Month: May 2020

The Story of Your Health Data, as Told by COVID Contact-Tracing

By Jeff Benson

First of two parts.

You wake one Friday with a cough — a dry cough that’s gotten worse after a restless night in bed.

Your breaths come as short, jagged pulls — and you don’t know whether that’s because you’ve contracted coronavirus or you’re paranoid.

You find a clinic where you can get tested, and the nurse advises to assume you have it — to go home and to avoid other people.

That shouldn’t be too hard: You’ve been a recluse for the past month. Well, mostly.

Four days later, you’re at home coughing in rhythm to “Here Kitty Kitty” by Tiger King when the telephone rings. It’s the clinic letting you know you weren’t paranoid: You’ve tested positive for COVID-19.

You think that’s it — but a few hours later, the phone rings again. The clinic has shared your status with the local public-health department. You see, not all of your medical data is private — and especially not during a public-health crisis.

Continue reading “The Story of Your Health Data, as Told by COVID Contact-Tracing”

Big Government, Big Tech Battle Over COVID Contact-Tracing

By Robert Bateman

Governments worldwide are rushing to develop “contact-tracing” mobile apps to help track the spread of COVID-19.

In the “spirit of collaboration,” Apple Inc. and Google are designing a framework upon which such apps can be developed. 

The framework uses Bluetooth Low Energy to anonymously log interactions between cellphones, and the tech firms claim it has “user privacy and security central to (its) design.”

But some governments’ plans for contract-tracing apps clash with what the Apple and Google framework will allow.

Politicians in France and, reportedly, the U.K. and Germany, have been urging Apple and Google to reduce their framework’s privacy protections. 

Albert Fox Cahn, founder and executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP), expressed concerns that the Apple-Google partnership had privatized the state’s role in epidemiological analysis.

“Apple and Google not only took it upon themselves to form this partnership without governmental approval,” Cahn told Digital Privacy News, “but they told governments that they will unilaterally disable the Application Program Interface (API) in jurisdictions that they think no longer need the level of tracking that it permits.”

Continue reading “Big Government, Big Tech Battle Over COVID Contact-Tracing”

‘Star Wars’ Contest Raises Privacy Concerns for ‘MayThe4th’ Fans

By Rob Sabo

“Star Wars” is one of the most beloved and highest-grossing movie franchises in history.

Similarly, the new “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” theme parks at Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida are fan favorites and preferred places for visitors to pose for photos with cast members.

Perhaps no day is more celebrated in “Star Wars” fandom than Monday, “May the 4th,” which recalls the franchise’s iconic phrase, “May the Force be with you,” from the original 1977 release that continues to be used in all films.

A Twitter contest by the Disney Plus streaming service celebrating “Star Wars” Day this year asks users tweet their favorite franchise memories using the hashtag #MayThe4th and Twitter handle @DisneyPlus.

By posting, users must consent to Disney Plus’ and Twitter’s terms of use. The requirement raises privacy issues regarding ownership and reuse of personal images and messages, media experts tell Digital Privacy News.

“Unless you are an attorney or have really studied intellectual and photographic property rights, most people don’t get the depth of consent they are granting, even when they grant it,” said Paul Levinson, author and professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University in New York.

“Many people don’t mind having their photos used by Disney and don’t see any damage.”

Continue reading “‘Star Wars’ Contest Raises Privacy Concerns for ‘MayThe4th’ Fans”

Q&A: California Tech Lawyer Jeffrey J. Blatt

Preventing Mass Shootings vs. Invading Privacy

By Mary Pieper

Will an artificial intelligence system eventually be created that collects vast amounts of data on almost everyone in the United States to predict who is likely to become an active shooter?

The technology exists to make this system possible, said Jeffrey J. Blatt, a California tech lawyer and founder of X Ventures, which represents clients in international technology and related issues, during recent IT security conference in San Francisco.

However, society as a whole must decide if potentially saving hundreds of lives is worth such a huge invasion of privacy, he said.

Continue reading “Q&A: California Tech Lawyer Jeffrey J. Blatt”

Yearbook Companies Exploit FERPA Exemption to Collect Student Data

By Samantha Cleaver

When Cheri Kiesecker, co-chair of the advocacy organization Parent Coalition for Student Privacy in Colorado, ordered her son’s yearbook, she reviewed the privacy policy and was shocked at what she saw.

According to the privacy statement, Jostens Inc., like other yearbook companies, receives personal information from schools — and then combines that data with information from other sources to validate and update their databases.

They use the data collected for myriad purposes, including creating and promoting their products — and, as stated in their privacy policy, “for other purposes permitted under this Policy except as prohibited by applicable by law.”

Digital Privacy News reached out to Jostens for comment but did not receive a response.

The broad collection and use of data by Jostens are just two ways yearbook and other companies are collecting and using data under the U.S. Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) directory-information exemption.

FERPA, the 1974 law that governs student information, includes an exemption that allows schools to identify data as “directory information.”

That material then can be disclosed to outside organizations without explicit permission from parents or students.

Continue reading “Yearbook Companies Exploit FERPA Exemption to Collect Student Data”