Category Archives: Press Room

Recent press releases issued by Media Alliance. Sometimes we’ll post newspaper, radio and broadcast interviews here as well.

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.

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Good Riddance: Tech Worker’s Flight From SF is a Relief to Some Advocates

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by David Ingram. Originally published on nbcnews.com.

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.

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S.F. Supes Again Condemn Zuckerberg’s Name on City General Hospital

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by Michael Cabanatuan. Originally published in SF Chronicle

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.

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Supervisors Approve Resolution To Condemn Naming Of Hospital After Mark Zuckerberg

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originally published on SFGate.com

San Francisco supervisors voted 10-1 in approval of a resolution condemning the naming of Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

The resolution, authored by Supervisor Gordon Mar, urges the city to establish clear standards for naming rights for public institutions and properties, reserving those rights only for organizations that align with the city’s values.

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The Robber Barons of Big Tech

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by Veronica Irwin. Published in SF Weekly.

Remember when we thought we were going to make the world a better place?

In the city where Jello Biafra once ran for mayor on a platform that would have required businessmen to wear clown suits, recently graduated engineers arrived wearing jeans and pocket-tees. Like the countercultural icons who came before them, they thumbed their collective noses at the stuffy protocols that had come to dominate the white collar workforce. While New York’s business elite had members-only clubs, local tech CEOs kept a kegerator in the office — right next to the ping-pong table and bean bag chair lounge. The Silicon Valley “campus,” complete with outdoor shopping centers and arcades, replaced the corporate headquarters, and open floor plans dismantled the sterile grid of cubicles.

This was the Left Coast. On this side of the country, the son of a teen mom and a cuban immigrant could rise to become the world’s first trillionaire and a couple of bearded, shaggy college dropouts could build a world-conquering personal computer company while pledging to Think Different.

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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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Fresno Sheriff’s Office Accused of Ignoring Public Record Laws Over Drone Surveillance

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by Nadia Lopez. Originally published in the Fresno Bee

The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office is being sued for failing to release records about its use of surveillance equipment, location tracking technologies and data collection operations, according to a lawsuit filed last month.

The Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project, a watchdog group named after the late computer programmer and hacker, filed the lawsuit in November with the Fresno County Superior Court after more than two years of attempting to retrieve documents.

According to the lawsuit, the group made six public records requests between December 2018 and January 2019 over the agency’s use of unarmed drones, license plate readers, thermal cameras, social media monitoring and predictive algorithmic software as well as any potential contracts with federal law enforcement agencies.

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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.

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