SURVEILLANCE TECHNOLOGY OVERSIGHT PROJECT INC

We Watch The Watchers

aka S.T.O.P.   |   NEW YORK, NY   |  www.stopspying.org

Mission

S.T.O.P. litigates and advocates for privacy, fighting excessive local and state-level surveillance. Our work highlights the discriminatory impact of surveillance on Muslim Americans, immigrants, and communities of color.

Ruling year info

2019

Executive Director

Albert Fox Cahn

Main address

40 RECTOR STREET 9TH FLOOR 9th floor

NEW YORK, NY 10006 USA

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EIN

83-3646415

NTEE code info

Civil Liberties Advocacy (R60)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Blog

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The history of discriminatory surveillance in America is older than the United States itself. In the 18th century, New York’s first surveillance law required Black and Indigenous people to carry lanterns with them. Twenty-first century surveillance is deeply rooted in legacies of slavery and exclusion. Today, it has never been easier to monitor millions at once or to pinpoint an individual. Spy tools like facial recognition pose an unprecedented threat, yet police continue to use them with little or no civilian oversight. While debates over the USA PATRIOT Act dragged on for decades, local police quietly buy new and untested technologies, spy on protests and mosques, share data with ICE, and put lives at risk. America’s privacy debate is not new, but it has taken on new urgency. We are at an inflection point: if we fail to fundamentally reshape how America defines and defends privacy in the coming years, we will be locked into a dystopian future from which there is no return.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Litigation

S.T.O.P. serves survivors of surveillance abuse through impact litigation, and sues government agencies and their vendors both to end surveillance abuses and to reveal records to the public. Our virtual law firm model pairs our staff with the country's top law firms.

In court, we forced the NYPD to end its “hijab ban” policy, which required arrestees to remove head coverings for mugshots and fueled its facial recognition database. Most recently, S.T.O.P. represents Amnesty International, a leading human rights organization, in litigation to compel the NYPD to disclose surveillance records from 2020 Black Lives Matter protests.

Population(s) Served
Ethnic and racial groups
Muslims
Immigrants and migrants
LGBTQ people

S.T.O.P. wants our laws to reflect our progressive values. We drafted the country’s first ban on “reverse search warrants,” which allow police to track thousands of individuals with a single warrant.

Population(s) Served
Ethnic and racial groups
Muslims
Immigrants and migrants
LGBTQ people

STOP empowers communities targeted by discriminatory surveillance. Our community education program designs custom privacy trainings driven by the needs of communities, partnering with trusted messengers to deliver the trainings. By moving away from a one-size-fits-none approach and focusing on communities’ most urgent needs, we address the need for equity in privacy advocacy.

Population(s) Served
Ethnic and racial groups
Muslims
Immigrants and migrants
LGBTQ people

STOP harnesses the media to hold the powerful accountable and amplify our clients’ stories. Our interviews, op-eds, and legislative testimony explain how to end surveillance abuse. Our campaigns push long-overdue reforms and cutting-edge innovations.

Population(s) Served
Ethnic and racial groups
Muslims
Immigrants and migrants
LGBTQ people

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of individuals attending community events or trainings

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Ethnic and racial groups, Sexual identity, Social and economic status

Related Program

Education

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

S.T.O.P. launched in 2019 as a novel public interest, advocacy, and legal services organization. The Urban Justice Center hosts S.T.O.P. as one of five organizations in UJC’s 2019-2020 Social Justice Accelerator incubator. Our team uses litigation, legislation, education, and grass roots advocacy to fundamentally shift New Yorkers’ understanding of surveillance.

Our virtual law firm model leverages the pro bono assistance of private law firms to exponentially augment our staff’s litigation capacity. We already partner with more than a dozen of New York City’s leading law firms, including Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP; Shearman & Sterling, LLP; and Weil, Gotshal & Manges, LLP. Our litigation agenda is nothing short of fundamentally redefining the scope of the Fourth amendments for the digital age. By the end of 10 years, we hope to establish a state constitutional right against warrantless searches that extends to third-party data (such as location data held by service providers).

S.T.O.P. is coordinating city and state-wide legislative campaigns, pushing long overdue reforms of surveillance. Our lead bill is the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology (POST) Act, which would close the appropriations loophole that lets the NYPD purchase unlimited surveillance equipment with federal grants and private donations. The POST Act is just the first step in a legislative agenda. At the end of 10 years, we will create legislative best practices for existing and emerging technologies, transforming New York into a model of surveillance oversight for the country.

Our Digital Self-Defense curriculum educates New Yorkers about the scope of local surveillance and how they can safeguard their privacy. Our workshops not only educate impacted communities about the scope of surveillance, but teach them how to use freely-available tools to promote privacy. These workshops, often held in conjunction with partner community-based organizations, also enable us to document community members’ reports about surveillance abuse. Our 10-year goal is to scale-up our course offerings, providing a comprehensive surveillance education curriculum.

Our advocacy work includes a mix of media engagement and non-violent direct actions. We educate reporters on breaking news about surveillance, helping broaden coverage. We strategically place op-eds and stories to shape the narrative around privacy. We engage in highly-visible protest tactics, such as “spy-ins”, where participants turn their cameras on law enforcement agencies. In 10 years, we want to transform local and state surveillance from a relatively-obscure topic into something as common as complaining about the subway.

In phase one, S.T.O.P will use our novel model to replicate privacy-protective legislation and court decisions from around the country. Since New York has fallen so far behind peer cities (and even progressive states) in addressing the adverse impact of privacy, we have a number of reforms we can quickly adapt and adopt here. In phase two, we will expand our work to make New York an early adopter of rights-protective measures. We will also shift our focus to include greater emphasis on state-wide reforms and New York localities apart from New York City.

In phase three, we will shift even more of our focus to statewide campaigns, while working to develop statutory proposals and litigation strategies that go further than anywhere else in the country. In phase four, we will expand our focus to also address technical support and guidance for community-based groups across the country. In short: first we make New York a model of privacy protections, and then we help the rest of the country replicate our success.

S.T.O.P. shows an unprecedented ability to leverage the private bar and existing stakeholders to amplify our impact. In a few months, we’ve successfully created a platform to provide more than a million dollars in free legal services and promote numerous advocacy and legislative campaigns (consistent with all local, state, and federal limitations on lobbying by a 501(C)(3) tax-exempt organization).

Because of the technical and legal barriers to entry, local advocacy groups often deprioritize surveillance and privacy campaigns. Many organizations focus on local surveillance as a small part of their mission, but S.T.O.P. uniquely focuses on state and municipal surveillance as the entirety of our work. This has quickly made S.T.O.P a leader in the New York privacy debate, creating a model we can replicate in other localities in the future.

As a corollary, because many organizations are aligned with S.T.O.P.’s privacy objectives, we amplify our impact through intersectional policy coalitions, reaching a broader audience than any one organization could alone. Our community advisory board includes members of many of the leading organization working on surveillance in New York, and our partnerships with other community-based organizations helps us reach segments of New York that are not yet engaged with these issues.

S.T.O.P.’s accomplishments prove that our model works. In 2020, we led 100 organizations to enact New York’s Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology Act – the first NYPD surveillance reform in a generation – forcing the NYPD to disclose every spy tool it uses. We also passed a statewide moratorium on K-12 facial recognition and the strongest privacy protections for COVID-19 contact tracing data in the country.

In court, we forced the NYPD to end its biased “hijab ban” policy, which required arrestees to remove head coverings for mugshots and fueled its facial recognition database. In California, S.T.O.P. brought a putative class action lawsuit alleging Thomson Reuters illegally sold personally identifying data to private companies, police, and ICE. Recently, S.T.O.P. won our motion to dismiss, establishing a powerful precedent for future cases and chill investment in deadly data-driven policing.

Our open records litigation and research empower the public to understand complex surveillance systems and regulations. We have published dozens of research papers and posts on topics ranging from warrantless cellphone seizures to congestion pricing. Our more than 100 op-eds have made us an international thought leader on privacy, technology, and law, addressing crucial issues of the day.

S.T.O.P.’s partnerships further amplify our impact, providing nearly $5 million in free legal services and campaigning on issues that previously received little public attention. We provide support and technical assistance to partners far beyond New York, including New Jersey, New Delhi, and countless places in between.

Financials

SURVEILLANCE TECHNOLOGY OVERSIGHT PROJECT INC
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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SURVEILLANCE TECHNOLOGY OVERSIGHT PROJECT INC

Board of directors
as of 8/26/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Nigar Shaikh

Everytown for Gun Safety

Aparna Peters

Lexington Plastic Surgeons

Sami Rashid

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP

Lauren Wu

Roche Molecular Systems

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 06/09/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Decline to state
Disability status
Decline to state

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

No data

 

No data

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data