Daily Digest (5/27)

2 House Republicans Hit TikTok Owners on Children’s Privacy; 25M Mathway Users’ Records Leaked Online; Consumer Reports Releases Studies on Digital Privacy, Online Tracking. Click “Continue reading” below.

2 House Republicans Hit TikTok Owners on Children’s Privacy

Two Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee asked TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, to provide details on the app’s children’s privacy policies and safeguards.

The letter — from GOP Reps. Greg Walden, Ore., and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Wash.  — came after they pressed the Chinese-based company during a committee hearing last week, The Hill reports.

Twenty privacy advocates recently filed a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission alleging that TikTok violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

Walden and McMorris Rodgers wrote ByteDance regarding the COPPA claims as well as allegations about sharing data with the Chinese Communist Party.

The representatives sought a response by June 5.

Last year, ByteDance and TikTok agreed to settle charges that one of its predecessors, Musical.ly, violated COPPA.

The 1998 law barred developers of apps geared toward children from collecting personally identifiable information on users under 13 without the consent from parents or legal guardians.

ByteDance purchased Musical.ly in 2017 and merged it with TikTok, which it already owned.

Source (external link): 

The Hill: Top Commerce Republicans grill TikTok parent company

25M Mathway Users’ Records Leaked Online

A hacker has stolen more than 25 million emails and passwords of users of the popular Mathway math-solving application, ZDNet reports.

The breach took place in January 2020 and appears to have been executed by a hacker claimed to be ShinyHunters.

The individual has claimed recent breaches of Tokopedia, Wishbone and Zoosk, among others.

“The only thing I can say is that the [Mathway] hack took place in January 2020,” ShinyHunters told ZDNet last week, declining to reveal further details.

In recent months, the hacker allegedly has put breached data up for sale on the dark web and on internet hacking forums.

It is believed that the hacker has sold access to more than 200 million user details, according to the report.

Source (external link):

Zdnet: 25 million user records leak online from popular math app Mathway

Consumer Reports Releases Studies on Digital Privacy, Online Tracking

Technology companies do not clearly describe the limitations on the huge amounts of data they collect — and users think they have more online rights that they actually do, according to studies released by the Digital Lab unit of Consumer Reports (CR).

In one examination, CR studied data-collection by large technology companies via smartphone data that included 426 Android apps from 15 major internet platforms.

Among the findings:

  • Twenty-four apps collected the WiFi router’s MAC address, potentially as a workaround for accessing geolocation without triggering a permission request.
  • Twenty-four apps transmitted the device’s phone number.
  • Nineteen apps transmitted email addresses collected from the device. 

“The findings were alarming because of the scope of information these companies collect on unsuspecting people,” said Justin Brookman, CR’s director of consumer privacy and technology policy.

“The internet was built on principles of trust, decentralization, and anonymity, but as advertising has become the economic engine of the internet, companies have dramatically expanded their data-collection practices while providing less transparency about what they’re really doing.”

In the second study, CR reviewed policies from 140 primary sources — license agreements, FAQs, privacy controls — and more than 120 secondary sources, including news reports and academic papers. The years covered were 1995 to 2019.

Most technology companies, according to the findings, engaged in far-reaching data practices and did not describe clear limitations on their data-collection and use.

CR also found that:

  • Users now are more aware of the existence of tracking than they are aware of how tracking is done.
  • People have few tools to control online tracking — and the limited kinds of consumer rights remain largely the same since the late 1990s.
  • Consumers have believed for decades that they have more online rights and protection than they genuinely have.

“For as long as consumers have been using the internet, they have struggled to protect their personal information online,” said Katie McInnis, the organization’s policy counsel.

“Unfortunately, the initial findings of this research show that awareness of tracking and the techniques by which one is tracked do not on their own empower consumers to better control their data.” 

Source (external link):

Consumer Reports: Two Studies on Digital Privacy and Online Tracking

— By DPN Staff