in place.

We are hopeful that Portsmouth’s decision will encourage other municipalities to carefully reconsider any plans they may have to use this invasive technology against its residents.  We again note our deep appreciation for the Portsmouth Town Council’s approach to this issue and look forward to working with other municipalities to curb this dangerous surveillance in our state.