Wednesday, August 3, 2022

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending August 2, 2022

Just two items of interest this week, one of which I’d missed when it was published in May:

● A federal judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit against the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, alleging that UPMC drug tests pregnant women and their newborns without consent, reports the results to the family policing agency and, even if it’s no more than a false positive result for marijuana, the agency automatically investigates. 

As The Legal Intelligencer reported, the judge wrote that:

“Averments set form in the amended complaint allege that [Allegheny County Children Youth and Families] used UPMC as a form of ‘cat’s paw’ to undertake inquiries and to administer drug tests on UPMC’s labor and delivery patients without their consent, and then to use reports of those ostensibly private and confidential medical inquiries and ‘provision and uncertain’ test results as a predicate to launch unwarranted and unconstitutional child abuse investigations.” 

This case has significant implications well beyond Pittsburgh.  And it touches on multiple vital issues in family policing, including the harm of the so-called Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act and the dangers of “predictive analytics” algorithms in “child welfare.”  I’ve updated our in-depth examination of the case on this blog

● On the matter of algorithms, we have a full update of our report on predictive analytics, Big Data is Watching You.

Bloomberg CityLab reports that: 

Four major corporate landlords filed thousands of evictions while federal moratorium orders were still standing, using aggressive tactics to force out tenants at the height of the pandemic, according to a new investigation by a House subcommittee. … 

An email from an executive at [one major Texas landlord], for example, advised a property manager and regional manager in San Antonio to harass a tenant by towing her car, replacing her air conditioning unit with a nonworking unit, knocking on her door “at least twice a night” and even calling child protective services on the tenant if any children were present. (The committee referred its findings to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.) [Emphasis added.] 

The referral will do no good, of course, because, though false reports are illegal in Texas, anyone can evade the law by making the call anonymously, something that won’t change until anonymous reporting is replaced with confidential reporting.