Category Archives: Accountability and Representation

When the media does us wrong and community accountability

US Senate Consumer Privacy Bills

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Multiple consumer privacy bills have been emerging from the federal government lately, mostly in response to state efforts like CCPA.

Here’s a letter from privacy groups, including Media Alliance, about the batch from the US Senate including COPRA from Senator Maria Cantwell D-WA), USCDPA from Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) and the Browser Act from Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).

Unsurprisingly, Cantwell’s bill comes the closest to a federal data privacy bill that would actually protect consumers.

Cantwell-Wicker-Letter

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Want fair elections? Help us protest Facebook.

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by Ted Lewis and Tracy Rosenberg. Originally printed in the SF Examiner

Facebook looms over our coming elections, and not in a good way. The giant media company has tremendous power and influence — and a bad track record.

In 2016, Facebook was successfully used as part of multi-faceted election interference campaign. Called to account by Congress, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg claimed that Russian ad buys and other efforts had little electoral impact in 2016, but the company later admitted that disinformation had reached 150 million Facebook and Instagram users in the United States.

The 2020 elections are already underway and protecting them now means more than deciding which candidates to support or pushing for ballot measures we believe in. This time, trust in our elections — the beating heart of our democracy – is at risk.

That is why protesting Facebook’s irresponsible policies is so urgent.

As a global media platform with billions of users, Facebook has the terrifying power to make or break the integrity of our elections. And in the near term are the only ones who can prevent the platform from being used to disrupt our elections — and elections around the world.

And while the Russian use of Facebook to interfere in the 2016 US elections is the most well-documented case of the company’s facilitation of efforts to sow discord, divisiveness, and disinformation, it is certainly not the only one.

In 2018, Facebook conceded its platform had been used to spread hate speech and disinformation that incited violence in Myanmar. The company commissioned a report about its role in human rights violations against the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar, which stated that “Facebook has become a means for those seeking to spread hate and cause harm, and posts have been linked to offline violence.” Again in 2019, Facebook was used to amplify hate speech, harassment, and calls for violence in India against caste, religious, gender and queer minorities. The authors of a recent report by Equality Labs warn that without urgent intervention, hate speech on Facebook in India could trigger large-scale communal violence in that country.

Here in the US we must make sure Facebook does not again become a megaphone for disinformation and hate speech during the 2020 election.

But Facebook CEO Zuckerberg has made it clear that won’t be easy. Last October he announced the company would allow politicians and political parties to openly lie in their advertisements – meaning that Facebook now holds paid political advertisements to a lower standard than all others.

The time has surely come for Facebook’s monopoly to be broken up, but that is not going to happen before November 2020. So in the meantime it is up to us to pressure them directly. Corporations are susceptible to mass public pressure, and Facebook is no different. They don’t want their brand to be tarnished or to lose advertisers.

We have to start somewhere and conveniently, Facebook headquarters is in the San Francisco Bay Area, where there’s a long tradition of pressuring companies for change—whether to stop Gap and Nike from using sweatshop labor or convince Starbucks to buy coffee from Fair Trade farmers.

That’s why, on January 9, we’re kicking off a campaign that brings together human rights groups, media advocacy organizations, corporate campaigners and fed-up Facebook users to adopt the policies recommended by Facebook’s own employees in this public letter and to implement policies that discourage online hate, such as those recommended by Change the Terms.

Locally, we’ll be protesting outside of Facebook’s Menlo Park corporate headquarters under the banner, “Save Our Democracy: Protest Facebook.” Online, we’ll be “blacking out” Facebook on January 9 by replacing our Facebook cover and profile photos with a completely black box.

Some people say we should just abandon Facebook once and for all. But we’re not willing to cede a communications network that reaches billions of people to the unfettered practices of a corporation that cares more about its profits than about our democracy. Please join us in this fight.

Ted Lewis is the human rights director of Global Exchange. Tracy Rosenberg is the executive director of Media Alliance.

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Legal Battle on Trump’s Public Charge Rule Not Over: Amici Curae in 9th Circuit Court

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On January 27, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision allowed the “public charge” rule to temporarily go into effect by voiding a nationwide injunction issued by a federal judge.

However, the underlying legal process continues. Media Alliance is one of several parties to an amici filing coordinated by the National Consumer Law Center NCLC charging that the public charge rule was enacted in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act and constitutes an improper use of the credit reporting system.

Here is the amici filing.

Filed-19-17214

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Strengthening CCPA

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15 prominent privacy groups (including Media Alliance) sent a letter to the CA Legislature encouraging them to strengthen California’s state privacy law (CCPA), the only statewide comprehensive consumer privacy legislation in the county, and prevent industry gutting it prior to 2020, when the law is scheduled to take effect.

The privacy groups stated “We urge you to keep the focus on strengthening protections for your constituents, and to reject
efforts to diminish Californians’ privacy and security protections.” Continue reading Strengthening CCPA

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Urban Shield/UASI Task Force – Selected Recommendations

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Alameda County’s Urban Shield/UASI Task Force has been charged with “ending Urban Shield as we know it” and rethinking the County’s use of the Homeland Security monies it receives for disaster preparedness training.

On December 14, the five-person task force will debate and vote on over 60 recommendations developed by task force members and received via community input,  and decide what to put in their final report.  Continue reading Urban Shield/UASI Task Force – Selected Recommendations

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16 Privacy Groups Tell The Feds Not To Pre-Empt The States

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16 privacy and civil rights groups told the US Congress that the federal government should not interfere with efforts by the states to legislate strong local privacy regulations. 

Among the states that have passed privacy protective laws are Illinois which passed a Biometric Information Privacy Act, Vermont which regulates data brokers and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

The letter states:

Our organizations favor federal baseline privacy legislation that ensures a basic level of protection for all individuals in the United States. We will oppose federal legislation that preempts stronger state laws. Not only will preemption leave consumers with inadequate privacy protections, it will likely result in their being worse off than they would be in the absence of
federal legislation. The states are the “laboratories of democracy” and have led the way in the development of innovative privacy legislation

Read the rest of the letter below. 

FINALpreemptionletter

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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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