Commentary

Privacy Lost

Most of my life I have protested against or advocated for one cause or another, from ending apartheid in South Africa to reforming America’s criminal justice system, hardly radical stuff.

In the late sixties, my children attended a Harlem (New York) public elementary school; then one of the lowest ranked in the city.

To address the issue, I joined with several like-minded parents to urge removal of its principal. We argued our position at local school board meetings, raised awareness at PTA meetings, and distributed position papers.

Despite our good intentions, we met strong resistance from some teachers and parents who labeled us “troublemakers.”

Ultimately, we succeeded, and I learned the power of community action, protest, and citizen activism.

Over the years, I have jokingly remarked that I am probably on some government watch list.

I no longer consider this a joke.

Criticism of government, corporations, or institutions is likely to get you “tagged,”  sued, maybe even arrested, for views and opinions expressed in texts, e-mails, v-logs, blogs, chats, or on Facebook and Twitter.

Shared personal data can be accessed by marketers or law enforcement, hopefully for benign purposes.

The American Civil Liberties Union, however, has serious concerns over government collection of personal data:

“Government surveillance of social media can have serious consequences, whether you’re a U.S. citizen, a lawful resident, or are seeking to immigrate to or visit the United States. The FBI appears to be using social media as a basis for deciding who to interview, investigate, or target with informants or undercover agents. A single Facebook post or tweet may be all it takes to place someone on a watch list, with effects that can range from repeated, invasive screening at airports to detention and questioning in the United States or abroad. And non-citizens subject to the Trump administration’s “extreme vetting” policies could be denied entry to the United States or face difficulty becoming lawful residents or naturalized citizens.”

Food for Thought

  • Facebook Gave Device Makers Deep Access to Data on Users and Friends(New York Times, 6/3/18“Facebook has reached data-sharing partnerships with at least 60 device makers — including Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung — over the last decade, starting before Facebook apps were widely available on smartphones, company officials said…You might think that Facebook or the device manufacturer is trustworthy,” said Serge Egelman, a privacy researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies the security of mobile apps. “But the problem is that as more and more data is collected on the device — and if it can be accessed by apps on the device — it creates serious privacy and security risks.”
  • The NSA Managed to Collect 500 Million U.S. Call Records in 2017” (Gizmodo.com, 5/4/18)  “In the first full year of the Trump administration, the National Security Agency really went all out in efforts to surveil Americans. According to a new report released Friday, the agency sucked up more than 534 million US phone records in 2017, three times the amount it collected in 2016…While it might not seem like much, metadata can be quite revealing. The information itself is supposedly anonymous, but it can easily be used to identify an individual. The information can also be paired with other publicly available information from social media and other sources to paint a surprisingly detailed picture of a person’s life.
  • “You Don’t Have To Be a Star To Be Sued Like One (hubinternational.com, 5/3/17) As is the case with a popular things, with the increased reach of professional blogging comes a greater incidence of lawsuits and claims. The Media Law Resource Center estimated that there were $17.4 million in court judgments made against bloggers by the end of 2014…The biggest risks that bloggers with large followings face are, according to Bankrate, claims of libel, defamation of character, copyright infringement, and invasion of privacy. Depending on the blog in question, harassment and trademark infringement could also pose a risk, as well as charges of bodily injury resulting from products recommended in professional blogs. However, the biggest danger to bloggers comes from the fact that blogging cases don’t have the same legal precedent that more traditional media might have; in fact, courts have been very inconsistent about cases and the application of the First Amendment to blogging cases.”

Now, I don’t believe that my blog, Facebook, or Twitter posts are so cogent, provocative, or widespread that I pose a security threat.

Nonetheless, I do recognize that my political views, personal data, or postings could someday land me in trouble, or worse, in handcuffs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Don’t miss: “stand your ground” rally and Trayvon Martin documentary

“Stand your ground” rally and protest on Sunday

Once again Rev. Al Sharpton is the most outspoken national black leader in a  high-profile case.

This Sunday, his organization, the National Action Network, will lead a protest and rally in Clearwater, Florida, where last month 47-year old Michael Drejka shot and killed 29-year old Markeis McGlockton claiming self-defense under the state’s “stand your ground” law.

Furious that McGlockton’s girlfriend had parked in a handicapped spot, Drejka approached the car.

In a video of the incident, McGlockton angrily pushes Drejka to the ground. Drejka immediately pulls out a handgun and shoots McGlockton, who later dies of his wounds. His three young children witnessed the shooting.

Pinnelis County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri refused to arrest Drejka. In a Tampa Bay Times article, he says, “The law gives immunity to those in fear of their lives who use force to defend themselves.” He’s been widely criticized for his decision.

Yesterday, the case was turned over to the Florida’s State Attorney’s Office.

Don’t miss Part 2 of Trayvon Martin documentary 

I read Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin by his parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, so I knew much of what is shown in Part 1 of Jay-Z’s six-part documentary, Rest in Power, the Trayvon Martin Story. 

Nevertheless, the documentary captures Fulton’s and Martin’s raw emotions, anger, and frustration in a way that words on paper do not. These parents had to endure not only the death of their 17-year old son, but the fact that shooter George Zimmerman seemed remorseless and was not charged with shooting the unarmed teenager.

Zimmerman pled self-defense and was acquitted.

In upcoming segments, the series will examine the media coverage of the killing and the implications of “stand your ground” laws.

 

 

Commentary

Why do mothers support incarcerated sons?

Years ago, when my 20-year old son was locked up at New York’s infamous Rikers Island, I would visit regularly despite the long commute from Brooklyn to Queens, two or three hour waits in the crowded, noisy reception area, and short, but bumpy, rides on dilapidated buses to various “houses” on the island; most times, I had just completed an 8-hour workday.

My landlord at the time–an obnoxious, nosy man–once questioned why I bothered to visit my son. “If he did the crime, I’d let him do the time.”

At the time, his words irritated me; however, in retrospect, I think his comment reflected the opinion of the public, and even, some family and friends.

Nonetheless, I had promised myself, I would not–could not–abandon my son to the custody and control of the city’s notorious jail system.

Like my former landlord, others might wonder mothers continue to support sons involved in the criminal justice system, often in the face of societal disapproval.

The answers are as varied as the mothers themselves.

One mother might have a son with a mental illness–often a factor in the commission of a crime–who worries about how he will fare in jail or prison if appropriate treatment/medication is not available.

Another mother might have a juvenile son tried as an as an adult and sentenced to time in a dangerous adult correctional facility, probably hours away from her community.

A mother could have a son who did not commit the criminal act for which he was arrested but was at the scene. She wonders why he received the same 10-year sentence as the perpetrators.

Our rationale for standing by them is simple. Our sons need advocates.

In spite of their wrong choices or bad acts, we nurture the hope that our sons’ lives can be salvaged.

For much of the public, the term, “inmate,” evokes images of violent, (mostly) black young men with gang affiliations, drug histories, broken families, or low morals.

Hence, many politicians see no need for sentencing or bail reform, increased drug rehabilitation funding, in-prison job training or educational programs. No need for comprehensive post-release assistance or services.

As mothers of incarcerated sons, we do not see our sons as state-issued ID “numbers,” but as “Junior” or “Davey,” or “Little Man.”

We remember our sons’ 6th Grade Math Award or love for animals or dream of playing for the NBA.

We are not apologists for them, but know that when wives, girlfriends, buddies, or relatives, stop visiting or communicating, we are left to bolster fragile egos.

Criminal justice research shows that when inmates lack contact with family, they are more likely to create discipline problems for prison administrators or suffer depression.

Often I was afraid to upset my son by denying him some request or by not providing everything he wanted; I had not learned that I could not save him from the hardships of prison by acceding to all his demands.

The most I could do was reassure him that he was loved and that better days were possible.

Unfortunately, in 1999, my son died prematurely in prison, so I can only imagine what his future might have held.

I take comfort in the knowledge that he knew that I was always there for him.

Having a son in prison can be all-consuming emotionally, psychologically, even physically, yet mothers muster the strength to carry on.

That’s just what we do.