All posts by Midnightschildren

Social Media Data Act

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Media Alliance is a proud supporter of the Social Media DATA Act, introduced into Congress by MA democrat Lori Trahan. The DATA Act would compel social media companies to preserve their ad libraries and make them available to academic researchers to study the impact of targeted advertising.

See what people are saying about the Social Media DATA Act.

Tracy Rosenberg, Executive Director, Media Alliance:
The Social Media Data Act would ensure that qualified academic researchers can study social media advertising and its impacts with unimpeded access to the data they need. Digital advertising uses the information social media platforms collect about us to expose us to
individualized targeted advertising for profit. Such advertising can be based on our preferences, associations, location, the state of our health, religion, race or age, When profit-driven imperatives control much of our social media feeds, we see different content based on who we are. This can result in discriminatory outcomes, increased polarization, the spread of misinformation, and the use of our most personal characteristics to manipulate our perceptions of the world. This should not go on in a black box where we cannot see under the hood to measure what is happening to us. With transparent access to social media advertising metrics, we can develop best practices to meaningfully study impact and develop policy to mitigate harm and protect personal privacy and vulnerable populations subject to discrimination. Social media has changed the world, in both positive and negative ways, and we should be able to reap the benefits without sacrificing our civil and human rights, if not the health of democracy itself. The Social Media Data Act would help to find that balance.”

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Bad Apple Open Source Suite: Tools for Police Accountability

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The Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project teamed up with Priveasy to create a set of tools designed to assist in the ongoing fight for police and sheriff accountability. Bad Apple (https://BadApple.tools) contains a) a searchable database of verified oversight commissions b) a searchable collection of public records act templates c) a growing database of officers and investigative reports and d) a private tip submission line.

All of the technology powering Bad Apple is completely open source (https://GitHub.com/P5vc) and released under a CC-BY-SA-4.0 license, allowing for maximum transparency. The Bad Apple website is available in both English and Spanish, and is designed to be completely accessible.

Read more here.

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A Virtual Wall Is Trump’s Wall by Another Name

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40 civil rights and immigration groups, including Media Alliance, wrote to the Biden Administration about plans to replace physical walls with surveillance walls at the Mexico border.

The letter expressed concerns about a sharp increase in biometric data collection, immigrants taking more remote and deathly routes to avoid detection, and the use of the border for “testing” highly invasive military grade surveillance.

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Close the Gaps :California Leads on Privacy; Washington Should Catch Up

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by Tracy Rosenberg. Originally published in the East Bay Express

When Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn into office, it marked the first time in American history that Californians held two of the three highest offices in the federal government. No, President Biden is not from the Golden State, but Vice President Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi both hail from the Bay Area. And with Attorney General Xavier Becerra holding a key cabinet position, officials from California now have a sizable role in influencing the Biden agenda.

The incoming administration is rightly prioritizing economic relief and Covid-19 vaccine deployment. On other issues, they’ll have to navigate narrow Democratic majorities in Congress, in which some progressive policies could be nonstarters. To avoid gridlock, these high-ranking Californians can identify policies with broad, bipartisan support, perhaps taking a page out of their home state’s playbook.

In recent years, California has become a national leader on privacy rights. Oakland, San Francisco, and Santa Clara County, among other municipalities, have spearheaded strong local laws to oversee governmental use of people’s private information and data.

Continue reading Close the Gaps :California Leads on Privacy; Washington Should Catch Up
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Net Neutrality

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Net neutrality is the principle that the company that your Internet Service Provider does not get to control what you do on the Internet, and that an Internet user should be able to access all content and applications equally, without discrimination by the ISP.*  This applies to everyone, including emergency first responders, teachers and students, city administrators, doctors and patients, and small businesses and their customers.

When the federal government eliminated net neutrality protections, California passed its own net neutrality legislation. 

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Court Upholds Legal Challenge Under California Statewide Stingray Law

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by Marilyn Fidler. Originally posted on LawFare

In late November, a California state court issued a final decision interpreting a 2015 California state law regulating government agency use of cell site simulators, devices that can be used to locate and track cell phones. The devices are commonly known as “stingrays.” The challenge—the first brought under this law—argued that the City of Vallejo was not in compliance with the law’s requirement that a local public body approve, at a public meeting, both police acquisition of the technology and a policy determining how and when these devices can be used. The court upheld this view of the law, providing an important victory for transparency.

Stingray devices present serious privacy risks because they allow law enforcement to track the physical location of anyone with a cell phone in real time. Originally billed as anti-terrorism tools, police often use them in routine investigations of nonviolent crimes. Furthermore, stingray devices can access data about all phones in an area, ranging from a few hundred yards to about 2 miles, even if the police are interested in only one device. Because of these “dragnet” capabilities, I and others have argued that localities should have the opportunity to decide if and how stingray and similar devices should be used in their communities. The California state law mandates this local decision-making process, providing an opportunity for needed transparency and democratic oversight.

The law was untested in court, allowing localities to interpret the law to their benefit, which, for city governments, often means the least resource-intensive view. Vallejo, for example, argued that as long as someone in the city government created a usage and privacy policy, it was in compliance with the law. The court’s ruling reaffirmed that a public decision-making process about when and how these devices are used is required by law.

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Will COVID-19 Contact Tracing Expand State Surveillance?

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Originally published at BlackAgendaReport.org

The US remains wholly incapable of tracing Covid-19 contagion, but if it tried, we might wind up with “the worst of both worlds” – a horror of coercion and confusion that still failed to stop the epidemic.

“Communities have reasonable fears that at least some law enforcement agencies might use access to contact tracing data to harass low income communities.”

Ann Garrison spoke to Bay Area privacy activist Tracy Rosenberg about the danger that data contact tracing to track the spread of COVID-19 will become available to the surveillance state.

Ann Garrison:Many fear that digital contact tracing to stop the spread of COVID-19 will expand surveillance states’ ability to curtail privacy and control their populations. Can you explain what contact tracing is?

Tracy Rosenberg: Contact tracing is the process of creating a map of a person’s movements and associations in order to identify the possible spread of infectious disease. Before the age of digital technology, it was an onerous process of paper surveys, which while they contained very personal information, had some practical limitations on any additional use. In the age of digital technology, the ability to retain, repurpose and search large data chains is greater than it has ever been in human history. Contact tracing data, when performed by government public health agencies, is medical health data and is protected by the same laws that protect other health data.

AG: What dangers does it pose?

TR: Well, there are quite a few. One is emergency protocols. A large tracing program set up under emergency conditions can often lead to incomplete frameworks and poorly trained personnel, including some with relatively little or no familiarity with health data protections. When data protections, storage and access protocols are not well-planned, leaks, hacks and unauthorized access sometimes occur.

Continue reading Will COVID-19 Contact Tracing Expand State Surveillance?
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