All posts by Midnightschildren

43 Organizations Call On Congress To Protect Digital Civil Rights

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43 civil and human rights organizations (including Media Alliance) called on Congress today to protect marginalized communities from digital discrimination.

Harmful practices noted in the letter included deceptive voter suppression, housing and employment discrimination in online advertising, and exploitative notice-and-choice practices.

The letter went on to state that any new privacy legislation needs to incorporate these principles:

  •  Stop high-tech profiling;
  •  Ensure fairness in automated decisions;
  •  Preserve constitutional principles;
  •  Enhance individual control of personal information; and
  •  Protect people from inaccurate data.
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Groups Call on Congress to Refuse Funding for Border Surveillance “Smart Wall”

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25 civil liberties and immigration organizations, including Media Alliance released an open letter to Congress calling on negotiators not to provide additional funding for border surveillance technologies as part of the “grand compromise” deal around border security. The letter specifies which technologies we are most concerned about, like algorithmic risk-assessment, facial recognition, and biometrics.

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How FEMA Blew Up A Wildlife Refuge 35 Times

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Originally published on Medium

Every year in September, around the anniversary of 9–11, Bay Area SWAT teams, along with occasional visitors from Bahrain, Hong Kong, Brazil or Israel, gather for the annual training exercise called Urban Shield. All around the Bay Area, they rappell, climb, tackle and shoot at terrorist actors in the nation’s biggest disaster preparedness exercise.

It’s been my privilege to be an observer at Urban Shield for two years running, which I wrote about here and spoke about here. But I didn’t observe one particular exercise last year when simulated improvised explosive devices (IED’s) were set off in a federally protected marine shorebird reserve at Alameda Point. There is a video of the exercise and here it is. This was repeated about 35 times over the course of two days and one night.

If I were a bird, I’d move.

Continue reading How FEMA Blew Up A Wildlife Refuge 35 Times
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What We Know About Law Enforcement Use of Facial Recognition Software

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by Lisa Rein. Originally published at Mondo 2000

An Interview with Tracy Rosenberg (Executive Director, Media Alliance & Co-coordinator, Oakland Privacy www.oaklandprivacy.org)

By Lisa Rein & Tracy Rosenberg of the Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project

New! We’ve just updated our Muckrock Templates for Filing Requests re: Surveillance Equipment.) Use these handy templates to request information on the existence of any and every known piece of surveillance equipment. Works for Police (city) AND Sheriff (county).

We will be discussing the Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project, its templates, latest results from Sacramento & other cities in California at this months Raw Thought Salon on February 8th – from 7-9pm.Then stay from 9pm-2am to dance and hang out in artist Grumpy Green’s super special Psychedelic Chill Room (an immersive space for both dancing & chilling). DJs include: MochipetMelotronixTha SpyrytMangangsAilz, & Cain MacWitish – with visuals by Projekt Seahorse – all at our March 8th Raw Thought at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco! TICKETS

Facial recognition software allows cops to feed in images of people and look them up in real time. For instance at a protest or any kind of public gathering. One of the new planned technical innovations is to put the software onto the body cameras many police now carry, turning cops into walking facial recognition programs.

Continue reading What We Know About Law Enforcement Use of Facial Recognition Software
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16 Civil Rights Group Press For Stronger Data Protections

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A new data privacy agency should be created to confront 21st century threats and address emerging concerns for digital customers, consumer and privacy organizations said today as they released a framework for comprehensive privacy protection and digital rights for members of Congress.

The United States is woefully behind other nations worldwide in providing modern data protections for its consumers, instead relying solely on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to safeguard consumers and promote competition. But corporations understand that the FTC lacks rule making authority and that the agency often fails to enforce rules it has established.

“The FTC has failed to act,” said Caitriona Fitzgerald, policy director at the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “The U.S. needs a dedicated data protection agency.” Alternately, many democratic nations like Canada, Mexico, the U.K., Ireland and Japan already have dedicated data protection agencies with independent authority and enforcement capabilities.

Groups that have signed on to the framework include Berkeley Media Studies Group, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Center for Digital Democracy, Center for Media Justice, Color of Change, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Defending Rights & Dissent, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Media Alliance, Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Privacy Times, Public Citizen, Stop Online Violence Against Women and U.S. PIRG.

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Public Utilities Commission Hearing for Northern California on T-Mobile/Sprint Merger

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by Peter Maiden. Originally published at Central Valley Indy Bay

The California Public Utilities Commission held a public hearing January 15 on the question of the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint. Tracy Rosenberg of Media Alliance was there and gave an interview.

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original image (1296×864)On January 15 a public hearing of the California Public Utilities Commission was held at Fresno City Hall on a proposed merger of Sprint and T-Mobile. The merger would create the third largest wireless provider, with 60% of the market for prepaid mobile phones. Media Alliance has been instrumental in bringing consumers into the conversation about corporate mergers. I spoke to Tracy Rosenberg of Media Alliance after the event. 

“When I got to the motel where I’m spending the night down here, the desk clerk who was checking me in asked me why I happened to be in Fresno, so I told her that I´m coming to this hearing at City Hall, and it was about the T-Mobile Sprint merger. I didn’t express my position on it … and the first thing that Debbie the desk clerk said to me was ‘Don’t let those two companies combine, because they’ll raise all the prices!’ 

“But when we come to CPUC hearings … we find a number of different, what I would call ‘interested parties’ participating, and that includes company employees, and a number of Chamber of Commerce and business type groups. [Here they] were talking about rural broadband access, even though this merger is really unlikely to improve service in rural areas. It was kind of a company talking point.” 

Sprint and T-Mobile say they will initiate a 5G network, a systemic improvement, but Tracy said that could also be an empty promise, as many promises made in the course of mergers are broken. 

Tracy continued, “It was good to see an auditorium full of people. I appreciated the fact that the Communications Workers of America brought some of their folks out, and I think they made some of the strongest statements of fact that we heard this evening. But it always breaks my heart that when there is an opportunity for public comment that it’s often dominated by those who have a really tight and close interest to the merger rather than the random folks who essentially are not involved in the merger but are going to bear the impact of it.” 

The only Commissioner, of five altogether, who heard the comments at the meeting, was Cliff Rechtschaffen. He is assigned to oversee this merger procedure. He was previously an aide to Governor Brown. 

“If you want to participate in meetings such as this, Tracy said, “you don’t have to be an expert, that’s not what these hearings are for. What you just have to be an impacted person. Speak from the heart: this is how I use my cell phone, this is how I use my wireless service, this is what I’m afraid might happen, this is what I struggle with, this is how much I can afford to pay, here’s what would happen if it doubled. 

“People can write down their feelings, whether they’re an expert or not, and send that at any time to the Commission’s Public Advisor, it’s public.advisor [at] cpuc.ca.gov” 

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