durable Public Infrastructure, tech & Democracy

transforming procurement at the lab

This cross-city and cross-sector strategy is focused on government procurement of technologies that expand surveillance, deepen corporate power, and weaken democracy. These technologies become embedded into public infrastructures in ways that increase bias, inequality, and solidify a particular path dependency towards increased surveillance.

We focus on technologies with often concealed carceral and exclusionary consequences (for example, mobile driver’s licenses and other digital ID systems, digital wallets, and centralized benefits distribution portals). We also focus on sites where the use of technology is increasingly shifting the balance of power to more coercive state control and corporate power—in schools, healthcare, and workplaces.

Mobile Driver’s Licenses

For years, DHS and ICE have used information from state DMV databases to identify, track, and detain noncitizens, immigrant justice activists, and beyond. This threat is about to get even more severe, as states and corporations move quickly to implement mobile driver’s licenses (mDLs) across the country. Our resources break down the risks of mDLs, highlighting the dangers for community members and policymakers. 

Transnational Migration Control

The migration control regime has expanded well beyond national territories and reinforces systems of control transnationally. This includes digital infrastructure that expands the power of policing and corporations at the cost of struggles for indigenous rights, workers’ rights, those organizing to combat the climate crisis, local fights for democracy, and more. The Lab is anchoring The Everywhere Border pilot project along with R3D (el Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales, based in Mexico) and the Temple University Institute for Law, Innovation & Technology (iLIT) to build a transnational network to combat the harms of the digital infrastructure of migration control. This work includes building with human rights monitors and organizations in Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.

Domestic DHS Policing

Domestic DHS policing

Surveillance has long existed as a tool of the state and corporations–but the moment we’re living in today is fundamentally different. This started 20 years ago, with the government’s founding of the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11. Under a banner of national security, DHS constructed noncitizens and Muslims as a “threat,” and channeled billions into immigration detention, border militarization, and a web of local, state, and federal surveillance systems across the country. Our work investigates the ways that DHS has funded police surveillance systems across the country, DHS’ massive biometrics databases and central function of data in policing, and the role of data brokers and other corporations.

Community Resources

The Lab cultivates spaces to learn collectively about surveillance in relation to governance, social ordering, and power. The Lab’s work is grounded in a structural analysis that prioritizes agency and action. We employ a participatory action research and popular education approach that builds the capacity within organizations and movements to demystify and organize against surveillance tech. Our research and resources are developed in partnership with organizations to strengthen networks of collective knowledge, analysis, and power.

The Lab cultivates spaces and resources to learn collectively about state and corporate surveillance in relation to governance and power. Our popular education resources demystify complex systems for organizers, community members, media, and government representatives, to facilitate organizing and action.