Category Archives: Accountability and Representation

When the media does us wrong and community accountability

CA Privacy Act: Protection Or A Slippery Slope?

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The good news is that California has passed the country’s first comprehensive consumer privacy law (CCPA). It goes into effect in 2020.

The bad news is that while CCPA will let you find out if companies are selling the personal information you give them to third parties, the law currently lets companies give better prices to customers who don’t opt out of such sales. Which can mean higher prices if you choose to protect your privacy.

Think about it. How many big companies do you engage in transactions with every year that collect some identifying data on you? Think about all those companies sending you opt-out notifications with a charge attached? 

Even if it is only $10 or $20 a year, how many of those would it take before your budget was busted and you lost interest in emptying your pockets to protect your privacy?

If you’d like to say the quantity is not unlimited, Media Alliance has a quick targeted action to write to the AG privacy team and say you can only pay so much for your privacy. Click here to take action.

You can also come to the January 8th public forum on the implementation of the Privacy Act. The Bay Area forum will be held on January 8th at 10am at the Milton Marks Auditorium at 455 GoldenGate Avenue in San Francisco.

The slippery slope the new law can create is privacy-haves and privacy have-nots, with the wealthy safe and secure and the poor and struggling middle awash with “rights” they can’t afford to exercise. 

Media Alliance sent in organizational comments and recommendations on privacy that Californian’s can afford.

Media-Alliance-Comments-on-CCPA-Pay-For-Privacy-Regulation

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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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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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Industry Threatens To Neuter CCPA

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A California state senator representing the Hayward-Fremont-Milpitas area is saying he will sink a bill (Senate Bill 561) that gives Californians the right to sue if companies break the law.

Senate Bill 561, authored by Hannah Beth Jackson and sponsored by CA’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra, lets state residents take independent legal action if any of the rights granted to them by the new law are violated, including the right to know where their personal information is being sold and to withhold consent for data sales. Without the bill, consumers will have little recourse if some companies don’t voluntarily comply.

Senator Wieckowski’s office refused to meet with a group of constituents in his district, a meeting Media Alliance and Oakland Privacy offered to convene, saying the entire legislative staff was “too busy” to meet every single day from May 6 to May 15.

When asked what a constituent should do if a company ignores their request to opt out under CCPA, the senator’s legislative director Heather Resetarits replied: ” I understand your frustration and the Senator understands the arguments for the merits of the policy contained in the bill.”

Wieckowski, one of four Democrats on the Senate Appropriations committee whose vote will be required to advance SB 561, says he is loyal to “a deal” struck with real estate developer Alastair MacTaggart in 2018 to remove McTaggart’s initiative from the 2018 ballot. The ballot initiative, which was supported by 600,000 Californians, had a right to sue or a private right of action. It was taken out in the “deal”, which happened in a back room without the permission of those 600,000 Californians or the other 39 million Californians who were having their privacy rights trimmed.

The right to privacy is enshrined in the California state constitution. The preamble to the California Privacy Act states:

It is the intent of the Legislature to further Californians’ right to privacy by giving consumers an effective way to control their personal information, by ensuring the following rights:(1) The right of Californians to know what personal information is being collected about them.(2) The right of Californians to know whether their personal information is sold or disclosed and to whom.(3) The right of Californians to say no to the sale of personal information.(4) The right of Californians to access their personal information.(5) The right of Californians to equal service and price, even if they exercise their privacy rights.

Rights you can only exercise if a company voluntarily agrees aren’t rights, they are requests. Unenforceable requests. Attorney General Becerra, in sponsoring Senate Bill 561 said: “I urge you to provide consumers with a private right of action under CCPA”. A March 2019 poll said 94% of California voters want to be able to take a company to court if the company violates their privacy rights.

Senator Bob Wieckowski is telling you he is going to ignore 94% of the voters, make your constitutional rights unenforceable, and won’t meet with his own angry constituents because of a backroom deal with the the one percent to protect companies that won’t comply with the law. Who is he representing?

Here is how to reach him: Sacramento: (916) 651-4010 Fremont:
(510) 794-3900

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No PVE In California

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A 70-strong coalition of social justice and civil rights groups led by M-Power Change, Asian-Americans Advancing Justice and CAIR California (including Media Alliance) sent a letter to CA Governor Gavin Newson asking him to end the reinstatement of a washed-over version of the DHS Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program, now repackaged as a California state program called Preventing Violent Extremism. (PVE).

The letter states “PVE programs are deceptively framed as public health and youth programs that offer social services to marginalized communities. Such a framing masks the true objectives; to surveil, profile and collect intelligence on Muslim, immigrant and Black and Brown communities…. These programs stigmatize the very communities they purport to help, making them less likely to seek legitimate social services for fear it will lead to unwarranted law enforcement scrutiny.

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The Downfall of Roundup

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By Darian Carrow

The world’s most popular yet most controversial weed killer, Roundup, has been under severe scrutiny as consumers allege that the product has caused their various health issues and cancers. The active ingredient that reportedly causes these complications, glyphosate, has been deemed “probably carcinogenic for humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Since this classification, thousands of consumers have sought legal assistance to go against manufacturer Monsanto, newly acquired by pharmaceutical giant Bayer, for selling a product they knew could be dangerous to their customers.

It was recently revealed that more than 13,400 consumers have filed lawsuits against Bayer and its subsidiary Monsanto for its Roundup product. So far, three heavily covered lawsuits have gone through American courts, all resulting in huge losses for the manufacturing company. These notable cases have paved the way for the rest of the pending suits and for consumers who have suffered because of Roundup.

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Privacy Groups Preserve CA Consumer Privacy Act

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The CA Legislature passed the California Consumer Privacy Act in a heated rush a year ago and just beat the clock for a planned statewide ballot initiative by a matter of hours. Consumer privacy advocates grumbled that the bill could be a bit better, industry groups promised to challenge it in 2019, and the one thing everyone agreed on was that some changes would happen. But on July 9th, the best efforts of the business lobby …. failed.

SF Chronicle: Fight To Change CA’s Landmark Privacy Law Fizzles

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80 Groups Demand Passage of the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act

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80 consumer groups across the country (including Media Alliance) have called for the passage of the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act (H.R. 3375).

In a July 23rd letter, the consumer protection groups state “Robocalls are en ever-increasing plague. They harass us, disrupt our peace of mind, interrupt important time with family, and interfere with important communications. They enable scams to enter our homes. True Caller found that consumers had lost an estimated $10.5 billion dollars to phone scams in a single 12-month period”.

Read the full letter below.

Continue reading 80 Groups Demand Passage of the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act
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