Month: May 2020

Online Payment Programs — Easy, Solid, Mundane — Carry Big Privacy Risks

By Peter A. McKay

Of all the things tech companies know about you, your spending habits are perhaps among the most sensitive — and the most overlooked by users.

Chalk the latter up to the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, which since has thrown a bright spotlight on potential abuses of social-networking data in particular, with Facebook arguably taking the brunt of criticism for the entire technology industry. 

Continue reading “Online Payment Programs — Easy, Solid, Mundane — Carry Big Privacy Risks”

Jussie Smollett Warrants Threaten Digital Privacy Rights, Experts Say

By Matthew Scott

The warrants granted recently in the special investigation of former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett’s alleged faked hate crime last year highlight law enforcement’s expanding ability to gain access to vast amounts of personal data and the potential risks that poses to the digital privacy rights of Americans.

“There are tremendous risks to individuals’ privacy from the collection of data on this scale and also law enforcement access to information on this scale,” Mark Rumold, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), warned to Digital Privacy News. 

Continue reading “Jussie Smollett Warrants Threaten Digital Privacy Rights, Experts Say”

Online Test Proctoring Raises Privacy Questions Among University Faculty, Students

By Samantha Cleaver

The University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) switched from in-person to online classes in March because of COVID-19.

Students were about to take quarterly final exams, and professors were given the option to use ProctorU, an online test-proctoring company.

The service was new to many faculty, Claudio Fogu, associate professor of Italian studies, told Digital Privacy News.

But Fogu and other faculty members read through ProctorU’s privacy policy and raised concerns about what data was collected, how it was used and whether students could opt out.

Continue reading “Online Test Proctoring Raises Privacy Questions Among University Faculty, Students”

A ‘New Normal’?

What Does COVID-19 Surveillance Portend for Privacy?

By Charles McDermid

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified fears of a stricter surveillance environment in a world already troubled by huge data breaches and privacy violations, as well as the increasing power of Big Tech. 

Experts now hope the new reality brought on by coronavirus includes heightened awareness and stronger government protections, rather than apathy from a public possibly frustrated by the slow burn of constant data-privacy fears.

Continue reading “A ‘New Normal’?”

PlayStation’s New DualSense Controller Has Built-In Privacy Concerns

By Gregory Austin

Gamers across the world are eagerly awaiting the release of the PlayStation 5 this holiday season.

But one of the device’s most popular add-ons, the new DualSense wireless controller, likely will incorporate a higher level of data-collection that could infringe upon user privacy, experts told Digital Privacy News.

The DualSense’s built-in, headset-free microphone and upgraded hand sensors could leave users vulnerable to a hack like PlayStation’s enormous network breach in 2011.

Continue reading “PlayStation’s New DualSense Controller Has Built-In Privacy Concerns”

Q&A: Orchid VPN Co-Founder Steven Waterhouse

A Privacy Solution That Combines Decentralization and Cryptocurrency

By Jackson Chen

With the market for virtual privacy networks growing to more than $25 billion last year, a field of established brand-name providers has dominated the market.

As major virtual private network (VPN) providers all include their own vulnerabilities, one platform seeks to offer a decentralized privacy solution that runs off cryptocurrency. 

Orchid, a peer-to-peer privacy network that uses its own cryptocurrency — OXT — for payment, was launched in December.

Continue reading “Q&A: Orchid VPN Co-Founder Steven Waterhouse”
Filed under:

Travel Industry Weighs Privacy, Safety in Re-Opening Polices

By Joanne Cleaver 

As travel resumes, what health and itinerary information will be attached to individuals’ documents?  

The travel industry has its gloved hands full as it rethinks and reorganizes its mission, functions, design and operations.

A top priority for a consortium of industry trade groups, led by the U.S. Travel Association, includes new types of identifications and related processes for ticketing, check-ins and payments.

Continue reading “Travel Industry Weighs Privacy, Safety in Re-Opening Polices”

Patients May Benefit From Infrared Location Tracking, But at What Cost?

By Myrle Croasdale

Infrared tracking technology now is adding to the data-privacy discussion.

A Johns Hopkins University clinical and engineering team recently released a study that used detailed patient-mobility data to predict lengths of stay, the level of care patients needed when discharged and the likelihood of them being readmitted within 30 days.

Continue reading “Patients May Benefit From Infrared Location Tracking, But at What Cost?”

Q&A: Data 4 Black Lives’ Yeshimabeit Milner

‘Data Can Be Used to Create Social Movements’

By Terry Collins

The race is on for Data 4 Black Lives co-founder Yeshimabeit Milner, who admits time is of the essence.

She’s desperately seeking critical information on how many African Americans have contracted and died from COVID-19.

Mostly known as a privacy advocate seeking to abolish big data that she believes leads to social and political oppression, Milner’s group of engineers, data scientists and community leaders are making a hard pivot.

Continue reading “Q&A: Data 4 Black Lives’ Yeshimabeit Milner”
Filed under:

Study Finds All 50 States Lacking Strong Privacy Laws

By Sakshi Udavant

None of the 50 states in America have strong privacy laws, while 26 of them have regulations that are considered “very weak,” according to a recent survey.

The survey was conducted by Gabe Turner, content director of, and his research team to classify states by how strong their data-privacy laws are.

Continue reading “Study Finds All 50 States Lacking Strong Privacy Laws”

Why the US May Soon See Your Internet Search History Without a Warrant — Again

By Jeff Benson

This week, a bipartisan duo of senators, Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden and Montana Republican Steve Daines, proposed an amendment to U.S. law that would have prevented intelligence agencies from accessing citizens’ internet search histories without a warrant.

“Getting access to somebody’s web-browsing history is almost like spying on their thoughts,” Wyden told Digital Privacy News and other outlets. “This level of surveillance absolutely ought to come with a warrant.”

But on Wednesday, the amendment, which needed 60 Senate votes to pass, failed on a 59-37 vote, despite bipartisan support.

Here’s how we got here — and what’s next.

Continue reading “Why the US May Soon See Your Internet Search History Without a Warrant — Again”

Twitter Policy Change Hands User Data to Advertisers, Platforms

By Aaryaman Aashind

Twitter users can no longer block the platform from sharing certain personal information with advertisers because of a recent change in its privacy policy, digital-rights experts told Digital Privacy News.

Twitter, which announced the change last month, also now will share your nonpublic information with Google, Facebook and other platforms to boost its marketing efforts.

“All too often, Twitter, Google and Facebook will give users only as much control as they think they need to in order to stave off regulation and competitors, but no more,” said Karen Gullo of the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Continue reading “Twitter Policy Change Hands User Data to Advertisers, Platforms”

Facebook’s UK Portal Giveaway Could Compromise Care-Home Residents’ Privacy

By Robert Bateman

Facebook Inc. is partnering with the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) to distribute 2,050 Facebook Portal devices among care-home residents.

Portal, Facebook’s “smart home” device, features “always listening” voice activation and video calling via Messenger and WhatsApp. The device’s “Smart Camera” recognizes human figures and automatically will track them around a room. 

Continue reading “Facebook’s UK Portal Giveaway Could Compromise Care-Home Residents’ Privacy”

Chicago Deal With Canadian Tracing Firm Brings Myriad Privacy Issues

By Joanne Cleaver 

Jacob Furst’s commute from a Chicago neighborhood to his office at DePaul University, where he is director of the school of computing, involves public transportation and walking.

Not that the latest company to surveil the movements of Chicago residents would know: Furst keeps the geolocation function on his cellphone switched off.

Most residents aren’t as meticulous about shielding their routine movements from BlueDot, a Toronto company that is under contract with the city’s Department of Health to see how people are moving around the city and to extract from that data clues as to how to manage and anticipate COVID-19 patterns.

Continue reading “Chicago Deal With Canadian Tracing Firm Brings Myriad Privacy Issues”

Q&A: World Privacy Forum’s Pam Dixon

Health Oversight Waiver Opens Door to Broad Uses of Private Data

By Myrle Croasdale

To fight COVID-19, the federal government recently waived enforcement penalties for failing to comply with some patient-privacy provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

The first of these waivers has been beneficial, said Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, a nonprofit research group in San Diego, Calif., focused on privacy in the digital age.

One makes it easier for providers to release information to a patient’s family and friends. Another expands telemedicine.

Others, however, have raised concerns. 

Continue reading “Q&A: World Privacy Forum’s Pam Dixon”
Filed under:

On the COVID Front Lines

Protecting Privacy or ‘Outing’ Patients in Contact-Tracing

By Tammy Joyner

At 86, Wilhelmina Wilson takes no chances when it comes to safeguarding her health during the COVID-19 pandemic in New York.

She stays squirreled away in her one-bedroom co-op apartment in Queens, where she has lived since 1976.

When she ventures out, she’s armed with disinfectant sprays and wipes for elevator buttons and doorknobs to the building’s incinerator and laundry room.

She’s en garde anytime she hears of new COVID-19 infections.

Still, Wilson worries.

Continue reading “On the COVID Front Lines”

Is the US Heading Toward a Surveillance State?

By Charles McDermid

As Silicon Valley gears up to help Washington fight the COVID-19 pandemic, concern is intensifying that the United States still lacks the legal framework needed to protect data privacy during and after the public-health crisis.

A group of U.S. senators last week introduced the COVID-19 Consumer Data Protection Act. The legislation, according to a news release, “would provide all Americans with more transparency, choice and control over the collection and use of their personal health, geolocation and proximity data.”

The move comes a short time after Apple Inc. and Google said they were developing a “contact-tracing system” that would use wireless signals to track the spread of coronavirus.

News reports indicated that within months the tracking system would be built into billions of smartphones. 

Continue reading “Is the US Heading Toward a Surveillance State?”

‘The Perfect Privacy Storm’

New Issues in Privacy Debate With Technology and Contact-Tracing

By Jeff Benson

Last of two parts.

Contract-tracing raises myriad privacy issues in the coronavirus fight. Today’s report discusses how technology further muddies the waters.

Contact-tracing can involve deep detective work.

People are reluctant to share information with strangers. They forget where they’ve been, or they mix up Tuesday with Wednesday.

All of which makes it difficult to pinpoint close contacts.

Incorporating modern technology, from Bluetooth-based location tracking to app integrations that pull data from patients’ calendars, could make contact-tracing faster but would introduce fresh privacy concerns.

Ironically, the fight around contact-tracing apps could focus attention on our expectations of medical privacy more generally.

Continue reading “‘The Perfect Privacy Storm’”