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Libertas Institute releases privacy protection proposal to limit government surveillance

A Lehi-based libertarian think tank is calling on the Utah State Legislature to take steps to protect the privacy of citizens by regulating the ways government agencies can utilize data from computers, smart phones, social media security cameras and other sources.

“This information is frequently used in ways that individuals did not intend nor authorize,” Libertas Institute staff wrote in a proposal on Thursday. “Government uses our driver license data for facial recognition and cancer research; our movements and social media posts for ‘live time’ surveillance; our blood for health analysis; our DNA for identifying relatives in criminal investigations; our face or fingerprint to access the entire contents of our mobile devices; our private health information to monitor potential drug abuse; and more.”

The think tank proposed a two-phase “Privacy Protection Act” to address the “intrusion into privacy” that it said “changes the relationship between government and citizen, and often happens without oversight or public buy-in, let alone explicit consent by those whose information it is.”

The first phase of the proposal consists of “setting up a process whereby information can be gathered, use of private information can be scrutinized, and recommendations (can be) made regarding policy reforms,” according to its text.

Specifically, the proposal asks the Legislature to create and fund a “State Privacy Officer” position that would be appointed by and housed within the state auditor’s office. The Office of the State Auditor would also assemble a “Personal Privacy Oversight Committee” made up of a half dozen “volunteer tech/privacy experts/advocates,” as well as one or two law enforcement representatives.

The State Privacy Officer would be responsible for developing the privacy law and data security standards to be used by the oversight committee and “field(ing) requests from individuals to review a government agency/entity’s use of technology/software/process that implicates privacy,” as stated in the proposal.

If a request merited review, the officer would draft an analysis detailing how the technology and data are used, how the data is stored and who it is shared with, how information is anonymized and whether the technology “adequately protects individuals’ privacy.”

Every year, the State Privacy Officer would be responsible for requiring at least 10 agencies, entities or local governments to provide details about any personally identifying information that they collect or store “and with that information perform an analysis to determine if the agency/entity is adequately protecting information.”

The Personal Privacy Oversight Committee, meanwhile, would review technology or software flagged by the privacy officer and provide “any reports/analyses each year to the Legislative Management Committee for referral to the Judiciary Interim Committee.”

In 2021 only, the committee would review the synthesis of audio and video feeds, bulk analysis of social media feeds and use of biometrics by law enforcement, including facial recognition technology and public or private DNA databases, and make recommendations to the Legislature.

The proposal stated that a government agency or entity “may not use a technology/software/process that the Personal Privacy Oversight Committee has recommended against using unless the relevant legislative body enacts a law specifically authorizing its use” and that each favorable recommendation would be re-reviewed within two years.

As part of the second phase of the proposal, the Judiciary Interim Committee would hold meetings in fall 2021 to discuss the Personal Privacy Oversight Committee’s recommendations.

Then, during the 2022 general session, the Legislature would consider “an omnibus privacy reform bill that enacts necessary reforms, restricting government use of private information to better protect privacy and ensure information is used consistent with the purposes for which it was created,” according to the proposal.

The proposal was released following increased scrutiny of Banjo — a Park City-based surveillance technology company that partners with law enforcement agencies to reduce emergency response times — after a report that the company’s CEO and founder, Damien Patton, was affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan as a teenager.

In an op-ed published by The Salt Lake Tribune on Friday, Libertas Institute President Connor Boyack said he and others had been “monitoring its (Banjo’s) work for some time” and were “concerned about the ramifications of applying artificial intelligence to our information in order to help the government.”

“While Banjo sparked the latest round of concerns, these issues are not new, and they are far larger than any one company,” wrote Boyack. “We believe it’s time to substantively address them.”

The Utah Attorney General’s Office suspended the state’s contract with Banjo on April 28 and Patton resigned as CEO on May 8. Banjo suspended all its Utah contracts on April 29 pending the completion of an independent third-party audit into the company’s technology.

Mountain View's drive-thru graduation puts pedal to mettle to mark senior moment

Plenty of pomp and unusual circumstances will be the prevailing memories for high school graduations of the Class of 2020.

Mountain View High School held the first part of its graduation activities on Monday at the Bruin Bowl. A steady stream of vehicles decorated with signs, streamers and balloons made their way from a staging area behind the school to the Bruin Bowl. The transportation was everything from convertibles and four-wheel drive trucks to a vintage 1960s era VW van and even a 20-foot-long stretch limo. Once inside the stadium, graduates posed for pictures in front of a large “MV” sign and accepted their diplomas from an administrator while family members cheered them on from the vehicles. On their way out, seniors signed their name in chalk on the wall of the stadium.

Mountain View administrator Trevor Schramm said most of the graduating seniors were happy with Monday’s ceremony, stressing social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Some students have told me they love it,” Schramm said. “They get more individual attention this way then when we hold it at the Marriott Center. When it’s there we averaged one graduating senior about every five or 10 seconds. This way, it’s about every minute or so.”

A total of 343 seniors were expected to attend during Monday’s ceremony, which began at 8 a.m. and was set to finish around 4 p.m. To spread the graduates out safely, the day was divided into four two-hour sessions.

Graduating senior Mia Wesley led Mountain View to the Class 5A volleyball championship last November, was named the Valley Player of the Year and will play next season at the University of Portland. She arrives in the Rose City on June 28 to join her new teammates.

“This graduation is new, but it’s really fun,” she said. “I know all the teachers have been working really hard to make it a good experience for all the graduates. Honestly, I like it better than a normal graduation because it’s special, you know? No one else before us has had this kind of graduation. I’ve got my family here with me and that’s all I really need. It’s cool to see I’m not alone in this. Everyone is going through the same thing.”

Tatum Swanner is headed to the University of Utah after having earned a four-year scholarship.

“It was definitely a little crazy and super weird riding in the back of a truck instead of being inside an arena, but I enjoyed it,” she said. “Having my immediate family here was great for me. With what we’re going through in the world, this is enough, I’m just glad we get to do something for graduation.”

Wesley Skarda’s father rented the vintage VW van just for the graduation experience.

“This is pretty cool,” Wesley Skarda said. “Honestly, I didn’t want to listen to the speeches anyway. This is really different considering we’re not going through a big ceremony.”

The scene will be repeated with some variations throughout the Utah Valley. School districts have planned live video commencement exercises next week. Alpine School District high schools will live stream their commencements on the evening of May 28 and will follow with a fireworks show.

Young Living announces employees will continue telecommuting until 2021

Young Living, an international essential oils manufacturer based in Lehi, announced employees based out of the global headquarters in Utah will continue working from home through the end of the year.

On March 13, the company shifted more than 1,200 employees to work-from-home positions while the remaining employees who hold positions that are unable to be adapted to allow for telecommuting saw some changes to their daily operations.

Shante Schroeder, Young Living Vice President of Brand Marketing, said the company had 48 hours to get each of those over 1,200 employees, including customer services representatives and every employee at the global headquarters in Lehi, ready and to ensure each had the required equipment to work from home.

Each decision was made by the emergency response council, which was established to assess crises and develop plans to help the company and its employees best approach the situation.

The council is made up of several executives and stakeholders from the company’s various departments. Schroeder sits on that council.

The initial decision, she said, was made with safety in mind. Young Living was one of the first companies of its size to make the switch from a traditional work environment to online employment.

“We were just watching the climate and seeing what was happening with other states and overseas,” Schroeder said. “We just saw what was happening, and we saw that the need for safety, which could only be ensured by moving people to their homes, had to happen at that point in time.”

From the beginning, Young Living implemented safety measures to maintain the health of their employees, but almost immediately after, the council made the decision to have employees capable of working from home telecommute.

With Gov. Gary Herbert moving most of the state of Utah from the orange to the yellow phase over the weekend, Young Living is going against the grain by extending the time its employees will telecommute through the end of 2020.

Schroeder said the decision was largely based off two trends the company has observed over the last two months: an increase in productivity, and heightened sustainability efforts.

With 95% of the company’s global headquarters’ workforce telecommuting, Young Living has seen a 25% increase in productivity in the information technology department, and a 13% increase in productivity in the sales department, Schroeder said.

“Prior to the current crisis, I didn’t believe in working from home on a regular basis,” Young Living President and CEO Jared Turner said in a statement. “But seeing the positive impact the additional flexibility has had on our employees, their families and the environment has given me a new perspective.”

With the spike in productivity, she said the company is taking additional steps to address mental health as well as physical health.

In the midst of the pandemic and relatively high unemployment, a significant number of people have reported feeling overwhelmed or apathetic. To help their employees address these concerns, Young Living executives have established a number of resources.

Young Living is currently offering virtual fitness classes to employees and their families, providing online homework help for students, hosting daily virtual “happy hour” chats, launching a Young Living app for its employees to stay up to date, and implementing extended emergency leave for on-site employees.

Furthermore, the company has enhanced available resources for therapy and counseling services for its employees and their families.

The company’s executives are also hosting virtual town hall meetings for employees to attend where they can “get a peek behind the curtain” and voice their concerns.

Additionally, Schroeder said, Young Living estimates that by continuing to allow its employees to work from home, the company is eliminating over 20,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide emissions each day. By the end of the year, the company expects to have eliminated over 3 million pounds of carbon emissions.

With the company’s continued telecommuting, Schroeder said Young Living is assessing the plausibility of extending work-from-home opportunities again in the future.

“I see us having a long-term, work-from-home solution,” she said. “I could say that we’re looking at all of the options available, and we’re scrutinizing them right now. We’re considering them from all angles, from morale to productivity, but it’s working.”

The company has maintained safety guidelines for employees whose duties could not be done from home. Young Living has adapted its warehouses to allow employees to maintain 6 feet of social distance, locations are taking the temperatures of each employee before they begin their shifts, and masks are required while at work.

If an employee does arrive with symptoms, they are sent back home and the company does its own internal contact tracing to ensure the health and safety of other employees and their families, Schroeder said.

Tentative Provo budget ready for council review

At the Tuesday meeting of the Provo Municipal Council, John Borget, director of Administrative Services, will present the tentative fiscal year 2020-21 budget on behalf of Mayor Michelle Kaufusi and the administration.

To achieve the current proposed budget a revamping of finances had to occur because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As you will recall, this year’s budget process started so smoothly. Our revenue forecasts were looking great. Life was a breeze,” Kaufusi said in her cover letter to the council. “Then a pandemic hit, taking the lives of many and stopping the rest of us in our tracks. While the greatest tragedy has been the loss of life, the financial tragedy is also very real.”

Kaufusi added, “Thankfully, I feel I can say the Provo City administration has risen to the budget challenge. We have spent many hours examining options and making tough calls. Our directors asked us to be surgical. So we put on our face masks and performed financial surgery.”

In the end, the final tentative budget to be presented to the council is about $292.9 million, according to Borget.

With the economic impacts of COVID-19 being unknown, the administration has attempted to submit a budget that is conservative and utilizes fund balance to address critical needs of the city to protect the long-term goals and objectives, Borget said in his budget highlights to the council.

Kaufusi, Chief Administrative Officer Wayne Parker, and the administrative budget team looking at early revenue forecasts projected retirement and insurance increases and department needs for the Fiscal Year 2021.

“As evidenced in Provo and the nation, there are many signs that the local and the national economies are dropping due to the impacts of COVID-19,” Borget said. “The city is currently cautious about sales tax revenues and anticipates they will drop approximately 5% from current trends prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

He added, “The 2021 budget supports our ongoing goal of continued fiscal health with a sustainable budget. Monies are invested in capital improvements, vehicle replacement and employees.”

Kaufusi and her team have elected to use the city’s rainy day funds if needed.

“I’m proud to announce that under my watch, Provo City’s rainy day fund has reached an all-time high,” Kaufusi said. “On June 30, 2017, shortly before I was elected, the balance was about $13,600,000. By the end of last fiscal year, we pushed that amount to almost $17,000,000.”

She added, “I told people I was a penny pincher, and I’m very glad now for the additional pennies we have stored away. But now it’s raining. And I think it would be wrong to put a padlock on our rainy day funds just when the thunder is clapping. Instead, I want to show our employees that their scrimping and saving while the sun was shining will pay off for them now in their night of rain.”


“The city has implemented a soft hiring freeze requiring the Mayor’s approval for vacant positions to be filled,” Borget said. “The city plans to set aside the savings from unfilled positions to offset the potential for revenue shortfalls from the impacts of COVID-19.”

Each year the city has paid to employees 50% of the current year accrual (96 hours) of unused sick pay in November for the previous 12 months, Borget noted. For fiscal 2021, due to COVID-19 and limited resources, there will not be a sick pay buyout in November 2020.”

Funded personnel costs and personnel budgets in departments include current funding levels to attract and retain good employees:

Merit increases (2.5%).

Career series advancements.

Health insurance cost increases (3.8%).

Utah Retirement System (increase of Tier II employee public safety retirement benefits $183,509).

Employee appreciation.

Birth parent and adoption leave.

COVID-19 leave benefits expenditures.


The following utility rate increases are being included in the recommended budget per the five-year plan adopted by the Municipal Council five years ago.

An average 25% or $13.77 monthly increase per average residential home on wastewater utility sales (Wastewater Fund).

An average 5% or $2.28 monthly increase per average residential home on water utility sales (Water Fund).

Other funds

Funds also have been allocated to make Americans With Disabilities Act improvements throughout the city.

The airport requests $74,448 for a new airport position — security specialist — that will enable the city to separate maintenance and security duties complying with FAA requirements.

The budget includes funding from a Recreation, Arts, and Parks (RAP) Tax that was approved by the voters in November 2015. The proposed budget assumes the tax will generate approximately $1.325 million in FY2020 for recreation and arts projects.

Recreation center

The Recreation Center is currently being impacted by COVID-19 and it is uncertain how long the impact will be.

“Administration and the Municipal Council have a strong desire to have the funding necessary to adequately maintain the Recreation Center so that it will be able to serve customers long-term,” Borget said. “In addition, the facility can continue to feel new and have equipment and services needed to keep up with current trends.”

The Recreation Center has been setting aside funds for five years to provide funding to maintain the building and equipment over their useful life. Any unused funds in any given year will be moved forward for future use, according to Borget.

During the 2021 budget process, the administration has attempted to make good financial decisions that consider both the short and long-term impacts, Borget said.

To see a complete report on the 2020-21 tentative budget visit https://provo.org. Look under departments-finance.