Center for Digital Democracy
Protecting Privacy for California Consumers in the Data-driven Streaming Video Marketplace
This project focuses on the impacts related to Californians’ increasing use of ad-supported streaming video networks (often called “over-the-top” or “OTT”). These networks allow access to free or affordable programming, but in exchange, consumers are subject to a powerful new data collection and digital marketing apparatus. The networks use AI, machine learning, and other advanced technologies to monitor what people watch and subject them to discriminatory and manipulative techniques. This grant will be used to educate California consumers and other stakeholders about their rights and responsibilities as viewers of ad-supported streaming channels, ensure greater transparency and accountability by California-based OTT companies, and maximize industry compliance with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the forthcoming Consumer Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), as well as other privacy laws.
California Privacy Education and Advocacy Project
This project will educate Californians about numerous privacy concerns, including their rights under the California Consumer Privacy Act (and the new California Privacy Rights Act which takes effect in 2023) and surveillance and common data practices such as the use of artificial intelligence. It will also encourage people to exercise their rights and inform residents how to take action if their rights are violated. Consumer Action’s partner and sub-grantee, the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), will complete surveys to identify what impediments inhibit Californians from exercising their privacy rights and determine survey-takers views about how to limit what companies do with their data. This information will inform education efforts to further strengthen Californians’ privacy protections. The project will also encompass education for community-based organizations and individual consumers via multilingual media interviews, multilingual fact sheets, multilingual consumer education videos, training and program evaluation, and survey results and fact sheets will be shared by CFA with members of the California advocacy coalition.
Securing Privacy In Connected Cars
Most top 2021 car models sold in America have internet connections to safety-critical systems that track the movements of the cars, and the auto and insurance industries are poised to make huge profits for surveilling consumers’ movements. This grant will enable Consumer Watchdog to work with industry technologists and expose the dangers of automobile surveillance through research, published reports, and a high-profile media campaign. Under a new law enacted through Prop 24, companies cannot collect data about precise geolocation against consumer objections. The grantee will petition and lobby the newly formed California Privacy Commission for a rule prohibiting the collection and use of driver’s precise geolocation data for those who opt-out as well as advocating for a simple universal mechanism to facilitate that opt-out. The project will also work to stop the use of “telematic” tracking by California auto insurance companies that seek to use it.
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Tracking and Combating Location Data Brokers
This project focuses on location data brokers—companies that collect, aggregate, process, and sell personal geolocation data to advertisers and governments—which exemplify the harms associated with the private surveillance industry. The grantee will conduct a deep-dive investigation into the flow of personal data from electronic devices to data brokers, and ultimately to advertisers and the government. Their findings will be used to educate the public on these harmful and invasive practices, frame this issue for the press, and spur awareness among regulators. EFF hopes to use the data to catalyze a movement against location data collection and help end this invasive form of surveillance. The project will include an in-depth literature review, an experiment involving mobile phones, and public records requests to a wide range of agencies to determine how location data is being deployed against consumers as well as how that data can end up in government databases.
Erotic Service Provider Legal, Educational and Research Project
Investigating and Regulating Consumer Surveillance, Tracking, and Monitoring in California
Sex workers’ privacy is violated in many arenas, from law enforcement activity to the practices of traditional and social media companies. ESPLER will investigate arrests of 100 people associated with the sex trade to 1) identify patterns of monitoring, data collection, and surveillance and 2) pursue corroboration of these claims, under FOIA, about the technologies and platforms used by agencies making arrests. ESPLER will then use the data collected to advance policies regulating the use of technology by law enforcement and corporations to surveil, track, and monitor consumers, and will educate the general public and erotic service community through media outreach.
Fight for the Future Education Fund
Building California Grassroots Capacity to fight Surveillance
This project seeks to help California grassroots groups amplify their impact and digital capacity as they mount their own anti-surveillance campaigns. Given California’s size, its role as a tech hub, and its concentration of immigrant communities and other marginalized groups, the state stands at the forefront for setting the national tone on surveillance policy. The goal of this project is to make grassroots groups more effective advocates, which helps all Californians and moves the goalposts for what is possible for throughout the United States. This grantee will work with several grassroots groups to develop strategies to implement actions, target specific audiences, and employ compelling messaging. The funding will be used to guide grassroots groups in using the Internet and efficient tech-based tools to increase consumer participation and gain attention for their advocacy; help them produce educational resources like videos, infographics, and viral content; and facilitate building connections with other state and national groups doing similar work.
International Digital Accountability Council
A Privacy Investigation into Health/Wellness Apps
New California regulations require healthcare entities to provide patients with direct electronic access to their health records and allow transfer into the apps of their choosing, where health privacy rules are unlikely to apply. This grant will fund a technical and policy investigation into the privacy practices of 125 health and wellness apps to provide a large-scale data set on the sector’s sensitive personal health information. The grantee will present the results of its investigation in the rulemaking for the California Privacy Rights Act to inform the development of regulations for entities that collect sensitive personal information. A report presenting the results and recommendations from the investigation will be used to advocate for increased protections for sensitive health information in federal privacy legislation. The report will be shared directly with the Federal Trade Commission, state Attorneys General, consumer privacy and healthcare organizations, organizations focused on app developer education, and other key stakeholder groups.
International Rescue Committee Turlock
Privacy Protection Rights for Refugees
This project will provide a blended model of education, support, and advocacy for refugees who have been or are at risk to become victims of fraud. Staff will devise a linguistically and culturally responsive curriculum adapted from existing trusted sources of consumer privacy education, and will implement trainings to the local constituency with the goal of informing clients of their rights under California law, with a focus on safeguarding personal data. IRC will further use the funding to develop printed and digital reference materials in relevant client languages. One-on-one assistance will be provided to clients in Turlock whose privacy rights have been violated. Clients will be referred from IRC’s resettlement, immigration, employment, and anti-trafficking programs.
Fiscal Sponsor: Omni Commons
Building Regional Privacy Rights Infrastructure – Privacy Rights Fellowships
This project will draw upon ongoing work with grassroots privacy rights activists and the grantee’s expertise gained from participating in numerous privacy coalition campaigns in the Bay Area. The funding will be used to develop additional infrastructure to support this ongoing work and allow the grantee to advocate on three primary issues: (1) global privacy controls i.e., the universal opt-out, (2) public records transparency, and (3) “agenda-watching” which is an alert and notification service for upcoming privacy-related agenda items to enable proactive and timely interventions. The funding will support two compensated Privacy Rights Fellows to build out capacity on these important fronts.
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
This grant will be used by PRC to advance and defend privacy protections for all Californians and support a year of program advocacy work. For years, PRC has worked on making privacy rights and the policy discussion surrounding them more accessible and coordinated with California privacy advocates to promote more efficient, effective, and inclusive advocacy. In the upcoming grant period, PRC intends to focus on advancing policies that reduce unnecessary personal data collection and provide meaningful choices and enforceable protections. The specific focus areas will be on: (1) health data that is not protected under the law (especially considering the pandemic and emerging technology); (2) data collection and use that disparately impacts historically marginalized populations (including public/private partnerships perpetuating surveillance, facial recognition, algorithmic decision making, student monitoring); and (3) improving and defending the new California Privacy Rights Act.
Stop LAPD Spying Coalition
Fiscal Sponsor: Los Angeles Community Action Network
Dismantling Police Surveillance and Defending Privacy
This grant will be used to expand the grantee’s community organizing work and build on the foundation they have developed over the past decade through volunteer assistance. While their work will continue to be community-driven, the funding will allow the hiring of organizers to better facilitate the advocacy and broaden the work to cover aspects of data-gathering and state surveillance. This expanded capacity will enable the grantee to achieve the goals of: advancing existing organizing campaigns and helping build new campaigns; facilitating community-based research, collective study, and community analysis, including focus groups on surveillance programs and privacy; building grassroots leadership among community members who are directly impacted by and targeted for policing and surveillance; expanding coalition-building and community outreach to grow their base, accountability, and mobilizations; and developing more community education and self-advocacy materials and programs.
Surveillance Technology Oversight Project
S.T.O.P. California Class Action Practice
This project will expand the grantee’s California class action practice and allow them to pursue cases against commercial vendors who fuel mass surveillance. While the use of invasive and discriminatory surveillance systems by law enforcement may evade Fourth Amendment scrutiny, the private vendors that enable this misconduct will be targeted in this ongoing campaign. By harnessing the unique power of California class action litigation, S.T.O.P. hopes to not only provide compensation for California consumers, but the group aims to dismantle the private-sector surveillance apparatus currently harnessed by police departments around the country. Building on momentum from their class action on behalf of Californians against Thomson Reuters, S.T.O.P. will use this grant to bring similar claims against additional data brokers who are selling Californians’ data to law enforcement and immigration officials.
UC Berkeley Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity
Generating Participatory Understandings of Privacy for Always-On Surveillance Devices
This project will improve understanding of privacy harms posed by always-on surveillance devices and the limits of current privacy laws. Although current laws may protect the data privacy rights of individual consumers, they do not protect people from risks caused by privately-owned always-on surveillance devices (such as smart cameras) that collect data from many people at once. For instance, there is no opt-out mechanism for someone subject to video surveillance from a neighbor’s smart camera. Through participatory workshops with diverse local community members in Alameda County, the grantee will survey local communities about their concerns relating to always-on surveillance devices and educate them about important privacy risks. The grant will be used to create materials that help convey community members’ perspectives and experiences in ways they find useful, such as participant stories, drawings, and first-hand accounts. These stories and findings will be disseminated to technologists, policymakers, researchers, and the broader public at the end of the project.
University of Southern California Information Sciences Institute
Auditing for Discrimination in On-Line Advertisements
The goal of this project is to define methods to support privacy-sensitive, third-party auditing of on-line ad platforms for fairness. This grantee has identified ways that job advertisement delivery by some ad platforms such as Facebook result in discrimination, and the funding will enable proving this discrimination with greater statistical rigor. The project will use external datasets in carefully controlled experiments to quantify discrimination in employment notices based on protected categories such as race. Looking towards the future, evaluating these factors “at scale” (with multiple job categories and on a regular basis) to mitigate discriminatory practices requires support from the ad platform. In response to the findings, the grantee proposes to define how a platform would support external auditing, and to evaluate its effectiveness, either at full scale, with support of an ad platform; or to evaluate an approximation of their auditing API at smaller scale without platform support.
The Utility Reform Network
Smart Grid Privacy
This grant will be used to fund a policy advocacy campaign to ensure utility companies and public officials implement new policies that will minimize the release of data from thousands of private resident smart meters. TURN discovered that the private energy usage data of thousands of California residents is being released to law enforcement agencies, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), due to loopholes in the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) customer privacy rules. With this grant, TURN proposes to monitor the implementation of new rules that close the loophole that allowed ICE to issue internal administrative subpoenas and access utility customer smart meter data for surveillance purposes.
World Privacy Forum
Index of Vaccine Credentialing Systems: Privacy Impacts and Pathways Forward
This project is focused on documenting, analyzing, and impacting the serious proposals for “vaccine credentialing systems,” or “vaccine passports.” These systems pose significant privacy risks for Californians and stand to have profound, systemic impacts in the future. Thus far, there are at least 35 systems being developed by public and private organizations, and the public has not had enough of a voice in how these systems will look and operate. This grant will be used to advocate for change quickly, before the systems are deeply entrenched in business and government procedures. In addition to satisfying travel requirements, there is the concern that vaccine passport systems will also be utilized in other contexts, such as employment and education. This project will bring transparency to these activities and identify the numerous systems being considered or implemented in various contexts by state, federal, and international entities.