ICYMI #18: Tony Webster – Freedom of Information & Land of 10,000 Cameras

ICYMI #18: Tony Webster – Freedom of Information & Land of 10,000 Cameras

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Sam interviews public records researcher Tony Webster. Webster has begun receiving documents from a lawsuit against Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office. These emails, documents, and other revelations paint a disturbing picture of government secrecy and the creation of a digital panopticon here in Minnesota. NSP has been furthering the investigation and will be publishing our results very soon.

Real-time facial recognition camera networks, crowd iris scan, behavioral recognition enhanced by artificial intelligence, and other Orwellian advancements will all be upon us soon.

This lawsuit will be remembered as the biggest data practices court battle in Minnesota history. An impressive and diverse media coalition has signed on in amicus as partners in defense of Minnesota freedom of information laws.

Review the documents:


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The interview covers some highlights from Webster’s efforts to raise public awareness of key issues. Including, his first dive into government data which resulted in a predatory city contractor being shutdown. Ever wonder why Minneapolis doesn’t ‘boot’ illegally parked cars? Tony’s data request spurred City Council to change the law. Listeners will also hear of other victories for the public and the cause of government transparency.

Webster challenged the City of Bloomington in court for documents detailing operational relationships with the Mall of America. The information won, showed how the Mall used covert profiles (run by former military intelligence) on social media to infiltrate Black Lives Matter and conduct other shady intelligence operations. The public-private dynamics and related surveillance issues uncovered by Webster gained attention as high-up the chain as The Intercept.

This interview includes many compelling points – how our government works versus how we assume it works; clear obstructionism on behalf of local law enforcement, governments and their defenders; the growth of the surveillance state in the Twin Cities, the secrecy and lawlessness that has enabled that growth; police exploitation of regulatory absences; data policy; National Security Special Events and how those speed up surveillance proliferation; government accountability; advice for public records researchers; & Tony’s grand plan for the future.

Head to his website for more documents, a great piece on the HCSO biometrics lawsuit written by Tony himself, and much more!

Check out Webster’s “favorite State agency,” – Information Policy Analysis Division (IPAD).

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