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California utility targeted Asians in pot searches

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Exceptional use of electricity has long been a clear sign of illegal homes producing thousands of marijuana plants hidden in seemingly ordinary homes, but a lawsuit brought by a data privacy watchdog says a facility in Northern California went further by routinely racially profiling Asian communities. . Feeding customer authority information to the police without the need for a court order or any suspicion of wrongdoing, in violation of state laws, intentionally disclosed data targeting Asian Americans, resulting in disproportionate penalties against those of Asian descent, according to the lawsuit. A bright spot in law enforcement efforts to combat illicit drugs, in 2018, federal and state law enforcement agents seized nearly 100 homes in Northern California that they allegedly purchased with money bound in the United States, one of many such actions by a China-based criminal organization. against the alleged perpetrators of Asian descent. Earlier this year, Asian Americans filed at least two court cases against the mayor of Siskiyou County alleging racial bias particularly against the Hmong community in his administration’s efforts to combat widespread illegal marijuana cultivation. White-dominated neighborhood, the lawsuit says. The police analyst removed non-Asian names from the list provided by the utility, and redirected only names that appeared Asian for further investigation, the lawsuit alleges. Within a month, the lawsuit alleges. For example, while the average household may use less than 1,500 kWh of electricity per month, the lawsuit says utilities will disclose homes using more than 3,000 kWh. The lawsuit says. It says the tool “freely discloses” clients’ Social Security, driver’s license and phone numbers. MUD and Sacramento police said they could not comment on the pending lawsuits, but SMUD spokeswoman Lindsay VanLaningham denied any wrongdoing. “We agree that our customer usage data said Thursday, but she said state law allows and sometimes requires that information be shared with law enforcement agencies. We look forward to being available for questions once the legal process is through,” Zack said in an email. Eaton said the lawsuit was filed Wednesday by the Electronic Frontier Oversight Foundation on behalf of the nonprofit Asian American Liberation Network and SMUD client Khurshid Khoja, who is described as an Asian American citizen of Sacramento, a cannabis industry attorney and cannabis rights advocate Megan Sabigao, the network’s co-executive director, said Megan Sabigao, the network’s co-executive director. “The mass surveillance program is illegal, develops harmful stereotypes, and significantly impacts Asian communities.” It said in a statement, “It is unacceptable for two public agencies to make a mockery of state law and the privacy rights of utility customers, and it is even unacceptable to target a particular community of while doing so.” is aware of any other California public utilities sharing data in the same manner as SMUD. Private utilities such as Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric from disclosing customer facility data to law enforcement without a court order under state law and California Public Utilities Commission rules, and public utilities such as SMUD are not regulated by the commission, but state law prevents them from “disclosing neighborhood data,” he said. to full law enforcement authorities in the absence of a court order or an ongoing investigation.” MUD is the sixth-largest community-owned electrical service provider in the country, serving more than 600,000 customers, the lawsuit says Southern California Edison policy generally requires a court order or subpoena to share information with law enforcement. The other two major private spenders did not immediately respond to inquiries from the Associated Press about whether they had similar information-sharing programs, and the California Public Utilities Commission did not comment. The growth of legal and licensed recreational marijuana production approved by California voters in 2016, the disposal of illegal cannabis plantations into ordinary-looking homes has become mainstream nearly two decades ago as authorities blocked off plots of land outside they could spot from helicopters and other surveillance flights. . They discovered illegal grow houses due to their unusual use of electricity to power high-intensity lights, ventilation fans and other devices to grow thousands of marijuana plants, often enabling numerous crops each year. Electrical Connections Officials estimated in 2017 that there could be as many as 1,000 illegal homes in the California state capital. The foundation said the campaign has been “very profitable” for Sacramento, since a city ordinance in 2017 allowed police to impose heavy penalties on owners of properties where marijuana was found. The city issued nearly $100 million in fines in just two years, the foundation said, about 86% of them on people of Asian descent, and the privacy breach is more severe with the proliferation of “smart” meters that send energy usage information to utilities multiple times a day. . The information, collected at intervals of 15 minutes or less, could provide a “detailed picture of what is happening inside the home,” the foundation said. “It can provide inferences about special day-to-day actions such as which devices are used, when they are in use, and how this changes over time.”

The extraordinary use of electricity has long been a clear sign of illegal homes producing thousands of marijuana plants hidden in seemingly ordinary homes.

But a lawsuit brought by the data privacy watchdog says a facility in Northern California has gone too far by racial profiling of Asian communities because it routinely feeds power-use information to clients to the police without requesting a warrant or any suspicion of wrongdoing, in violation of state laws.

The lawsuit says the disclosure of the data intentionally targeted Asian Americans, resulting in disproportionate penalties against those of Asian descent.

The lawsuit illustrates a flashpoint in law enforcement efforts to combat illegal drugs.

In 2018, state and federal law enforcement agents seized about 100 homes in Northern California that they claimed had been purchased with wire money into the United States by Chinese crime one organization of Many of these procedures against the alleged perpetrators of Asian descent.

Earlier this year, Asian Americans filed at least two lawsuits against the mayor of Siskiyou County alleging racial bias against the Hmong community in his department’s efforts to combat widespread illegal marijuana cultivation.

The suit says Sacramento County Municipal Utility scoured entire zip codes worth of energy use information for the Sacramento Police Department, but left homes in a predominantly white neighborhood. The suit alleged that a police analyst removed non-Asian names from a list provided by the tool, and only sent names that appeared Asian for further investigation.

The lawsuit alleges that the tool will hand over a list of customers who used more than a certain amount of energy in a month. For example, while the average household may use less than 1,500 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month, the lawsuit says utilities will disclose homes using more than 3,000 kilowatt-hours.

The lawsuit says the mass disclosure “turns his entire client base into potential clients for the police to chase.” It says the tool “freely discloses” clients’ Social Security, driver’s license and phone numbers.

SMUD Police and Sacramento said they could not comment on the pending litigation, but SMUD spokeswoman Lindsay VanLaningham denied any wrongdoing.

“We agree that our customer usage data should be treated with care,” she said Thursday, but she said state law allows and sometimes requires that information be shared with law enforcement agencies.

“We share information related to certain properties to stop what we have identified and believe is theft of authority and when required as requested by local law enforcement to assist them in their investigations,” she said in an email.

“We look forward to being available for questions as soon as the legal process is over,” Sacramento Police Sgt. Zack Eaton said.

the suit It was presented Wednesday by the Electronic Frontier Foundation for Oversight on behalf of the non-profit Asian American Editorial Network and SMUD client Khurshid Khoja, who is described as an Asian-American Sacramento, cannabis industry advocate and cannabis rights advocate.

Megan Sabigao, co-executive director of the network, said, “The mass surveillance program is illegal, develops harmful stereotypes, and has a significant impact on Asian communities.

“It is unacceptable for two public agencies to carelessly mock state law and the privacy rights of utility customers, and it is even unacceptable to target a specific community by doing so,” she said in a statement.

EFF’s chief employee attorney, Aaron Mackie, said the foundation is not aware of any other public facilities in California that share data in the same way as SMUD.

He said private utilities such as Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric are prohibited from disclosing customer facility data to law enforcement without a court order under state law and California Public Utilities Commission rules.

Mackey said public utilities like SMUD are not regulated by the commission, but state law prevents it from “disclosing the value of entire neighborhood data to law enforcement in the absence of a court order or an ongoing investigation.”

SMUD is the sixth largest community-owned electrical service provider in the country, serving more than 600,000 customers, the lawsuit says.

Southern California Edison policy generally requires a court order or subpoena to share information with law enforcement. The other two major private spenders did not immediately respond to inquiries from the Associated Press about whether they had similar information-sharing programs, and the California Public Utilities Commission did not comment.

The lawsuit comes as officials struggle to curb illegal cannabis cultivation stunted growth Produced by legal and licensed recreational marijuana and approved by California voters in 2016.

Disguising illegal cannabis plantations in plain-looking homes became prevalent nearly two decades ago as authorities disrupted outdoor plots they could spot from helicopters and other surveillance flights.

Illegal grow houses have often been discovered by law enforcement because of their unusual use of electricity to power high-intensity lights, ventilation fans and other devices to grow thousands of marijuana plants, often enabling numerous crops each year.

Sometimes, the information came when homes caught fire due to illegal electrical connections.

Sacramento officials estimated in 2017 that there could be as many as 1,000 illegal homes in the California state capital.

The foundation said the crackdown has been “very profitable” for Sacramento, since a city ordinance in 2017 allowed police to impose heavy penalties on landlords where marijuana was found.

The foundation said the city issued nearly $100 million in fines in just two years, about 86% of which were on people of Asian descent.

The breach of privacy is even more severe with the proliferation of “smart” meters that send energy usage information to the gadget multiple times a day. The information, collected at intervals of 15 minutes or less, could provide a “detailed picture of what is happening inside the home,” the foundation said. “It can provide inferences about special day-to-day actions such as which devices are used, when they are in use, and how this changes over time.”

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