Fast-Track Deportation, Tijuana River Pollution, Lead Paint Settlement
KPBS Midday Edition / July 23, 2019
The Trump administration is expanding its fast-track deportation authority across the U.S. Also, San Diego congressional reps have introduced a package of bills aimed at combating pollution in the Tijuana River Valley. Oceanside residents are lobbying for a new strategy to save disappearing beaches, the city of San Diego has been awarded a $15 million in a lead paint settlement, and Democrats are issuing warning against a viral Russia-based face-morphing app.
Speaker 1: 00:00 Last week, the Trump administration announced a new rule that would bar most asylum seekers arriving at the u s border from being able to declare asylum. And today another unexpected rule goes into effect. KPBS reporter Max Rivlin Adler says it expands a policy known as expedited removal nationwide. He joins me now with more Max. Welcome. Hi Max. What does the new rule say?
Speaker 2: 00:25 The new role says that expedited removal, which previously had only been narrowly applied for individuals, a apprehended along the border who had only been in the United States for less than 14 days, is now going to be, um, expanded to be nationwide. So anywhere that you are, uh, taken into custody by immigrations and Customs Enforcement Officer and ice officer or a customs and border protections officer, border patrol officer, uh, you can be subject to expedited removal. And uh, that would be the 14 days would now be extended to less than two years. So if you have been in the country for less than two years, you are now subject to this new process. How else does this change the existing policy? So currently when an immigrant or somebody who is in the country without authorization is picked up by these agencies, they go through a process that similar in many ways to our court system where you go to a judge, you file motions, you talk with your lawyer, and this an expedited removal.
Speaker 2: 01:26 Very little of that happens. First off, you definitely don't have to see a lawyer before a year removed from the country. You have a right to see one, but you don't get provided with one. You could be removed without ever getting to plead your case in front of a judge. And really the only defense that you have from being removed is to claim a credible fear of returning back to your home country or to prove somehow that you've been in this country for longer than two years, which is really difficult for people dealing with language barriers. Also people who don't have status. And on top of that, even sometimes you know people here illegally and the u s citizens, it's not something you necessarily walk around with.
Speaker 1: 02:04 How are immigrants and asylum seekers reacting to this news
Speaker 2: 02:09 taken with last week's asylum row, which you mentioned up top. Basically this is a kind of a one two punch to try to instill fear in immigrant communities. I spoke with an immigration attorney, Andrew Nature, who's based in San Diego yesterday. And here's what he had to say about the impact this will have on the relationship between immigration and law enforcement.
Speaker 3: 02:29 I think one of the, the harshest consequences and the serious consequences is really the amount of fear and distrust it's placing between the immigrant community, both documented and undocumented and law enforcement generally. And we have seen an increase in the number of victims, um, of immigration scams of trafficking and of other non immigration crimes where noncitizens are now afraid to even go to law enforcement to report being victims because they're afraid by reporting
Speaker 1: 03:00 and coming forward, they themselves may face consequences. There's also concern being raised about whether this new policy could lead to racial profiling and to the deportations of US citizens. And that's actually already happened. Right?
Speaker 2: 03:14 Right. So just today was reported that a Dallas born citizen was picked up by border patrol three weeks ago and has been detained ever since. His mother in fact even went down to the border patrol and said, here's his birth certificate. I birthed him in the u s this is his name, this is where he was born and he's still in detention and what this shows is basically kind of how little oversight there is for when people are arrested and you know what recourse they have. He wasn't allowed to make phone calls during those three weeks when he was in custody. So if you were to expand expedited removal nationwide as is the case today, you will have instances where people are being picked up, who do have legal status, who are unable to prove at the time of arrest to asylum to ice agents, that they are indeed here longer than two years or are here legally or in fact were even born in the u s or naturalized citizens. This isn't hypothetical, this has happened in the past. It's happened even before this Dallas born citizen. It's something that is allowed to happen because there's very little oversight once people are put in these proceedings as he's still in custody, he's still in custody.
Speaker 1: 04:25 Hmm. And as you mentioned, this policy removes due process rights for immigrants who have been in the country for less than two years. What have the court said about who has the right to due process?
Speaker 2: 04:36 Many of the rulings regarding immigrants conflict with one another. These are from whether they have the right to a bail hearing, what counts as access to legal counsel, how much they're able to appeal their removals and things of that nature. When it comes to expedited removal, it's been challenged in courts before. I'm sure that um, because it was only so narrowly applied, those rulings might not have standing when it comes to this nationwide expansion of expedited removal. But the courts have not been very clear at all what counts as due process for immigrants.
Speaker 1: 05:11 The ACLU has said it intends to sue the administration over this policy. What do we know at this point about the ACL use position?
Speaker 2: 05:18 The ACLA his position is that the expansion of expedited removal nationwide is illegal. And this has been their argument for many cases involving the Trump administration, where basically if you cut down on people's due process rights, which are enshrined to citizen and non-citizen alike, you're flagrantly violating the constitution. Courts have been extremely sympathetic to that point of view, and they feel as if they're going to be able to strike this new rule down. That being said, I did speak with some immigration advocates and lawyers who have said, you know, there's probably should have been a lot more interest and lawsuits paid to the practice as it was narrowly applied, so it wouldn't be able to be, um, expanded. As such.
Speaker 1: 06:01 I've been speaking to KPBS reporter, Max Rivlin Nadler Max. Thank you. Thank you.
Speaker 4: 06:08 [inaudible].
Speaker 1: 00:00 Congressional lawmakers unveiled what they're calling a comprehensive package to help clean up sewage and that you want a river congressman Juan Vargas, Mike Levin and Scott Peters joined by Congresswoman Susan Davis announced the proposals in San Diego. Monday, the additional funds would boost money's allocated for Tijuana river clean up by as much as a billion dollars. The proposals by San Diego's congressional Democrats come at a time when city and state lawsuits have been filed against the government to demand river cleanup. Joining me is KPBS environment reporter Eric Anderson. Eric, welcome. My pleasure. There are several proposals wrapped up in the announcement yesterday, so let's begin with the one from Congressman Vargas and Peters.
Speaker 2: 00:45 Yeah, this is kind of the, where's the money bill? Sort of a piece of the puzzle. One of the big complaints about this cross border sewage situation is that there's not any federal dollars available to work on solutions that might go a long way toward fixing the problem. So, uh, Juan Vargas and Scott Peters have come up with this idea that they're going to funnel money to the North American Development Bank. That's a federal agency that works with Mexico on both sides of the border. Uh, it can fund, uh, projects, uh, that are on the u s side. It can fund projects that are on the Mexican side, uh, projects that are specifically designed to address this wastewater issue. Uh, there are also as part of their legislation directing nad bank to prioritize projects that involve wastewater treatment or water conservation or water pollution and the urging nab bank to, to streamline and accelerate those kinds of projects. The idea is to make a pool of money about one point $5 billion available to people on both sides of the border, uh, to address this problem so they can get some of these, uh, things in the ground and going. And that was a really kind of a welcome news for Imperial Beach Mayor Surge to Tina, whom I talk to a just after the announcement,
Speaker 3: 01:59 superstar and grateful that I, Congressional delegation, uh, Juan Vargas, Scott Peter, Susan Davidson, Mike Lebanon are working together to get like a surgical bill package that really this kind of pollution solution that really targets certain federal agencies like the North American Development Bank and the EPA that get the money invested to fix the problem on both sides of the border. And so I'm getting money in into the non North American Development Bank and the U S EPA, they're the ones that have been helping us all along and try to get that money spent on fixing the things that are causing our beach closures.
Speaker 1: 02:31 And Mayor Dudina mentions the EPA that's congressman eleven's build. It would increase funding from the EPA. That's
Speaker 2: 02:37 correct. What he's asking for in his border water infrastructure improvement act is basically funneling money, $150 million a year for the next five years to the EPA, which you know, is in the process right now of kind of deciding what projects can be done on this side of the border that would help this situation. So he would basically through this legislation, uh, create a funding source that allows the EPA to do some of that work.
Speaker 1: 03:02 I'm congresswoman Susan Davis wants the Navy to get involved.
Speaker 2: 03:05 Sure. There is this a national defense component of this situation. It impedes having these polluted waters impedes the ability of the navy to train in the water and they just spent a couple of billion dollars upgrading the navy seal training center on Coronado and they require ocean water for seals to train there. And this, this is what she had to say about that.
Speaker 4: 03:26 It's an important part of readiness. If you can't train, if people aren't prepared, they're not going to do, be able to do the job they're being asked to do and there their health and frankly their life is at risk. And so we need to be sure that they're engaged and involved. I think they acknowledge that. Um, but we think that they could be more a part of this, this solution.
Speaker 1: 03:51 Okay. So these proposals call for either more money or a higher priority for Tijuana River valley cleanup, but how would they do it? I mean, do the proposals contain any ideas about how the sewage would actually be cleaned?
Speaker 2: 04:04 Well, no, they don't, but they do provide the mechanism for solutions to get done. As I said, a just a short while ago, uh, the environmental protection agency is in the process of delivering a list of specific projects that would have specific impacts, whether that might be making the collectors that are in the canyons on this side of the border capable of handling more overflow, whether it might be creating a dam, uh, in the Tijuana River valley that could carry or hold some of that water until it can be treated by the wastewater treatment plant. Um, and then sent out, uh, to the ocean as treated water instead of letting it run through the estuary and out to the sea as sewage treated water. So, uh, the, the specific projects will likely come from the environmental protection agency. But concurrent to that, this basically would identify ways that those projects, uh, could be realized by creating the funding mechanisms.
Speaker 1: 05:00 Well, as I mentioned, these congressional bills are introduced while the government is being sued over the river pollution issue. Can you remind us about the,
Speaker 2: 05:08 sure. There are three lawsuits out there right now. The city of Chula Vista National City, Imperial Beach, uh, the port of San Diego. Those municipalities have, has sued, uh, the federal government to do a better job of controlling the pollution. The regional water quality control board and the state of California have also sued and a separate lawsuit that's similar, but they're asking for better control of the flow that comes across the border. And, uh, the Surfrider foundation file that, that third lawsuit, uh, now, from what I understand, that's moving through the, the legal process, right? It's in Jeffrey Miller's court in federal court here in San Diego. He's looking at it, but there have been some closed door discussions at this point about possibly settling it. We don't know what that means in terms of an outcome, but, um, I think that, um, if the that got together to sue the federal government a were to accept the settlement, it would likely include a, some sort of a fix to the existing ongoing situation. So off to wait and see how that comes out. But if they go to trial, that will likely happen near the end of this year or early next year.
Speaker 1: 06:13 So what are the chances that these proposals made by these congressional members are going to pass in Congress? I mean, is there a bipartisan support for river pollution cleanup at the border?
Speaker 2: 06:24 That was a question that was asked by reporters and there's not really a good answer to that. I think all of the Congressmen are realistic about the potential outcome, but I think that they also see this, uh, as a necessary step. Uh, they want to be able to show a unified force, uh, from this region. They want to explain to their colleagues in Congress that this is a critical issue, that it's a national security issue, that it's a public health issue. And they hope that by doing that they can make the case that, that this is a viable funding that is critical to the health of this country in this region.
Speaker 1: 06:57 And I've been speaking with KPBS environment reporter Eric Anderson. Eric, thank you. You're welcome.
Speaker 1: 00:00 Many southern California beaches are gradually disappearing and communities on the coast are looking for ways to save their sand in Oceanside. A group of residents wants to build rock grinds or jetties to help stabilize the sand and stop it from washing away. KPBS reporter Alison Saint John says it's a controversial strategy
Speaker 2: 00:23 south of Oceanside peo parts of the beach have disappeared completely and waves wash up against a rocky wall of riprap that protects houses along this trend. Nick Ricky has lived in Oceanside for a decade and has seen the beach shrink. He speaks for a new group of residents called SOS Save Oceanside Sen.
Speaker 3: 00:41 Currently we're at Wisconsin speeds. If you look around Wisconsin Street, we have wide guard towers. Seven we have a beach parking lot with a beach bathrooms, but yet we don't have the beach now. Just three years ago at low tide you'd have some dry sand.
Speaker 2: 00:58 Not Anymore at some high types. There's another problem. The ocean sometimes washes right over the strand threatening homes
Speaker 4: 01:05 every year. The army corps of engineers lays long pipes down the beach and pumps San dredged from the mouth of Oceanside harbor. The Sen dredged helps keep the harbor mouth open and adds to the beach, but it does not last. Ricky and his neighbors and they are looking to other beaches like Newport beach for ideas.
Speaker 3: 01:22 You've never visited Newport beach. The beaches are wonderful surface dynamic. Newport beach
Speaker 4: 01:29 is wide and generous. Vicki says it wasn't always that way back in the late 1960s the ocean was threatening homes along that beach.
Speaker 3: 01:37 So as a result of that, the homeowners are the ones who spurred the city into action to build these Reutens hundred yards long, about eight to 12 feet tall, about 12 to 16 feet wide.
Speaker 4: 01:51 The groins are like rocky fingers that run under the beach and out into the ocean. The idea is to stabilize the sand and stop it from washing away. They've been there for 50 years and they appear to be working, but the Newport beach lifeguard say the jury is still out. They say the groins create problem rip currents. Bob goosy of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in Ohio says groins and jetties have another major problem
Speaker 3: 02:17 building groins to retain sand at one location. Basically prevent Shan from getting down drift. So one beaches gang from growings is the next down drift beaches wash because they took their singer,
Speaker 2: 02:34 but Ricky says Oceanside would not be depriving cities to the south of sand if they built rock grinds because the army call would keep replenishing the sin every week.
Speaker 3: 02:42 Yeah. Our plan is very unique in that we believe that we will backfill those areas where the groins are with sand so that there'd be no stoppage of sand. Denham springs so to speak. Ricky
Speaker 4: 02:55 says surfers are in favor of trying grinds because they sometimes wave action cruiser acknowledges that surfers, the tourist industry and homeowners would probably support building grinds to stabilize beaches.
Speaker 3: 03:08 Building Groins can be definitely an effective way of stabilizing the beach at some locations. The question is whether it's cost effective, is it worth the money?
Speaker 4: 03:22 Boozer says the San Diego Association of governments or SANDAG spent $30 million on beach replenishment in 2012 and much of that sand washed elsewhere. He says beaches can be stabilized sometimes for decades, but not
Speaker 3: 03:35 definitely. We can't stabilize all of the beaches in southern California for the next, let's say hundred years. It's not financially possible. Which ones do we stabilize? Who makes that decision? It's a political decision as well as an economic decision and what it ultimately comes to the coast. The decisions are made by money, power, and the blow back from the coastal commission. That is the mouth of the people in California.
Speaker 2: 04:09 Rookie says, save ocean side side is getting estimates of what it would cost to build groins or jetties south of the pier and it's in the tens of millions of dollars. He acknowledges this as a challenge facing all San Diego's coastal cities. He says his group may end up cooperating rather than competing for resources to try to keep the sandy beaches that are such a symbol of the southern California lifestyle.
Speaker 4: 04:32 Joining me as KPBS reporter Allison St John Alison, welcome. Glad to be here. Maureen, tell us more about the condition of the beach south of Oceanside pier.
Speaker 5: 04:42 Well, there's a part immediately assassins appeared. That's pretty generous because of the sand replenishment that happens every year. But that kind of diminishes as you go south of the peer until you come to a point where really there's no beach at all except a little bit of wet sand at low, low tide.
Speaker 4: 04:59 How has it changed so much in just a few years?
Speaker 5: 05:02 Well, this is part of the ongoing process of sand migration. Uh, the sand generally speaking migrates south along the coastline, especially in the winter. Sometimes it moves north, but gradually we have seen sand disappearing from all our beaches as a result of, uh, blocking the rivers that send sand down into the ocean and replenish the beaches and building walls along the cliffs so that none of the cliffs are, uh, collapsing and adding sand to the beach.
Speaker 4: 05:32 Is the absence of sand there causing any real environmental problem or is it mostly an aesthetic issue?
Speaker 5: 05:39 Well, it's not just aesthetic, Maureen. It is also, um, economic in the sense that not only other homeowners living there who, whose homes could be threatened, but, uh, Oceanside is investing is becoming a pretty strong family tourist destination. There are multistory hotel buildings going up right now, which have been years in the works and a lot of people coming to vacation, uh, in ocean side because partly of the beach. So if you have a beach, which a is gradually eroding, that could affect the future economy of the, of the city.
Speaker 1: 06:14 In your feature, you referenced that the Army Corps of Engineers Dredge sand out of the harbor to keep the harbor open. Where does that stand go?
Speaker 5: 06:24 It goes, it comes along the beach down south in long metal, a hollow pipes that they lay along the beach and it stretches down to just south of the pier. However it, uh, it's pretty obvious when you're looking down the beach from the pier that where that sand replenishment stops there is very little sand and that's where the beach is really receding fast.
Speaker 1: 06:47 Okay. So you told us about the jetties, the groins that they built up in Newport beach and they hold the sand in place, but how does it keep it there year after year?
Speaker 5: 06:56 Well, it's pretty much a sort of straight mechanical [inaudible] system whereby these fingers that stick out into the ocean, uh, hold the sand in place. Not entirely, but they definitely keep more sand within the groins than if they weren't any. Uh, we've seen there are various groins actually up and down the coast. Like for example, there's one near the Carlsbad power plant, which they were planning on removing because of changes to the Carlsbad power plant. But then there was some outcry because people realize that would affect the beach. There is a sort of a holding action, a stabilizing action, if you like, of those fingers reaching out from the beach into the ocean.
Speaker 1: 07:38 Now I remember when the SANDAG launched that sand replenishment program that you referenced back in 2012 were people saying at the time that that sand might just wash away.
Speaker 5: 07:51 Yes, indeed. I mean, that was what the experiment was really there to show was, is this effective? And I think the results are a bit inconclusive and, and open to interpretation. Um, some people, I know, some of the lifeguards and so on. The beach for example, said yes, yes, it definitely did help for a while and the sand moves though in very unpredictable and uncontrollable ways, so sometimes it ends up enriching a beach a year or two later. That was not the one that you put it on
Speaker 1: 08:19 now as climate change or sea level rise playing a part in the sand disappearing?
Speaker 5: 08:24 Well, I would say that the climate changes is impacting the coasts at the same time as the sand is being washed away and not being replaced. So it's not like sea level rise is affecting the disappearance of the sand, but it's having an effect on the coastline because as the zen disappears and the sea level rises, the coastline is obviously threatened. That includes roads, public works, you know, sewer systems, water systems and private property.
Speaker 1: 08:53 Considering the cost of building the jetties, they can't be built everywhere along the coast. As was referenced in your feature, the expert that you talked to says it's a political decision based on power, money and the coastal commission. Do you have any idea of where Oceanside's problem fits in that framework?
Speaker 5: 09:11 Well, I think that's the big question. Oceanside does have a big advantage in that the army corps of engineers is replenishing the sand currently every year as a result of um, legal settlements due to the fact that the federal government built the harbor back there partly for the marines and it has blocked the flow of sand. And as a result, they've, they are, uh, compelled to mitigate that by replenishing it. So Oceanside's in a position where it can say, look, we replenish the sand every year so it's not like we are going to be taking your sand. We will keep replenishing it. And as it's, as it gradually washes down in the excess, you will get the benefit of benefit of that. However, there have been studies done of, um, other cities and coastlines, especially in the east coast, that suggest that when it comes to making these difficult decisions as to who should get the millions, billions, in fact of dollars that are being spent on Sandra replenishment, it tends to be a, the more affluent communities because people are looking at what is the best bang for the buck. So you get these high end tourist destinations or places where property values are particularly high and they tend to win out in the competition for these dollars.
Speaker 1: 10:25 I've been speaking with KPBS reporter, Alison St John Alison. Thank you.
Speaker 5: 10:30 Thank you, Maureen.
Speaker 6: 10:34 [inaudible].
Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego was about to get its share of a multimillion dollar settlement over the use of lead paint. The city will receive $15 million from paint manufacturers, con Agra grocery products and l industries and the Sherwin Williams company. The lawsuit filed by Multiple California cities has been litigated for nearly 20 years. It claimed that the company's knowingly marketed, led paint long after its health risks were discovered and the companies should pay for the mitigation of toxic lead paint on older homes across the state. The companies have admitted no wrongdoing. The TCI Yalla is with the environmental health coalition, a San Diego based environmental justice advocacy group, and La TCO. Welcome. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Well, the environmental health coalition has been a key player in preventing childhood lead poisoning. You've been there since the beginning of this long fight. How did the group first become involved in this lead paint issue?
Speaker 1: 00:59 Well, that goes nearly 20 years ago, so we established this program to protect children from the dangers of lad being that the number one source of lad is the lead in their homes. The led death that gets created by just opening and closing your doors and your windows. It creates this invisible desk, lands on the floors, onto the toys and onto where the children's mouth, because of their hand to mouth behavior. It's a silent disease because it's happening in our homes every day. Tens of thousands of children are being exposed to this. And unfortunately a lot of parents are not aware because there's no symptoms. And coincidentally, today was, um, my son's [inaudible] first day of kindergarten and I had an opportunity to stand, you know, next to a lot of parents, a lot of grandparents and the dreams that we have for our children. And I just couldn't help but think about the children in Barrio Logan and Sherman Heights in Linda Vista in city heights, where you have the pockets of lead poisoning, where they're low income, they're people of color, they're in homes that are despicable, you know, and it's every single day that they're being exposed to.
Speaker 1: 02:19 And so this $15 million is sane no more. You know, it's saying to these powerful corporations, pay for the mess you created. I heard that you had sort of a visual experience of seeing an older home sort of, right. The a residue of it's led paint while you were touring shirt Sherman Heights one time. That's correct. Um, when we started actually, uh, we were hearing a lot of stories from mothers primarily in Sherman heights and Barrio Logan about um, their children, high levels of lead. And so we went door to door as we do, um, in our community organizing approach. And over the years folks would know of us and would call us. They didn't know environmental health coalition, the full name of our group. They know, they knew us as Les Chicos diploma the lead ladies. And so they called us up and they said, you know, we have a house that's been renovated and unfortunately it seems like there's a lot of lead dust around the entire community right across the street from the Sherman Elementary.
Speaker 1: 03:34 We called it nightmare on 22nd street. And that was the starting point because we call the health department health department said it's a housing issue. The housing departments would say that's actually a health issue. There was a lot of finger pointing and we needed to create the bridge between these departments. We needed to go after HUD grants, opportunities for us to invest in our homes. And as a nonprofit, that's exactly what we did. So what would you like to see the city do with this $15 million settlement? We want the city to make a simplify program so that the families that need it the most can actually tap into those resources. We want the money to go to the neighborhoods. As I mentioned, the pockets where we have the hot spots and we want tenant protection so that when the homes do get renovated, beautified and um, they're less safe, the landlords don't turn around and evict them because this has a potential of creating, um, unintended negative consequences.
Speaker 1: 04:39 What should someone do if they believe they are living in a house with lead based paint? The city I'm sure is already putting their thinking caps together. They're going to be creating a program at this point. It's too early to say when they're going to roll it out, but I'm assuming that there will be a hotline number where people will call and we would then be able to, the city would be able to respond and follow with a simple inspection to determine if the lead based paint is a hazard. If you can live in an older home without being afraid of that, it's just that we don't want that older paint to be out on the surface to the point that it's on the floor. Invisible dust all over. We, you can encapsulate it, paint over it, have good pink condition and no problem. You can live in a beautiful altar home. I've been speaking with Leticia yellow with the environmental health coalition. Lataetia thank you so much. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Speaker 2: 05:40 [inaudible].
Speaker 1: 00:00 It was last week's tech craze with millions of new users downloading face app to their smartphone. The app allows users to upload a selfie and transform it to add or even subtract years using artificial intelligence technology. It was all fun until concerns about data security and access surfaced. You see, face app is owned by a Russian based company. There are fears that company could ultimately expose your data to a country that interfered in the 2016 election. Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer has even called for a federal investigation into the company. So is there a risk and his face app, the only app we should be concerned about? Well, we found a certified ethical hacker to weigh in. Steven Andres teaches at SDSU in their homeland security graduate program. He joins US via Skype. Stephen, welcome.
Speaker 2: 00:49 My pleasure.
Speaker 1: 00:50 So why do you think Senator Chuck Schumer and the DNC are so concerned about the access this app has two data? Is there a reason for alarm?
Speaker 2: 01:00 Well, it's not a reason with this app in particular, but I believe the concern is with Americans giving up access to their personal information so easily. As long as it does something that makes us laugh, we will throw caution to the wind and install pretty much anything and important to realize that the Cambridge Analytica scandal all started with an innocent personality quiz.
Speaker 1: 01:20 Hmm. What information does face app have access to on on mobile devices?
Speaker 2: 01:26 Well, we don't know for certain, but from what we can tell from what researchers have told us is they have the access to your photo album. Although it's appears that they only extract one picture at a time, the one that you select to give them, um, they might add more permissions later, in which case you would get a prompt for those permissions at the time that the app is updated. But what sneaky about mobile apps in particular is they might come in and say, hey, we're only doing this photo thing today, maybe six months from now or perhaps right before the election, they update their app to ask for additional permissions. You see it, you download the new update and you're like, oh yeah, this is the funny face app thing and now it's looking at your contact list. So it doesn't do that today, but it could in the future.
Speaker 1: 02:09 Hmm. Is there a way to delete that information off the app servers?
Speaker 2: 02:13 Once the information is off of your phone and it goes to their servers, it's really in their hands. So you can ask them to delete it and you'd have to trust them. But they actually did.
Speaker 1: 02:22 I mean there are some people who will look at the access that these apps have and they say, well, so what? I mean, what are they going to do with an image of my face? I mean it's just an image of my face. So how could that information be used?
Speaker 2: 02:37 Well, they could be used to build an identity profile of you. Perhaps the most innocent way would be just to target. We you with advertising at many sites do that. But maybe there's a target that they, that somebody in maliciously wants to go after and they can say, I think this will be a way to cast a wide net and we can find the person that we actually want access to and this to get their information. Sort of like a Trojan horse.
Speaker 1: 03:01 Okay. And so I know much of the talk has been around face app, but uh, you know, is face app any different than other apps people commonly have on their devices, like Facebook or snapchat or any other app that adds filters, even to pictures.
Speaker 2: 03:17 It doesn't appear to be. So some of the mystery lies with the origins of the app coming from a, a Russian software development firm and a, you know, that's a, a buzz word these days, but uh, there's another video app called ticktock and that's very popular with the high school age kids and that's owned by a Chinese national company. So it really depends on what are we, uh, investigating here, the origins of the app or what it does with your data. We, we lower our guard when it comes in the form of a mobile app because we're social creatures and we want to be in on the joke. Everybody else is doing it. Somebody else must've checked the validity of this. So I can just be part of the group.
Speaker 1: 03:56 And, and I think that that's an assumption a lot of people make is that someone must've checked the validity of this app. Is there an agency or anything that regulates or checks those things?
Speaker 2: 04:08 I wouldn't say a government agency, but at least on the apple app store, they do check that the app does what it says it does up into a point, right? So the app could be doing what it says it does when they submit the app for certification into the store. That might change six months down the road and it's not so certain that they're going to catch a change that happens later on.
Speaker 1: 04:30 Do androids have that same protection?
Speaker 2: 04:33 It's a little bit different on the Google play store because they don't prevent the app from being listed before the review. Google says that they'll do the review a as a trailing process after it's already been posted. So there's a little window of attack there or somebody could sneak in and malicious app on the Google store that would be blocked by the apple store.
Speaker 1: 04:51 Hmm. So what should we all look for before downloading a new app?
Speaker 2: 04:55 Once you do install that app, especially on the apple platform, when that app wants to use a permission, it will prompt you. So take a second, that prompt is important and think to yourself, is it important for this app to have access to it? A, sometimes you'll get a game and it says, I need access to your address book. And you might say, well why is that? And I say, Oh, don't worry about it. We just want to see who else that you know is also playing the game. But along with that, it's sending all of your contact information to this other server. And that might be birthdays, addresses, street addresses, email addresses for all of your friends.
Speaker 1: 05:30 Hmm. And so you, as you mentioned earlier, there's no way to delete the information that's been collected once it goes to an app server. Uh, what about when you delete the app off of your device? Is that something that people should be in the practice of doing?
Speaker 2: 05:44 Yeah, once you're done with an app, it's certainly a good idea to delete it from your phone and that will get rid of any local storage that that app had. But these days, most of the apps will send the information that they want into a centralized server because it's easier for the company, not necessarily easier for you. Somebody could make a version of this face app that does all the aging process locally on your phone and never sends any data to the cloud and that would be a much safer alternative.
Speaker 1: 06:10 Why do you think they haven't?
Speaker 2: 06:12 It's a lot easier to do with the way that they did with cloud based servers because all the difficult uh, uh, image processing happens in the cloud versus happening on each one of your phones.
Speaker 1: 06:22 Would that take up space on devices? Is that why? Or
Speaker 2: 06:25 it would take up space on your device. It might also take a quite a long time, more than you're willing to wait to get the result. So if you do it in the cloud, might be instantaneous. A couple of seconds on your phone with the computing power of your phone. It might take 20 seconds, maybe a minute on an older phone. And it's just not as fun.
Speaker 1: 06:44 Some cyber security experts say if face app was a test, America failed first. Do you agree with that?
Speaker 2: 06:51 I would say so. If it was a test, we definitely took the bait and didn't think twice.
Speaker 1: 06:56 Ah, so what, what should people do moving forward?
Speaker 2: 07:00 I think folks should be more concerned about what data they're giving and what is the tradeoff. So your data is currency. These apps are generally free so that you don't have actual dollars out of your pocket, but you are paying with your data so your image can be used by other people. What are you getting in return? You're just getting an older image of yourself that might not be a fair trade.
Speaker 1: 07:20 And so what can legislators do? I mean are, is there any regulation that could be put in place?
Speaker 2: 07:26 We might see some sort of fair warning labels, a kind of nutritional information for an app that goes beyond what the app stores already do. And hold publishers to account for a deletion policy, for example. So in the European Union, the GDPR laws state that if an EU resident wants the data deleted, it is backed by law that you must delete the data within a certain amount of hours. We don't have that production here, so that might be a good first step towards a full blown consumer privacy.
Speaker 1: 07:55 I've been speaking with Steven Andres, who teaches at SDSU homeland security graduate program and is also a certified ethical hacker. Stephen, thank you so much for joining us. Pleasure's all mine.