Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Blogger Candidate Forum: The New Frontier

http://www.citylab.com; November 14, 2017


Hello Everyone:

Welcome to the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  Before we talk about digital sanctuaries, a word to Alabama fans and followers.  Tuesday, December 12, 2017 there will be an extremely important special election to fill the seat vacated by (for now) Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  The contest is between former federal prosecutor G. Douglas Jones (D) and for Alabama State Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore (R).  This election has become of a question of party loyalty versus what is right.  Although Blogger is not in a position to tell Alabamans who to vote for, Yours Truly will say that voters must decide who is the best person to represent the state in The Senate.  Who is the best person to advocate and work for an Alabama that looks to the future.  Who you chose says something about the values you live by.  Thus it is essential to consider whether Mr. Jones or Mr. Moore genuinely share your values.  That said, shall we talk about digital sanctuaries?

The "not guilty" verdict in the Kate Steinle murder case put sanctuary cities back in the spotlight.  Interestingly, they were not even brought up during the trial.  A brief summary, on July 1, 2015, Kathryn Steinle, her father and a friend were walking along Pier 14 in The Embarcadero District in San Francisco when Ms. Steinle was shot and killed by Jose Inez Garcia Zarate.  Mr. Zarate was arrested and charged with possession of a deadly weapon and manslaughter.  He is also a homeless undocumented immigrant, who had been deported five previous times.  San Francisco is a sanctuary city, which means that it limits its cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

This case became a major point of contention during the 2016 Presidential Elections, with Mr. Donald Trump vowing to take action against sanctuary cities by withholding federal funds.  While cities such as San Francisco and Chicago-also a sanctuary city-do share police gang database information, one thing is becoming quickly apparent, the databases are inaccurate, often ensnaring residents like Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez, the undocumented immigrant father of United States citizen children, who was arrested by ICE for allegedly being a gang member.  Thus, what both cases highlight is the need for a more refined definition of what is a sanctuary city

Tanvi Misra writes in her CityLab article,"The New 'Digital Sanctuaries'" (citylab.com; Nov.14, 2017; date accessed Dec. 6, 2017), "As the federal government increasingly relies on data from localities, some cities are developing protective policies that broaden the definition of 'sanctuary.'"  Historically, the word has meant "withholding some local cooperation for immigration enforcement," now it is reconfiguring to mean "withholding some other data too, to protect vulnerable communities-citizen and on-citizen-from the ever-growing surveillance dragnet."  We can infer from this definition that San Francisco's homeless population falls under the heading of vulnerable communities.  The goal of these policies is to establish what some pro-immigration advocates refer to as "digital sanctuaries."  They want to refined what data is collected, how it is collected, and how will it be used.

This is particularly important since the election of Donald Trump because discussions on how and what data is collected and shared is shifting.  Before, cities were trying to post as much of their data online and make it as accessible as possible.  Now, the cities are faced with a whole new set of questions.

Greta Byrum (newamerica.org; date accessed Dec. 6, 2017) , the director of the Resilient Communities program at New America, spoke to CityLab,

Now cities are going to have to ask: What should we close?  What should we segment?  What should we purge?  What should we put a time-limit on?...If their primary goal is to protect the rights of their residents, they may have to make different choices about what they do with their data."

"Surveillance tech: 'beta-tested' on the vulnerable"

Tanvi Misra reports, "With the rapid advancement of biometric technology and a shift in immigration politics over the last few decades, the type and extent of information required of people seeking entry to the U.S. has changed dramatically."

Alvaro Bedoya, executive director of the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law, commented,

A fairly straightforward examination of a person has become something of a different nature...If you  are an immigrant seeking a visa to enter this country permenantly or on a temporary basis, you basically submit your body to be measured and tracked. (law.georgetown.edu; date accessed Dec. 6, 2017)

What kind of examination can a newly arrived documented immigrant expect?  When a documented immigrant arrives in the U.S., his or her photographs are enrolled in the Department of Homeland Security database and their fingerprints are scanned against the Federal Bureau of Investigation database.  To follow their movements better, "the White House is now encouraging iris recognition pilot [theintercept.com; July 8, 2017 date accessed Dec. 6, 2017] at the border and planning to roll out facial recognition at U.S. airports [theverge.com; April 18, 2017; date accessed Dec. 6, 2017]. Mr. Bedoya added,

This is not how things have been done historically...Previously, your body wasn't tracked unless you were arrested by the police.

The technology is not new; they were already being rolled out during the Obama administration.  However, under the Trump administration, privacy experts have observed an appreciable appetite for expanding biometric technologies and data-sharing strategies-in terms of scope and geography-utilizing them for immigration enforcement purposes (theatlantic.com; June 21, 2017; date accessed Dec. 6, 2017) at the frontiers and interior of the nation.  Steven Renderos, organizing director at the Center for Media Justice, said

This administration has not been shy about ramping up the use of data to accomplish those things.

In that infamous January executive order (whitehouse.gov; Jan 25, 2017; date accessed Dec. 6, 2017), the president announced that "non-citizens would benefit from a federal law to prevent agencies from sharing information with one another."  Needless to say, pro-DACA advocates are concerned that information collected on eligible immigrants will be used to deport them (citylab.com; Sept. 1, 2017; date accessed Dec. 6, 2017).  Further, the administration issued a new rule (buzzfeed.com; Sept. 25, 2017; date accessed Dec. 6, 2017) allowing the DHS to gather online information about immigrants, including their social media accounts, search results, handles, and connections.

ICE has already taken great measures (the intercept.com; Oct. 4, 2017; date accessed Dec. 6, 2017) to ramp up their deportations, coming after anyone who shows up in their crosshairs (washingtonpost.com; April 16, 2017; date accessed Dec. 6, 2017), in ways that even longtime agents find disconcerting (newyorker.com; July 24, 2017; date accessed Dec. 6, 2017). Mr. Bedoya said,

You're seeing signs that the gloves have come off.

The data provided by cities is extremely important to this tracking process, and frequently, willingly shared.  The most common data-sharing arrangement is through formal agreements between some police departments, the FBI, and ICE, which deputized local police and sheriff deputies to handle the enforcement work.  Tanvi Misra writes, "But even the large number of cities who had blocked some of these arrangements by dubbing themselves so-called 'sanctuary cities' are funneling significant amounts of information to the federal government."

Typically, Immigration and Customs Enforcement can pull data from local law enforcement repositories (npr.org; May 12, 2017; date accessed Dec. 6, 2017), DMV and benefits records (gao.gov; Jan 28, 2005; date accessed Dec. 6, 2017), license plate reader data (dhs.gov; March 19, 2015; date accessed Dec. 6, 2017), the FBI criminal databases, and student visa records.  ICE also has access to the National Security Entry-Exist Registration System (NSEER; em.m.wikipedia.org; date accessed Dec. 6, 2017)-the controversial Bush-era "Muslim registry" (cnn.com; Dec. 22, 2016; date accessed Dec. 6, 2017)-information was never purged.  Local law enforcement is increasingly making use of new technologies such as stingrays and social media technologies-usually is minority neighborhoods (citylab.com; Oct. 18, 2014; date accessed Dec. 6, 2017) or against protestors (Ibid; Dec. 14, 2014). A  2016 Georgetown Law study (perpetual lineup; Oct. 18, 2016; date accessed Dec. 6, 2017) concluded that throughout the country, an increasing number of police and sheriff's departments are used biased (theatlantic.com; April 7, 2016) facial recognition software, placing residents in even non-criminal databases in a "virtual line up."  Naturally, many law enforcement officials-including those in liberal cities-say "that expanding surveillance is crucial to preventing crime and terrorist activity."

Former New York City Police Department chief spokesperson Paul Browne told Reuters in 2013,

The technology, having been inspired and engineered with a sense of urgency after 9/11, has obvious applications to conventional crime fighting.  (reuters.com; June 21, 2013; date accessed Dec. 6, 2017)

However, privacy advocates argue "that the rules surrounding these technologies are lax, and their impact on vulnerable populations, not very clear."  Further, the average taxpayer often has no idea what is being used and how.  "It's this secrecy that activists are trying to disrupt at the local level-not just for the benefit of the immigrants and other communities of color, but for every resident."

Christina Sinha, the head of the San Francisco-based civil rights organization National Security and Civil Rights Programs at Asian-Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, told CityLab,

What we've seen throughout history is that the U.S. government will basically do its beta testing, if you will, on these hyper vulnerable communities...It will roll out a massive invasion of civil right on a more vulnerable population and then extend it out further and and further as it becomes more normalized.

"Local 'digital sanctuary' Laws"

Cities cannot prevent the federal government from accomplishing its goals in a manner it sees fit.  However, cities are not entirely powerless in determining the scope of how its resources are co-opted for this purpose.  Ms. Misra points out, "That's the principle underlying the range of policies, loosely called 'sanctuary policies,' that seek to limit the involvement of their local police in immigration enforcement.  Attorney General (for now) Jeff Sessions has repeatedly tried to punish these cities, stating that these policies contribute to crime (citylab.com; Aug 7, 2017).  So far, the cities are winning in court (chicagotribune.com; Sept. 15, 2017; date accessed Dec. 6, 2017).

Tanvi Misra reports, "New policies popping up in a few cities have started to create templates for digital sanctuaries."  University of Buffalo law Professor Rick Su (law.buffalo.edu; date accessed Dec. 11, 2017) told CityLab, "Whether local governments can legally extend these protections to the digital realm is open question."  Although cities cannot prohibit an employee  from gathering and sharing data with federal agencies, in general, "they cannot be required to collect this information in the first place or to share it, either.  Prof. Su said,

In my opinion constitutional issue would also be raised if ICE specifically tried to compel cities to grant access to databases that they already maintained...Maybe cities cannot 'block' access, but they are under no affirmative obligation to grant access.

Therefore, now the question before us "how does a city become a digital sanctuary?"  If you go to sunlightfoundation.com (date accessed Dec.10, 2017), you can download a helpful guide, Protecting Data, Protecting Residents, outlining ten principles on responsibly handling municipal data in the Trump era. Essentially, this short guide asks cities to curtail the sensitive information they gather, protect the data they have in their possession, and make their collection practices more transparent.  The following are some of the local laws and intiatives built into these principles:

"Limiting cooperation on federal terror agreements"

In February of this year, the San Francisco Police Department placed on hold its Joint Terrorism Task Force agreement with the FBI (sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com; Feb. 1, 2017 date accessed Dec. 11, 2017).  Civil liberties organizations, including Chirstina Sinha's group, have been advocating for this outcome, "based on concerns that the task force's wide berth of surveillance powers will be used to target Muslim communities."  They pointed out that the FBI and police officers assigned to work with them routinely collect information pertaining to legal status which can find its way to ICE.

This  move generated criticism from former FBI officials, who state "it's going to slacken anti-terrorism efforts."  James McJunkin, who headed the second-largest Joint Terrorism Task Force in D.C., told The Washington Post,

It's cutting off your left hand to spite your right hand...It makes no sense at all (washingtonpost.com; March 10, 2017; date accessed Dec.11, 2017) 

Nevertheless, before San Francisco suspended it JTTF agreement, advocates campaigned in favor of an ordinance (static1.squarespace.com; May 1, 2012; date accessed Dec 11, 2017) that requested the SFPD to comply with three conditions if it planned to continue its JTTF contract: "One, the actions of the city's police officers needed to comply with local law."  Ms. Sinha told CityLab,

If you're wearing a San Francisco Police Department badge, you have to follow the same laws that everybody else wearing that badge has to follow...It doesn't matter that you're sitting in a different building."

Second, the SFPD was required to make public any new agreements with the FBI or any changes to current ones; and finally, they were asked to compile an annual report on proper public information infrorming the public about what officers assigned to work with the agency were doing. Ms. Sinha continue,

If we don't have even some sort of basic idea of what our officers are doing, then we're not empowered to make a rational choice as to whether or not we we are happy with how those resources are being used.

"Eliminating gang databases"

The gang databases have proven to be the more troublesome than good.  Even the declared sanctuary jurisdiction of Chicago and Los Angeles, for example, the police department's do share a wide array of data with ICE(npr.org; May 12, 2017; date accessed Dec. 11, 2017)-included the roundly criticized gang databases.  These databases are problematic because they have been considered broad, inaccurate, and racially biased (latimes.com; Aug. 11, 2016; date accessed Dec. 11, 2017).  Case in point, Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez, currently awaiting deportation after his name came up on a gang database, other have complained (nytimes.com; Jan. 10, 2017; date accessed Dec. 11, 2017) that they were designated gang member based on their appearance or where they live-not because they were actually gang members.  An audit of California's database revealed that 42 entries were a year old at the the time of their inclusion (latimes.com; Aug. 11, 2016).  An investigation by The Oregonian (oregonlive.com; Nov. 4, 2016; date accessed Dec. 11, 2017) "revealed that over 80 percent of the gang list entries in Portland were minorities."

This year, the city of Portland announced it was eliminating these gang designations and planned to purge the data.  The police said, "The database had resulted in 'unintended consequences' [oregonlive.com; Sept. 8, 2017 date accessed Dec.11, 2017]."

"Preemptively banning 'Muslim' and other registries"

Registries based on race, ethnicity, or religion in the 21st century?  Seriously? It seems like we have not learned our lessons from the heinous internment of Japanese American citizens during World War II.  This black period in American history was enabled by the Census Bureau block-level which drove their displacement and internment (nytimes.com; March 17, 2000; date accessed Dec. 11, 2017).  Tanvi Misra reports, "...following 9/11, then-President Bush created NSEER, the 'Muslim registry,' that President Trump has talked about reinstating" [theatlantic.com; Dec. 20, 2016; date accessed Dec. 11, 2017].

To make sure that locally gathered data does not enhance federal intiatives, like a registry, San Francisco enacted an ordinance (colorlines.com; March. 22, 2017; date accessed Dec. 11, 2017) "prohibiting municipal resources or personnel from being used for any registry based on race, religion, or national origin in March 2017."  The ordinance also permits residents to sue if they believe the city has violated this policy.  Spokane, Washington (spokesman.com; Jan. 31, 2017; date accessed Dec. 11, 2017) and Chicago have enacted similar measures this year and the Colorado state legislature is considering its own iteration (leg.colorado.gov; date accessed Dec. 11, 2017).

Ms. Misra observes, "These provisions partly serve a symbolic purpose, given that the Trump adminstration hasn't actually taken steps to put a registry in action.  They're moral proclamations.  But they also serve as preemptive defense-a way of opting out in case the federal government does go ahead with a registry and asks local government to help."

"Purging municpal ID data"

Many jurisdictions have implemented municpal ID laws (popular democracy.org; date accessed Dec. 11, 2017) so that some populations-immigrants, homeless, and the elderly-without documents could have official identifications that gives them access to the library, open bank accounts, and ride public transport.

New York's program, IDNYC, came with the condition that permitted the data collected be purged after two years.  Brittany Mostofi, acting commissioner of the New York City Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs, told CityLab,

In this case, we were mindful that were designing a program for individuals who do have a [particular privacy and security] policy and need.

Following Mr.Trump's inauguration, the city considered purging the data (foxnews.com; Nov. 15, 2016; date accessed Dec. 11, 2017). "In a preliminary ruling, a Staten Island judge ruled [nytimes.com; April 7, 2017; date accessed Dec. 11, 2017] that it had the right to do so."

San Francisco's municipal ID law is more forceful.  Only the names and birthdates of the applicants are retained.  The addresses is inscribed on a physical card, but kept out of public files.

"Public vetting of surveillance tools"

In 2013, Oakland residents learned of the city's surveillance project that gathered data from a variety of sources, including: license plates evaders and surveillance cameras.  The real point to this intiative, according to leaked emails (eastbayexpress.com; Dec. 18, 2013; date accessed Dec. 11, 2017), was to keep track of protestors.

Needless to say it created a furor which led to the creation of a privacy commission (arstechnica.com;  Jan, 6, 2017; date accessed Dec. 11, 2017) that drafted a surveillance ordinance (www2.oaklandnet.com; date accessed Dec. 11, 2017), based on a guide published by the American Civil LIberities Union (aclunc.org; date accessed Dec. 11, 2017).  Ms. Misra writes, "The legislation requires public vetting of any new surveillance technology acquired by the city, including a public discussion, assessment of impact, and annual report."  This proposed legistlation has spread out to other Bay Area counties, with bipartisan appeal, according to Brian Hofer, the chairperson of the privacy commission.  He told CityLab,

It's just good governance.  These were decisions made by law enforcement-unilaterally-in the dark no oversight...Some of this equipment is garbage, it's just snake oil...a waste of taxpayer money.

"Regulating facial recognition"

Georgetown Law's 2016 report (perpetuallineup.org; Oct. 18, 2016; date accessed Dec. 11, 2017) concluded that 117 million American adults are in facial recognition databases used by law enforcements throughout the United States.  Police departments are testing facial recognition technology on Department of Motor Vehicle photographs (this should be good) and on real time surveillance camera footage.  The authors, Clare Garvie, Alvaro Bedoya, and Jonathan Frankle, wrote,

Of the 52 agencies that we found to use (or have used) face recognition, we found only one, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, who's face recognition use policy expressly prohibits its officers from using face recognition to track individuals engaging in political, religious, or other protected free speech.

To fix this, Georgetown Law proposes a model state law (Ibid) and police department policy (Ibid) outlining the conditions under which this technology can be employed.  This includes obtaining consent and makes reasonable suspicion a condition for running the program.

"Internet privacy protection"

This year, Congress voted to eliminate Internet privacy regulations enacted during President Barack Obama's tenure (npr.org; March 29, 2017; date accessed Dec. 11, 2017), allowing ISPs like Spectrum or Time Warner to save your search history without your consent.  Tanvi Misra explains, "That means these private entities have extremely detailed portraits of its customers' lives-their health issues [forbes.com; Feb. 16, 2012; date accessed Dec. 11, 2017], financial situations, and potentially immigration status."  Scary thought.  Greta Byrum from New America told CityLab,

It's as if your most private papers are now just out on the market for anybody to buy or sell.

Advocates say this move has exposed (motherboard.vice.com; April 6, 2017; date accessed Dec. 11, 2017) immigrants and poor people of color to assorted negative outcomes-predatory advertising and political shenanigans, and even a visit from Immigratin Customs Enforcement agents.

Several states (govtech.com; April 10, 2017; date accessed Dec. 11, 2017) introduced legislation dealing with these concerns.  Seattle and New York City are making an effort to educate its vulnerable communities about the risks and "by specifying privacy rules in case where they;re working with private internet service providers in the public realm [Ibid; May 4, 2017]   Steven Renderos of the the Center for Media Justice told CityLab,

The broader point here is that the Trump administration, when it come to immigration enforcement, had been relying upon private companies to build the tools that they need...We need to be careful about what private companies are allowed and not allowed to do.

Digital technology holds the promised of making cities and municipal governments smarter, better, more efficient.  With the advent of this technology comes a whole host of concerns about how information is collected and used. These concerns need to be addressed at the policy level to ensure that vulnerable communities are not disproportionately targeted-"but are instead protected and included in the digital urban realm."  Steve Renderos has the final word,

Technology is very much in the contex of solutions...introduced as this silver bullet,...But without civil rights protection, the bias and racism that exists within the world tend to be baked into the technology that we use."