Police to return property seized from San Francisco reporter

In this May 10, 2019, image from video provided by Bryan Carmody San Francisco police armed with sledgehammers execute a search warrant at journalist Bryan Carmody's home in San Francisco. (AP)
Updated 22 May 2019
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Police to return property seized from San Francisco reporter

  • The editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle has joined with other publications in criticizing city leaders, including Mayor London Breed, for failing to quickly condemn the police actions

SAN FRANCISCO: Police agreed Tuesday to return property seized from a San Francisco journalist in a raid, but the decision did little to ease tensions in the case, which has alarmed journalism advocates and put pressure on city leaders.
Authorities have said the May 10 raids on freelancer Bryan Carmody’s home and office were part of an investigation into what police called the illegal leak of a report on the death of former Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who died unexpectedly in February.
Media organizations across the country criticized the raids as a violation of California’s shield law, which specifically protects journalists from search warrants. The Associated Press is among dozens of news organizations siding with Carmody and seeking to submit a friend-of-the-court brief.
A police attorney said at a hearing that officers would give back Carmody’s property, but the case will soon be back in court. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Samuel Feng did not rule Tuesday on requests by Carmody’s attorney and media organizations to unseal warrant materials and revoke the search warrants, but the judge set deadlines for further filings.
The editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle has joined with other publications in criticizing city leaders, including Mayor London Breed, for failing to quickly condemn the police actions. A Chronicle report published Monday named supervisors who have not returned messages for comment on the raids in which police, armed with a sledgehammer, attempted to enter Carmody’s home and then cuffed him for hours.
Breed initially defended the raids but on Sunday posted messages on Twitter saying she was “not okay” with raids on reporters.
District Attorney George Gascon, whose office would normally be responsible for prosecuting Carmody, condemned the police. He said he has not seen the warrants, which are sealed, but he could not imagine a situation where warrants would be appropriate.
“Seizing the entire haystack to find the needle risks violating the confidences Mr. Carmody owes to all his sources, not just the person who leaked the police report,” he said in a Monday tweet.
The city attorney’s office did not send an attorney to Tuesday’s hearing, and spokesman John Cote said the office is “not appearing in court on that matter.”
The duties of the city attorney’s office include providing legal services to city agencies such as police, but Cote said the office does not represent the police in proceedings related to search warrants, because police have their own in-house counsel for that.
Carmody said on Twitter that he was pleased with the return of his equipment, but that he will have to replace numerous cameras, cellphones and computers for security reasons. A GoFundMe campaign has raised nearly $15,000 for him.
His main goal, he said, is to ensure “that nothing seized can be used against myself, North Bay Television News or our sources.”
In court documents, Carmody has said he is a veteran journalist who is often the first on the scene of breaking news. He provides video news packages to outlets in return for payment.
He said a source gave him a preliminary police report on Adachi’s death that contained unsavory details. Carmody went on to sell copies of the report along with video footage from the scene of the death and information obtained from interviews to three news stations.
The leak infuriated city supervisors. They scolded police for anonymously releasing the report to the press, saying it was an attempt to smear the legacy of Adachi, who was an outspoken critic of police. An autopsy blamed Adachi’s Feb. 22 death on a mixture of cocaine and alcohol that compromised an already bad heart.
People who want to crack down on journalists come in all political stripes, said Jim Wheaton, founder of the First Amendment Project, a public interest law firm.
“They went after him because he’s all by himself,” Wheaton said. “And the fact that he sells the materials that he packages. He puts together a journalism report including documents and sells it. That’s what journalism is.”
It was unclear who is paying Carmody’s legal fees. His attorney, Thomas Burke, declined to comment.
San Francisco police have defended the raids, and police attorney Ronnie Wagner said she intends to respond to the requests made by Burke and others. She declined to answer further questions Tuesday as reporters followed her down a courthouse staircase.
The First Amendment Coalition wants the judge to unseal the police department’s applications for two search warrants, which would show whether officers informed judges that Carmody is a journalist.


Facebook suspends thousands of apps but user impact unclear

Updated 22 September 2019

Facebook suspends thousands of apps but user impact unclear

Facebook said Friday that it has suspended “tens of thousands” of apps made by about 400 developers as part of an investigation following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
The announcement came the same day that unsealed legal documents in Massachusetts disclosed that Facebook had suspended 69,000 apps. In the vast majority of cases, however, the suspensions came not after any kind of serious investigation but because app developers had failed to respond to emailed information requests.
Starting in March 2018, Facebook began looking into the apps that have access to its users’ data. The probe came after revelations that data mining firm Cambridge Analytica used ill-gotten data from millions of Facebook users through an app, then used the data to try to influence US elections.
It led to a massive backlash against Facebook that included CEO Mark Zuckerberg being called to testify before Congress. The company is still trying to repair its reputation.
Facebook said Friday its app investigation is ongoing and it has looked at millions of apps so far.
The company said it has banned a few apps completely and has filed lawsuits against some, including in May against a South Korean data analytics company called Rankwave. In April, it sued LionMobi, based in Hong Kong, and JediMobi, based in Singapore, which the company says made apps that infected users’ phones with malware.
Facebook settled with the Federal Trade Commission for a record $5 billion this summer over privacy violations that stemmed from the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The company said the FTC agreement “will bring its own set of requirements for bringing oversight to app developers. It requires developers to annually certify compliance with our policies” and that developers who don’t do this will be “held accountable.”
Also, on Friday, a judge unsealed a subpoena by the Massachusetts attorney general demanding that the social network disclose the names of apps and developers that obtained data from its users without their consent. It also asked for all Facebook internal communications about those apps.
The state began investigating Facebook when the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke. But the company refused to identify any of the apps or developers, and the subpoena would have remained confidential under Massachusetts law had Facebook not insisted on keeping it and related exhibits secret.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s consumer protection division had sought data on apps from prior to 2014, when Facebook announced changes to the platform to restrict access to user data.
Facebook tried to redact the subpoena in negotiations before Friday’s ruling by state Judge Brian A. Davis. But Healey’s office fought to limit the redacted sections.
Facebook did disclose that it had identified more than 10,000 apps that “show characteristics associated with higher risks of data misuse” but did not identify any of them.
The state attorney general noted that Facebook had allowed developers to integrate at least 9 million apps into the platform as of 2014 and had, for many years, allowed developers to access user data, including photos, work history, birthdates and “likes.” This applied not just from people who installed the apps but also to their Facebook friends who did not.
The unsealed subpoena also says that Facebook informed the Massachusetts attorney general’s office that it had identified about 2 million apps “as warranting a closer examination for potential misuses of Facebook user data.”
That suggests that, five years ago, more than one in four apps may have been accessing Facebook users’ data without their knowledge or consent.