Corvallis Business: Gazette-Times Publisher Sued Over Subscriber Privacy, Starker Funds Samaritan Health Efforts, Timberhill Apartments Planned, New Homeless Shelter Sought, Chamber Webinar Slated 

Starker Forests has again donated to Corvallis based Samaritan Health, this time helping to fund added treatment facilities in Newport. 

Samaritan points out that for generations, Starker family members have held leadership positions in the local hospital’s foundation and auxiliary, and since 1993 the family business, Starker Forests Inc., has donated to Samaritan Foundations. The company’s contributions have helped to support Samaritan’s cancer care, capital projects, hospice services and more. 

Starker Forests’ most recent gift was given through Pacific Communities Health District Foundation to help establish a new Newport facility.  

This is the second time the Starker family has funded such a facility. In 2018, Starker Forests also helped establish the center in Lebanon. In addition, the company contributed last year toward stateoftheart mammography technology at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center 

Access to quality health care close to home is essential to our community’s quality of life,” said Anna Starker May. “Samaritan provides these services to the communities where we live and work. As a fifthgeneration forestry business we are committed to the sustainability of not only the forest we manage but also the communities we operate in. We support Samaritan Foundations to provide our communities with the care they need to thrive.” 

“Organizations such as Starker Forests and their leaders are not only great friends of our hospitals and Samaritan Foundations, but they are also beacons of hope and healing for patients, caregivers and community members,” said Darrel Kau, executive director of Good Samaritan Hospital Foundation. “We are extremely grateful for the generosity and leadership of our PRIDE Partners again this year.” 

New Apartments: Timberhill Meadows has filed to add 126 apartments to its 135 unit complex at 2600 NW Century Dr. – and they are seeking to extend NW Shooting Star Dr. as part of their plan. 

The complex is situated just northwest of Walnut and Kings, and it’s owned by Timberhill Partners LLC. 

The company will need wetland and environmental impact mitigation approvals from the Army Corps of Engineers – these include buying mitigation credits from the Evergreen Mitigation Bank and handling storm water underground rather than over wetlands. Also, it’s not yet clear if the boundaries of the wetlands impacted are entirely known, so the Corps could require additional mapping. 

The Army Corps notice says the company already has City of Corvallis approval, and that public comment can be emailed to Use Reference Number NWP-2000-320/5. 

New Homeless Shelter Possible: Leaders at the Corvallis Daytime Drop-in-Center, or CDDC, are asking Oregon’s legislature to fund them in a quest to add shelter beds here in Corvallis. The Corvallis nonprofit has partnered with CIDA, a Portland design firm, for next steps around vision creation, funding partnerships, construction and budget costs, site evaluation and feasibility, as well as zoning and code information.  

The CDDC has also submitted a letter to both the mayor and council for support of the added services. The council will look at the letter of support at their meeting on Tuesday, January 3.   

Chamber Member Webinar: The Corvallis Chamber of Commerce is offering members a webinar on using their complimentary Chamber webpage as a means of driving more traffic and sales. And, they’re making it easy – they’ve allotted an hour, but according to the Chamber, these classes can take as little as 30 minutes.  Slated for Wednesday, January 4 at 5 p.m. Click here for details and access. 

Gazette-Times Publisher Sued: The Iowa-based newspaper chain Lee Enterprises, owner of the Corvallis Gazette-Times, is facing a potential class-action lawsuit alleging it has shared readers’ personal information with Facebook in violation of federal law. 

Lee publishes newspapers and other media content in 77 markets across 26 states, including here, in the Mid-Valley. 

The lawsuit, filed last month in U.S. District Court, alleges that Lee’s news-media websites offer users the option of subscribing to newsletters or to newspapers that provide consumers with access to articles and video content in exchange for their personal information, including names and mailing addresses. 

The lawsuit claims Lee “does not adequately disclose” to subscribers that their personal identifying information is captured by various tracking methods embedded in the Lee websites, which allegedly is then transferred to the social-media company Facebook. 

The lawsuit alleges that decades ago, Congress recognized the potential harm caused by that sort of information sharing in conjunction with video content. As a result, Congress passed the Video Privacy Protection Act in 1988, prohibiting video providers from sharing, without consumers’ consent, any personally identifiable information that is tied to a customer’s viewing of specific, pre-recorded audio-video material. 

The law defines a “video tape service provider” as any entity engaged in the “delivery of pre-recorded video cassette tapes or similar audio-visual materials,” and was intended to protect the privacy of individuals’ video rental and video-purchasing data. In 2012, Congress amended the law to include video-on-demand cable services as well as internet streaming services. 

The plaintiffs claim Lee Enterprises “is a video service provider in that it provides pre-recorded audio-visual materials” to customers, and that the relationship between Lee and its subscribers is “precisely the type of relationship contemplated” by the federal law. 

The lawsuit seeks a temporary injunction requiring Lee to immediately remove tracking tools from the company’s websites and to obtain the appropriate consent from subscribers for any information sharing that may take place. 

According to the plaintiffs in the case, Facebook provides tools for web developers to monitor user interactions on their websites, and those interactions can then be shared with Facebook. Anyone with a developer’s console tool, which is built directly into commonly available internet browsers, can then monitor the transmission of data between Facebook and companies like Lee, the lawsuit claims. 

Although the person monitoring the exchange of information wouldn’t see the name of the Lee customer, they would see that customer’s Facebook ID number — which, the lawsuit claims, can easily be used to identify the Facebook user. The plaintiffs say that one can simply append an unidentified individual’s Facebook ID number to the end of the URL in any internet browser, and that will open up the Facebook user’s public profile page, revealing whatever personal information they choose to have featured there. 

In addition, individuals can allegedly use fairly basic web-browsing tools to see the titles of whatever video content triggered the initial exchange of information between Lee and Facebook, providing an indirect link between named Facebook users and the specific videos they have watched on Lee websites. 

The plaintiffs say Lee’s newspaper websites have been standardized in response to the economic pressures facing the entire news industry. According to the lawsuit, that standardization has led to all of the Lee sites using the same software and offering readers much of the same content, which in turn has led to widespread violations of the federal privacy law. 

“With fewer local reporters and editors working on local designs at the Greensboro News & Record, for example, Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan noted that ‘there are days when you open up the paper and find no original reporting,’” the plaintiffs’ petition states. “Rather than focusing on local news, the Lee sites are built using cookie-cutter templates and incorporating news and media from across the country.” Readers and public officials in Corvallis, while not quoted in the petition, have echoed these concerns locally. 

The lawsuit seeks payment of $2,500 to each class member participating in the lawsuit, plus damages and attorneys’ fees. 

Lee Enterprises has yet to file a response to the lawsuit. Calls and emails to Lee’s corporate office and to Lee’s contracted communications firm were not answered at press time. 

In seeking class-action status for the case, the plaintiffs allege there are more than 100 potential class members and that the aggregate amount of money in controversy exceeds $5 million. So far, the plaintiffs in the case include Brittney Stoudemire of Alabama; Amanda Vose of Massachusetts; Lucinda Jackson of Ohio; Barbara Grazioli of New Jersey; Dana Foley of Illinois; and Douglas Castle of Indiana. 

Reporting of the Lee Enterprises lawsuit by Clark Kauffmann of the Iowa Capital Dispatch, an affiliate of our frequent news partner, Oregon Capital Chronicle. Both these nonprofits offer news partnerships to organizations like ours for free, and we believe they’re worthy of both our, and your, support. Click here if you would like to donate to them. Likewise, you can support our area’s only locally owned paper, The Advocate, with a subscription by clicking here. 

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