July 6, 2018

Chicago Sun-Times

When your TV starts watching you, it's time to demand greater privacy

In a more innocent time, a 1993 New Yorker cartoon showed one pooch saying to another, "On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog."

Twenty-five years later, the days when people could stick a toe into the online world without compromising their privacy is a distant memory. Websites, e-services and apps have morphed into an interconnected leviathan that collects more private data than any but the most savvy among us suspects.

As the federal government loses interest in our privacy, Illinois legislators should step up to protect us from incessant data mining and reselling.

New assaults on privacy pop up every day. For example, Verizon-owned Oath, the owner of AOL and Yahoo!, is telling users who wade through the legalese that it is giving itself permission to snoop through and store their emails, instant messages, posts, photos and message attachments and share that data, including personal banking information.

If there's a data breach at Oath, hackers could wind up with a gold mine.

Oath also says if you don't like how it uses your data, you can't sue but must instead go to arbitration, where the cards typically are stacked against you.

And now there's yet a new worry.

As reported in the New York Times on Thursday, new companies have sprung up to keep tabs on what people watch on their smart TVs and connected devices, including whether they watch conservative or liberal programming and which political party debates they view. Advertisers then can pay to place ads on those TVs and devices.

One company, Samba, says it has collected viewing records from 13.5 million smart TVs in America.

When people are first setting up their TVs, Samba offers to recommend programs and provide special offers, the Times reported. Only those people who go online or click through to another message screen — if they read more than 10,000 words of privacy policy and terms of service — learn that Samba will track nearly everything on that TV, second by second.

Illinois used to be a leader in protecting citizens from assaults on privacy. Our 1970 Constitution was one of the first to recognize a meaningful right to privacy. But lately, lobbyists have successfully batted away bills drawn up to deal with ever-growing incursions on our privacy.

Even a modest bill to prevent your location — present and past — from being tracked through your phone was vetoed last year by Gov. Bruce Rauner. A different bill that would protect net neutrality in Illinois has failed so far to make it through the Legislature, which instead is considering rolling back important protections against drone surveillance.

Last week, California passed the nation's toughest online privacy law. It requires businesses to be transparent about data collection, and it allows people to prohibit the sale of their personal data. They can even, if they like, demand that it be deleted.

If California can put a premium on protecting personal privacy, we don't see why Illinois can't do the same.


July 5, 2018

(Arlington Heights) Daily Herald

Rudd verdict a testament to police, family search for justice

"Finally the law caught up with him. You can't cheat all your life and think you're going to get away with it."

That's the story of Donnie Rudd, those who have waited decades for justice and the police who didn't give up on a cold case.

Peter Tabak, whose mother was killed in a 1991 unsolved case involving Rudd, said those words in December 2015 when Rudd finally was arrested on charges of the 1973 killing of his wife of less than a month, 19-year-old Noreen Kumeta.

This week Rudd, 76, found out the result -- a conviction in Kumeta's death, a jury believing the prosecution that Rudd, then 31, killed Kumeta for insurance money. Rudd had maintained that she died from injuries suffered in a car crash in Barrington Township.

Lesson learned for those involved? Don't give up if you feel someone has been wronged, no matter how long it takes. Incredibly, it was the case of Loretta Tabak-Bodtke that led to Rudd's conviction in the Kumeta case this week.

Tabak-Bodtke, 59, was found shot to death on the kitchen floor of her Arlington Heights town house in 1991. She had hired Rudd, a lawyer since disbarred, to represent her in a lawsuit against her business partner. She won the case but the funds coming to her were never deposited in her account. Police say she threatened to report Rudd. He remains a suspect in her case.

It was a 2012 review of that case by Arlington Heights police that led to Kumeta's case getting reopened. Her body was exhumed in 2013 and a new autopsy determined she died from blunt force trauma to the head rather than from injuries sustained in a car accident.

"We feel like our sister can finally rest in peace after 45 years," said Donna Haggerton, sister of Kumeta. "She went to the grave with a terrible secret."

Haggerton credits Stephanie Tabak -- who has long suspected Rudd in the death of her mother -- for her work, along with the Arlington Heights police and Cook County prosecutors for leading to the reopening of Kumeta's case. They all should be proud of the work they did.

"I've been hoping and praying for 27 years to see justice in my mother's case. It gives me satisfaction just to know he's going to prison," Tabak said.

We've commented before on cold cases -- families need closure, need justice, need the truth to win out. The police and prosecution need perseverance and the tools of a new age to get better results. We commend them for sticking with this case -- Arlington Heights rightly won an Illinois Homicide Investigators Association's award for Excellence for their work -- and providing justice for a 19-year-old girl who loved and trusted an older man who a jury agreed took advantage of her and callously killed her for insurance money.


July 8,2018

(Decatur) Herald & Review

Tariffs could put end to newspaper

By their very nature, newspapers use newsprint. Despite the strong advances in digital news - i.e., getting your news from a computer or smartphone - the majority of newspapers still deliver their news to your doorstep using newsprint. It's the same for books: we still have libraries and bookstores despite the growing number of people who use electronic tablets.

But newsprint is expensive. The greatest number of complaints received by newspapers is about the cost of getting that newspaper to your door and to your computer every day.

And now a single paper supplier based in Washington state is asking the government to put up to a 50 percent tariff on Canadian newsprint, which is used almost exclusively in the Midwest and Northeast, including The Pantagraph, Decatur Herald & Review and Mattoon-Charleston Journal-Gazette Times-Courier.

Less than 5 percent of Canadian newsprint goes to the Pacific Northwest, where NORPAC (North Pacific Paper Corp.) is based. NORPAC asked for the tariff, saying uncoated groundwood paper is been priced far below its value.

Illinois' congressional delegation sent a letter to the International Trade Commission in opposition to the proposal. "Tariffs will jeopardize the amount of news and local coverage that constituents rely on in both big and small communities," the letter said, noting the demand for North American newsprint has declined 75 percent since 2000.

For you and for us, adding a sizable tariff to newsprint means the likelihood of even more expensive subscriptions to get local news hand-delivered to you every single day of the year. A long list of industry leaders, including the Illinois Press Association, are against the proposal for the same reason.

We don't want to pay more for paper because one company has its corporate nose bent out of joint. And we're 99 percent sure that's not what you want, either. Because along with the threat of increased costs comes the spectre of lost jobs as newspapers and book publishers have to close up shop or further consolidate printing operations.

The proposed tariff is short-sighted and parochial. The increase in costs would cost cumulative losses that translates to fewer people to help advertisers, answer subscriber calls, deliver the paper, create online content, and to serve our role as watchdogs of local government.

The National Newspaper Association says hard copy advertising and readership provides more than 90 percent of the revenue that enables the digital newspaper to exist. In other words, without print, there is no online news from the local newspaper.

Industry group Stop Tariffs on Printers & Publishers, or STOPP, is collecting petition signatures in advance of a hearing before the International Trade Commission.