Our First Six Months
Halfway through the year, we wanted to take a moment to look back at what 2019 has meant for S.T.O.P. What started as just an idea to take on the surveillance fight here in New York City has grown into something much more. In just a few short months, S.T.O.P. has become a leading voice in the nationwide call for privacy protections, working with elected officials to create state-wide reforms, litigating against police overreach, and organizing grassroots support in the fight against excessive surveillance.
In January, the Urban Justice Center recognized our potential, accepting S.T.O.P. as one of just five organizations hosted in their Social Justice Accelerator, an incubator for nonprofit start-ups. The UJC is a New York City institution and launching pad for groups like the International Refugee Assistance Project & the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project!
Since our official March 18 launch, we have amassed thousands of followers on social media and a growing number of donors, as well as a laundry list of achievements in our litigation, legislative, grassroots, and educational campaigns.
Our growth quickly garnered attention from major media outlets. First it was op-eds, like our pieces in Slate, Boing Boing, the New York Daily News and other top publications, where we highlighted the perils of facial recognition technology and unchecked government tracking. Then came dozens of interviews, including the New York Times, BBC Sounds, Recode, The Brian Lehrer Show, FAQ NYC, and many more where we continued the case for stronger oversight and protections against warrantless surveillance.
And then came some big wins. First, we condemned the New York City Board of Elections for publicly posting every New Yorker's voter registration info on their website; 4.5 million voters' name, address, and party ID. We spoke out, and the BOE removed the list in a week! Less than a month later, we had our first litigation win, suing on behalf of a man who was illegally fired from his job and targeted by the police. We secured thousands of dollars in compensation and got something our client wanted even more: an apology. Shortly thereafter, we helped a New Yorker who suddenly found himself losing job opportunities—and under suspicion from neighbors—because a photo aggregator wrongly labeled him as a "terrorist."
Our legal wins are made possible by the pro bono support of New York City’s largest law firms. S.T.O.P. & our clients already received hundreds of thousands of dollars in free legal work from firms like Akin Gump, Weil Gotshal, and Shearman & Sterling. We know that we can't win the privacy fight on our own, so we joined with local and national partners to amplify this work, including: the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Micah Institute, MoveOn, Muslim Community Network, Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, Yemeni American Merchants Association, & New York Immigration Coalition, where our Executive Director, Albert Fox Cahn, joined the Immigrant Leaders Council!
But the most important source of support is our growing team. In April, the inimitable Liz O’Sullivan joined as our Resident Technologist, bringing unparalleled expertise on artificial intelligence, facial recognition, and the automated bias that infects these systems. Our community advisory board brings together community advocates and policy experts to set our agenda for change, including Angel Diaz, Cynthia Conti-Cook, Jasmine McNealy, Jerome Greco, Kate Zen, Kujegi Camara, Murad Awawdeh, Mutale Konde, Reem Ramadan, & Saye Joseph! And our board of directors—Aparna Anantharaman, Nigar Shaikh, and Sami Rashid—has played an integral role in overseeing our tremendous growth!
And of course we can't forget our amazing S.T.O.P. interns, James Blum, Ayyan Zubair, and Adam Tang, who have done incredible work this summer, learning how we fight surveillance at City Hall, in court, and in the court of public opinion. Some have even co-authored our op-eds, getting their first newspaper byline.
Beyond organizing / joining 8 sign-on letters, we provided testimony to the New York State Senate, New York City Council, New York City Charter, and NYC's ADS Task Force. We partnered with Senator Andrew Gounardes to help introduce New York's first bill calling for a statewide artificial intelligence review.
In New York City, we've been particularly busy at the New York City Council. Just two weeks ago, our coalition came together for the week of digital action on the POST Act. We brought much needed attention to the surveillance reform bill and gained two additional co-sponsors, Council Members Keith Powers and Robert Cornegy!
Hundreds of New Yorkers viewed our "Contextual Privacy" and “Digital Self-Defense” trainings. Working with partners like the Yemeni American Merchants Association and Turning Point NY, we develop materials that focus on the privacy concerns/tools that matter most to our audience. When we launched our new “Sidewalk Surveillance” video series last week, over 5,000 people watched in just the first 5 days, showing just how many New Yorkers want to learn how surveillance tools our reshaping out city and our rights.
None of this would have been possible without the generosity of the New Yorkers who have come together to invest in our fight for privacy. As we look ahead to the rest of this year, there's a lot of work left, but we can only do it with your support.
If you can make a $400 donation, you’ll cover the cost of filing our next lawsuit in federal court. Litigation is expensive, and while we have some of the best law firms in the city fighting on our side for free, we still need to cover our costs.
If you can make a $100 donation, you’ll cover the cost of delivering our next “Know Your Rights” training. We’re working with community groups and researchers to expand our curriculum, but we still need your support to reach the New Yorkers most at risk.
But the most important donation level is just $1. Any donation shows just how many New Yorkers back privacy reform. If you support our work and the vision of a New York with privacy protections, not unchecked surveillance, we hope you’ll donate today.