Daily Digest (5/15)

US Senate Votes to Extend Government Surveillance Tools; FTC Commissioner Says Pandemic Demands Privacy; Advocacy Groups Say TikTok Violated FTC Decree and Children’s Privacy Rules; New Zealand Police Test Clearview AI Technology Without Permission. Click “Continue reading” below.

US Senate Votes to Extend Government Surveillance Tools

The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved a 2-1/2-year extension of parts of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), two months after the divisive provisions allowing government data-collection expired.

The Senate backed the reauthorization by 80-16, far more than the 60 votes needed for passage, Reuters reports.

The measure must be approved, however, by the House of Representatives before it can be sent to the White House for President Donald Trump to veto or sign into law.

On Thursday, the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, amended the measure it approved in March by the Democratic-led House to improve legal protections for those subject to surveillance.

The timing of the House vote was not immediately clear, Reuters reports. House members were scheduled to return to Washington on Friday to vote on a coronavirus relief package.

The extensions to be renewed until December 2023 cover the FISA court’s approval of warrants for obtaining business records, for allowing surveillance without establishing that a subject is acting on behalf of an extremist group — the “lone wolf” provision — and permitting continued eavesdropping on a subject who has changed cellular telephone providers.

Backers of the provisions insisted they were essential tools for combating extremism and catching foreign spies.

But they face strong opposition from privacy advocates, including liberal Democrats and libertarian-leaning Republicans, who say they do too little to protect Americans’ privacy.

Source (external link): U.S. Senate votes to extend government surveillance tools

FTC Commissioner Says Pandemic Demands Privacy

U.S. Federal Trade Commissioner Christine Wilson called for a federal privacy law that would establish a rule for technology companies as they use personal data to track the spread of COVID-19.

“With established legal boundaries, companies would be better equipped to determine when the government is asking them to cross the line for the public good, and whether they should require a subpoena or inform customers before turning over data,” Wilson wrote Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal.

“Reopening the economy and returning to ‘normal life’ in the absence of a COVID-19 vaccine may be possible, we are told, with a combination of widespread testing and contact-tracing.

“But these solutions will depend heavily on technology, and Silicon Valley doesn’t have the best record when it comes to protecting consumer privacy,” Wilson continued. 

“Congress must step into the breach with federal privacy legislation establishing guardrails for tech companies’ handling of our most personal information.”

Source (external link): Coronavirus Demands a Privacy Law

Advocacy Groups Say TikTok Violated FTC Decree and Children’s Privacy Rules

A group of privacy organizations filed a Federal Trade Commission complaint Thursday alleging that TikTok’s app violated a consent decree and a law protecting children’s privacy online.

The Center for Digital Democracy, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and others said TikTok had failed to take down all videos made by children under the age of 13, as it agreed to do under an FTC consent decree from February 2019.

But TikTok spokeswoman Hilary McQuaide told Reuters that “we take privacy seriously and are committed to helping ensure that TikTok continues to be a safe and entertaining community for our users.”

As part of the decree, the FTC had said that TikTok, then known as Musical.ly, had known that young children used the app and had failed to get parental consent to collect their names, email addresses and other personal information.

The company paid a $5.7 million fine.

But, the privacy advocates said, TikTok did not delete personal information about users age 12 and younger, as it had promised in the agreement.

Other groups signing on to the FTC complaint included Berkeley Media Studies Group, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports and Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Source (external link): Advocacy group says TikTok violated FTC consent decree and children’s privacy rules

New Zealand Police Test Clearview AI Technology Without Permission

The New Zealand Police piloted Clearview AI’s facial-recognition technology before discussing possible deployment with police leaders or with New Zealand Privacy Commissioner John Edwards.

Detective Police Supt. Tom Fitzgerald admitted the police went through with “a short trial” earlier this year, NZ Herald reports. Edwards said he was “a little surprised” the trial went without a formal review from him or police hierarchy.

New Zealand Police first reached out to Clearview in January, and later set up a trial of the software, according to documents obtained under the Official Information Act.

However, the high-tech crime unit handling the technology appeared to have not sought the necessary clearance from Edwards or Police Commissioner Andrew Coster before using it, NZ Herald reports.

Source (external link): NZ Police trialled facial recognition tech without clearance

By DPN Staff