Smart Cities & Big Data: Where’s the Ethical Framework?

Last week, half a world away, Secretary of State John Kerry and Commerce Secretary Pritzker were engaged in high-level dialogue with political leaders in India.  On the agenda: “smart cities.”

All around the world, cities are often on the forefront of cutting edge policy debates.  While in the U.S., the “laboratories of democracy” are thought of traditionally as states, in fact cities often take the lead.  And in few areas will this be more true than in the civic use of “big data.”  [Read more…]

Cheryl quoted in New York Times

nytimes_logo_squareObama’s Net Neutrality Bid Divides Civil Rights Groups

“The civil rights community is like every sector anywhere. While from the outside it seems like a monolith, it is not,” said Cheryl A. Leanza, a policy adviser for the United Church of Christ Office of Communication. Though she was part of the 11-member group that included Mr. Jackson, she asked the chairman to embrace the president’s plan.

Cheryl featured in Time post on prison phones

On the day new, lower prison phone rates went into effect, Time Magazine’s business blog featured Cheryl Leanza’s comments on the importance of the victory.


“This is a huge victory for justice for ordinary people at an agency that is usually more attuned to private interests,” says Cheryl A. Leanza, policy director at the United Church of Christ. “Increasing the connections between families and inmates helps all of us. Strong family connections improve the likelihood that when inmates are released, they will not become repeat offenders, and that makes our society safer. We are very grateful to Commissioner Clyburn.”

The article quoted Cheryl as she described the mechanism which led to such high rates:

Leanza, of the United Church of Christ, said these commissions amount to “legalized kickbacks” where the highest bidder wins, in contrast to traditional competitive bidding where the lowest bidder wins. “This is not the free market at work,” Leanza says.

Asked why it took more than a decade for prison call reform to occur, Leanza pointed out that phone companies are very powerful in Washington, D.C. “It was always very easy for the phone companies to push the issue down the road,” says Leanza. “Prisoners usually don’t have a strong voice on many issues.”

Cheryl named one of the Top 25 Inspirational and Engaged Leaders

Cheryl Looking Capitol

Cheryl Leanza was recently named one of the Top 25 Inspirational and Engaged Leaders as part of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition & Citizenship Education Fund, Public Policy Institute and Media & Telecommunications Project Annual Symposium.  Cheryl was honored on November 14, 2013  in Washington DC.

Helping a civil rights coalition speak out

Cheryl works with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in several capacities.  Through her work and their staff, we have been able to demonstrate sophistication on media policy and communication rights.    In the last month, with Cheryl’s help, the Leadership Conference has been able to:  write an op-ed in the National Journal opposing media consolidation, and write two letters to the Federal Communications Commission drawing a line on the civil rights position and the “self-evidently insufficient” process blocking efforts to increase the numbers of women and people of color who own TV and radio stations.

Open Internet: no longer a solution in search of a problem

Internet ImageOver the weekend, the New York Times published a story noting that the second-largest Internet provider in France, called Free, is blocking advertisements as part of its new default settings.  This means that, unless users change the default, its 5.2 million customers will not see any advertisements when they browse the Internet.  Whoa!  While this is largely viewed as a swipe at Google, the real victim is reported to be small web sites that rely on advertising to finance their content.  As one commenter noted, this type of policy means that “smaller sites with only an online presence may close.”  Organizations, like news sites, which support their businesses with advertising are likely to be pressured into paying the ISP so that users can view advertisements.

In the past, critics of net neutrality or open Internet policies have criticized them as a “solution in search of a problem.”  Although it wasn’t a credible critique before, the new ad blocking policy makes it more clear that the problem is on our doorstep.  [Read more…]