Enlarge (credit: Cyrus Farivar) For years, Ars has been examining how surveillance technology is used in practice in Oakland, California.

In March 2015, Ars published a feature on license plate readers and what a large LPR dataset, as obtained from the Oakland Police Department, can reveal.

In January 2016, the city codified a Privacy Advisory Commission to “Provide advice and technical assistance to the City of Oakland on best practices to protect citizen privacy rights in connection with the City’s purchase and use of surveillance equipment and other technology that collects or stores citizen data.”

It is believed to be a rare instance of outside citizen-driven oversight on surveillance in a major American city.

This past week, we were able to sit down with Timothy Birch, a former police officer, and current civilian employee, who serves as the commission’s liaison to the Oakland Police Department.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Can you tell me your name and who you are and what you do?
My name is Timothy Birch.
I am the research and planning manager for the Oakland Police Department.
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