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Office of the Vermont Attorney General

Attorney General Donovan Voices Concerns with CBP’s Proposed Surveillance Towers At Vermont-Canada Border

March 16, 2021

Contact: Charity R. Clark, Chief of Staff, 802-828-3171

Attorney General T.J. Donovan submitted comments yesterday expressing his concerns about U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP’s) recent proposal to place Remote Video Surveillance Systems (RVSS) towers in Vermont towns, including Derby, Franklin, Richford, and Troy. While recognizing the importance of border monitoring for legitimate law enforcement reasons—to protect citizens from known terrorist threats or other illegal activities that may otherwise threaten the health and safety of Vermonters—Attorney General Donovan is concerned about unwarranted surveillance or potential interference with the privacy interests of Vermonters.

“My expectation is that the CBP, in service to the public, will balance its needs for public safety with the privacy interest of those it is sworn to protect,” wrote Attorney General Donovan. “CBP has failed to make a compelling case that the scale and scope of the proposed surveillance is ultimately necessary, and it has failed to adequately take into account Vermonters’ privacy concerns. Accordingly, CBP should place adequate safeguards and implement the requisite protocols to direct their surveillance against possible terrorist threats and illegal border activities. These safeguards and protocols should ensure that Vermonters are free from intrusive 24-hour surveillance while living or visiting near the border for legitimate reasons.”

Since taking office in 2017, Attorney General Donovan has prioritized the privacy interests of Vermonters by taking strong positions favoring privacy with respect to data collection, security, and commodification. Notably, in 2017, the Attorney General’s Office recommended, and the Legislature passed, a first-in-the-nation law requiring data brokers to register with the State. The law, which went into effect in January 2019, also requires data brokers to provide information on how citizens can opt-out of the services they provide and report annually on their functions. Most recently, in 2020, Attorney General Donovan sued Clearview AI, a company that collected billions of citizens’ images from the internet for the purpose of creating a mass surveillance facial recognition system, to prohibit its use in Vermont or on Vermonter’s images. The Department of Homeland Security currently uses surveillance technology developed by Clearview AI.

A copy of yesterday’s comments can be found here.

Last modified: March 16, 2021