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.
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.”
Facial recognition software has become a common part of American life. It’s used by government employment agencies to verify an applicant’s identity, by landlords to monitor tenants, and by police in their investigations, which has resulted in some wrongful arrests. Indeed, studies show that facial recognition algorithms are often inaccurate when it comes to identifying women and people with dark skin tones. Privacy advocates concerned by how law enforcement has used surveillance technology cheered Amazon’s recent decision to extend a moratorium on police use of its facial recognition software, though Amazon gave no reason why it was doing so. We’ll talk to Bay Area experts about how facial recognition technology is being used, why it needs to be closely monitored, and what cities, states and the federal government are doing — or not doing — to regulate its use.
Matt Cagle, technology and civil rights attorney with the ACLU
Brian Hofer,, chair and executive director, Secure Justice
Daniel E. Ho, Scott Professor of Law, Stanford University and also an Associate Director at Stanford’s Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence
Tracy Rosenberg, executive director, Media Alliance
Jean Su, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 770-3187, firstname.lastname@example.org Dana Floberg, Free Press Action, (202) 265-1490, email@example.com Taylor Billings, Corporate Accountability, (504) 621-6487, firstname.lastname@example.org Rianna Eckel, Food & Water Watch, (978) 835-6230, email@example.com
Senate Bill Aims to Protect Americans From Utility Shutoffs, Mounting Debt Crisis
WASHINGTON— Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) introduced a bill today that would place a national moratorium on the disconnection of electric, water and broadband utility service due to uncollected payments. An increasing number of people in the country are at risk of losing access to vital utilities, including electricity, water and broadband, as utility debt increases nationwide.
by Chris Witteman and Tracy Rosenberg. Originally published at 48 Hills.
Fourteen months of COVID quarantine made one thing clear: we need our broadband.
It used to be only media activists who insisted that Internet access was an essential service; now it’s accepted wisdom.
Unfortunately, the last year has also made clear that the current system is broken. Pictures of kids doing homework in parking lots because they have no broadband at home highlight the problem: The market has failed to deliver adequate broadband because there is no market.
High-speed broadband in most areas is available only from the monopoly cable company, occasionally from the duopoly phone company. It’s overpriced, unreliable, and – even based on the carriers’ overstated reporting — simply not available to millions of Californians – certainly not at the bandwidth needed for today’s applications.
People know this is so, despite industry propaganda to the contrary.
Californians need fast, modern Internet. Gov Newsom has responded with a budget that allots $7 billion — from a mix of state surplus dollars and federal rescue money – to actually build public broadband infrastructure rather than just talk about it or continue to throw money at the incumbents.
SAN FRANCISCO — When Chirag Bhakta saw a headline recently that said tech workers were fleeing San Francisco, he had a quick reaction: “Good riddance.”
Bhakta, a San Francisco native and tenant organizer for affordable housing nonprofit Mission Housing, is well-versed in the seismic impact that the growth of the tech industry has had on the city. As software companies expanded over the past decade, they drew thousands of well-off newcomers who bid up rents and remade the city’s economy and culture.
He said the sudden departure of many tech workers and executives — often to less expensive, rural areas where they can telecommute during the coronavirus pandemic — reveals that their relationship with San Francisco was “transactional” all along.
A committee of San Francisco supervisors on Thursday condemned the naming of San Francisco General Hospital for Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, citing a long list of grievances against the social media giant and claiming its practices endanger public health.
The three-member Government Audit and Oversight Committee voted to condemn the hospital’s name and to develop a better policy for future naming of public facilities. The resolution, which carries no legal mandates, was mostly a statement of opinion by the board — and a chance to bash Facebook. The board is constrained in its contract with Zuckerberg in removing his name from the hospital.