SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California voters will weigh in this November on whether to expand a landmark data privacy law, alter a decades-old law that limits property taxes on businesses and exempt ride-hail giants Uber and Lyft from a new state labor law.
They are among 11 measures Secretary of State Alex Padilla certified on Thursday for the Nov. 3 ballot. Others include two constitutional amendments approved by the Legislature, which would overturn the state’s ban on affirmative action and restore the voting rights of people with felony convictions who are on parole. A referendum will ask voters to decide whether the state should eliminate cash bail.
Ballot measures are often among the most expensive and high-profile issues before California voters each election year and tens of millions of dollars are likely to be spent on each of the major initiatives. Uber, Lyft and DoorDash have pledged to spend $90 million on their measure to exempt them from a state labor law that would require them to treat their workers as employees entitled to more wage protections and benefits.
The most recent measure to become eligible, on Wednesday, would give consumers more power over how companies use their data. It’s an extension of a landmark privacy law passed in 2018. It would allow consumers to prevent businesses from sharing their personal information; limit businesses’ use of geolocation, race, health or other information; and create a state agency to enforce and implement the law. The agency would hire 40 employees at an estimated cost of $10 million per year.
It builds on the California Consumer Privacy Act, which took effect Jan. 1. Lawmakers passed it in 2018 under pressure from Alastair Mactaggart, a wealthy California developer, who spent millions of his own money to qualify an even more sweeping measure for the ballot. He withdrew his measure when the law passed under a compromise with legislators.
Under the existing law, consumers can request companies, including internet giants Google and Facebook, tell them what personal data they have collected and what third parties the companies shared it with. Consumers can ask companies to delete it or stop selling it. Companies can’t sell data from children under 16 without consent.
Mactaggart’s new initiative would triple the penalties for companies that violate the rules for children under 16.
“California has led the nation in securing fundamental privacy rights,” Mactaggart said in a statement. “During these times of unprecedented uncertainty, we need to ensure that the laws keep pace with the ever-changing ways corporations and other entities are using our data.”
Dylan Hoffman, director of California Government Affairs for the Internet Association, said the organization’s member companies, which include Amazon, Facebook and Google, are focused on complying with the existing law and that further changes should be made by lawmakers, not at the ballot.
“The internet industry believes that the Legislature is the proper venue to vet such a complex and technical area of law and policy,” he said in an emailed statement.
The efforts to overturn the state’s ban on affirmative action policies, restore the voting rights of parolees with felony convictions and end cash bail are likely to generate significant attention as the nation grapples with systemic racism and calls to reform the criminal justice system.
Voters in 1996 banned governments and public colleges and universities from considering race in their hiring and admissions decisions. California lawmakers passed a law eliminating cash bail in 2018 but opponents blocked it from taking effect by qualifying a referendum for the ballot.
Other measures on the ballot this fall would:
- Shorten the list of which people convicted of crimes can seek earlier parole and reclassify some theft crimes as felonies instead of misdemeanors
- Allow local governments to establish rent control on certain properties
- Make it easier for older and disabled residents to transfer their property tax rates to different properties
- Authorize $5.5 billion in state bonds to fund stem cell research, with $1.5 billion dedicated to research on Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, epilepsy and similar diseases
- Regulate kidney dialysis clinics
By KATHLEEN RONAYNE Associated Press
Amazon says email to employees banning TikTok was a mistake
Roughly five hours after an internal email went out Friday to Amazon employees telling them to delete the popular video app TikTok from their phones, the online retailing giant appeared to backtrack, calling the ban a mistake.
“This morning’s email to some of our employees was sent in error,” Amazon emailed reporters just before 5 p.m. Eastern time. “There is no change to our policies right now with regard to TikTok.”
Company spokeswoman Jaci Anderson declined to answer questions about what caused the confounding turnaround or error.
The initial internal email, which was disseminated widely online, told employees to delete TikTok, a video app increasingly popular with young people but also the focus of intensifying national-security and geopolitical concerns because of its Chinese ownership. The email cited the app’s “security risks.”
An Amazon employee who confirmed receipt of the initial email but was not authorized to speak publicly had not seen a retraction at the time of Amazon’s backtrack.
Amazon is the second-largest U.S. private employer after Walmart. Moving against TikTok could have escalated pressure on the app in a big way, particularly if other companies did the same. The U.S. military already bans TikTok on employee phones and the company is subject to a national-security review of its merger history.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this week that the government was “certainly looking” at banning the app, setting off confused and irritated posts as well as jokes by TikTok users.
Chinese internet company ByteDance owns TikTok, which is designed for users outside of China; it also makes a Chinese version called Douyin. Like YouTube, TikTok relies on its users for the videos that populate its app. It has a reputation for fun, goofy videos and is popular with young people, including millions of Americans.
But critics have cited concerns, including the possibility of TikTok censoring videos, such as those critical of the Chinese government, sharing user data with Chinese officials, and violating kids’ privacy. TikTok has said it doesn’t censor videos based on topics sensitive to China and it would not give the Chinese government access to U.S. user data even if asked.
TikTok said earlier in the day that Amazon did not notify it before sending the initial email around midday Eastern time Friday. That email read, “The TikTok app is no longer permitted on mobile devices that access Amazon email.” To retain mobile access to company email, employees had to delete the TikTok app by the end of the day.
“We still do not understand their concerns,” TikTok said at the time, adding that the company would welcome a dialogue to address Amazon’s issues. A TikTok spokeswoman declined to comment further Friday evening.
TikTok has been trying to appease critics in the U.S. and distance itself from its Chinese roots, but finds itself caught in an increasingly sticky geopolitical web.
It recently named a new CEO, former Disney executive Kevin Mayer, a move experts said could help it navigate U.S. regulators. And it is stopping operations in Hong Kong because of a new Chinese national security law that led Facebook, Google and Twitter to also stop providing user data to Hong Kong authorities.
Pompeo said the U.S. government remains concerned about TikTok and referred to the administration’s crackdown on Chinese telecom firms Huawei and ZTE. Washington has tried to convince allies to root Huawei out of telecom networks with mixed success. President Donald Trump has also said he is willing to use Huawei as a bargaining chip in trade talks. Huawei has denied that it enables spying by the Chinese government.
A U.S. national-security agency has been reviewing ByteDance’s purchase of TikTok’s precursor, Musical.ly. Meanwhile, privacy groups say TikTok has been violating children’s privacy, even after the Federal Trade Commission fined the company in 2019 for collecting personal information from children without their parents’ consent. Concerns aren’t limited to the U.S. India this month banned dozens of Chinese apps, including TikTok, citing privacy concerns, amid tensions between the countries.
Amazon may have been concerned about a Chinese-owned app’s access to employee data because the U.S. government says China regularly steals U.S. intellectual property, said Susan Ariel Aaronson, a professor at George Washington University and a data governance and national-security expert.
Part of Amazon’s motivation with the ban, now apparently reversed, may also have been political, Aaronson said, since Amazon “doesn’t want to alienate the Trump administration.”
Seattle-based Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos, are frequent targets of Trump. Bezos personally owns The Washington Post, which Trump has called “fake news.” Last year, Amazon sued the U.S. government, saying that Trump’s “personal vendetta” against Amazon, Bezos and the Post led it to lose a $10 billion cloud computing contract with the Pentagon to rival Microsoft. Meanwhile, federal regulators as well as Congress are pursuing antitrust investigations at Amazon as well as other tech giants.
By TALI ARBEL AP Technology Writer.
AP Business Writer Joseph Pisani contributed to this report.
Germany seizes server hosting pilfered US police files
BOSTON (AP) — At the behest of the U.S. government, German authorities have seized a computer server that hosted a huge cache of files from scores of U.S. federal, state and local law enforcement agencies obtained in a Houston data breach last month.
The server was being used by a WikiLeaks-like data transparency collective called Distributed Denial of Secrets to share documents — many tagged “For Official Use Only” — that shed light on U.S. police practices.
The data, dating back to 1996, include emails, audio and video files and police and FBI intelligence reports. DDoSecrets founder Emma Best said the data, dubbed “BlueLeaks,” comes from more than 200 agencies. It has been stripped of references to sexual assault cases and references to children, but names, phone numbers and emails of police officers were not redacted, said Best, who uses they/their pronouns.
Best said that DDoSecrets obtained the data from an outside individual who sympathized with nationwide protests against police killings of unarmed Black people. Some of the files offer insights into the police response to those protests, they said.
While hacking into computers and stealing data is a federal crime, U.S. courts have consistently ruled that journalists may publish stolen documents as long as they are not involved in their theft. DDoSecrets says it is a journalistic organization that shares documents in the public interest.
The documents came to light via a breach of Houston web-design company Netsential, which hosts portals for law enforcement agencies and “fusion centers,” state-run operations created after the 9/11 attacks to share threat intelligence with local and state police and private-sector partners.
The prosecutor’s office in Zwickau, a German city near the Czech border, said in an emailed statement Wednesday that the server was confiscated July 3 in the town of Falkenstein following a request from U.S. authorities.
The FBI declined to comment. A U.S. Embassy spokesperson in Berlin did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment.
The Zwickau prosecutors’ statement said it would be up to German judicial authorities to decide whether to hand the server over to U.S. authorities. It said it would not disclose the reason for the U.S. request. Neither would a representative of Hetzner Online, the company that hosted the server.
Best said they assume the seizure was related to the posting of the BlueLeaks documents. They said the files show “a lot of things that are entirely legal and normal and horrifying,” including police surveillance and police intelligence of dubious origin. Best said none were classified.
The document dump helps expose “the United States’ overdeveloped police intelligence apparatus,” said Brendan McQuade, a criminology professor at the University of Southern Maine who has viewed the documents. The files do not include high-level intelligence but provide a window into the relationship between law enforcement at all levels, he said — one that he believes the FBI doesn’t want the public to see lest it “add more fuel to the protests” against police brutality and racism in policing.
Best said the files remain publicly accessible through more complicated means such as BitTorrent and the Tor network, both of which complicate censorship efforts. Best said the organization is now rebuilding its infrastructure for public access. “All they cost us is time,” they said.
Shortly after DDoSecrets posted the data, Twitter permanently suspended the organization’s account for publishing links and images from the collection, citing a ban on the posting of hacked material.
One U.S. law enforcement agency affected by the breach is the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy. Its director, Judy Bradshaw, told The Associated Press the breach revealed names of students in academy courses and their drivers licenses, but no financial information.
She said Netsential had scores of clients in law enforcement, where it was a strong niche provider. Netsential itself confirmed the breach in an undated statement on its bare-bones website and said it was assisting the investigation but would provide no further information “due to the sensitivity of client information.”
Executives of the National Fusion Centers Association did not respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment on whether any sensitive investigations may have been compromised by the breach. But Maine State Police said in a statement on June 26 that the FBI was investigating and that affected bulletins may “contain identifying information, such as full name and date of birth of people under investigation by other law enforcement agencies.” It said they “may also involve individuals wanted for criminal activity.”
DDoSecrets was created in late 2018 by Best, a journalist specializing in freedom-of-information petitions. It has worked on various investigations with established media organizations including the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel and the U.S. news organization McClatchy.
Previous DDoSecrets releases include data on offshore Bahamas accounts used as tax havens, files hacked from Chilean police and data from a British provider of offshore financial services that has drawn comparisons, on a smaller scale, to the 2016 Panama Papers leak.
By FRANK BAJAK AP Technology Writer.
Facebook civil rights audit: ‘Serious setbacks’ mar progress
A two-year audit of Facebook’s civil rights record found “serious setbacks” that have marred the social network’s progress on matters such as hate speech, misinformation and bias.
Facebook hired the audit’s leader, former American Civil Liberties Union executive Laura Murphy, in May 2018 to assess its performance on vital social issues. Its 100-page report released Wednesday outlines a “seesaw of progress and setbacks” at the company on everything from bias in Facebook’s algorithms to its content moderation, advertising practices and treatment of voter suppression.
The audit recommends that Facebook build a “civil rights infrastructure” into every aspect of the company, as well as a “stronger interpretation” of existing voter suppression policies and more concrete action on algorithmic bias. Those suggestions are not binding, and there is no formal system in place to hold Facebook accountable for any of the audit’s findings.
“While the audit process has been meaningful, and has led to some significant improvements in the platform, we have also watched the company make painful decisions over the last nine months with real world consequences that are serious setbacks for civil rights,” the audit report states.
Those include Facebook’s decision to exempt politicians from fact-checking, even when President Donald Trump posted false information about voting by mail. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has cited a commitment to free speech as a reason for allowing such posts to remain on the platform, even though the company has rules in place against voter suppression it could have used to take down — or at least add warning labels to — Trump’s posts.
Last month, Facebook announced it would begin labeling rule-breaking posts — even from politicians — going forward. But it is not clear if Trump’s previous controversial posts would have gotten the alert. The problem, critics have long said, is not so much about Facebook’s rules as how it enforces them.
“When you elevate free expression as your highest value, other values take a back seat,” Murphy told The Associated Press. The politician exemption, she said, “elevates the speech of people who are already powerful and disadvantages people who are not.”
More than 900 companies have joined an advertising boycott of Facebook to protest its handling of hate speech and misinformation.
Civil rights leaders who met virtually with Zuckerberg and other Facebook leaders Tuesday expressed skepticism that recommendations from the audit would ever be implemented, noting that past suggestions in previous reports had gone overlooked.
“What we get is recommendations that they end up not implementing,” said Rashad Robinson, the president of Color for Change, one of several civil rights nonprofits leading an organized boycott of Facebook advertising.
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, said in a Facebook newsroom post that the company has a long way to go, but is making progress.
“This audit has been a deep analysis of how we can strengthen and advance civil rights at every level of our company — but it is the beginning of the journey, not the end,” she wrote. “What has become increasingly clear is that we have a long way to go. As hard as it has been to have our shortcomings exposed by experts, it has undoubtedly been a really important process for our company.”
By BARBARA ORTUTAY AP Technology Writer.
Associated Press Writer Amanda Seitz contributed to this story.
Telecom operators play a big role in digital advertising
Amazon says email to employees banning TikTok was a mistake
Covid-19 mass testing – the need for strategic implementation
Italy decides to exclude Huawei from 5G-core network deployment
Mountasser Hachem – He Who Dares Wins
5 Reasons Why… Telecoms is Important in Society
Telecom Sales Strategies that will Bring You Success in 2020
Woven City: Toyota to build smart city
Imad Kreidieh, Chairman of Ogero
Alla Goldner, Director, Technology, Strategy & Standardization at Amdocs
Richard Brandon, VP of Marketing at RtBrick
Razan Itani, Solutions Manager at Monty Mobile
Exclusive Interviews4 days ago
Lucky La Riccia, Head of Digital Services at Ericsson Middle East & Africa
Exclusive Interviews3 weeks ago
Imad Kreidieh, Chairman of Ogero
MedTech5 days ago
New feature on Google Maps aids in the fight against Coronavirus
MedTech3 days ago
Transparent smart mask allows emotional expression
Exclusive Interviews4 weeks ago
Alla Goldner, Director, Technology, Strategy & Standardization at Amdocs
MedTech4 weeks ago
Digital Health Technologies against COVID-19
Feature Articles4 weeks ago
Airports to Implement Thermal Cameras That Screen for COVID-19
MedTech1 week ago
A look into the effects of COVID-19 on travel