Month: June 2020

Q&A: UMass’ Erik Learned-Miller

People Don’t Trust Face Technology

By Jeff Benson

Last of two parts.

Erik Learned-Miller, a computer scientist at University of Massachusetts Amherst, believes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides an effective model for regulating face-recognition technologies (FRTs).

The professor explains how an FDA-like agency could foster trust in FRTs.

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Q&A: UMass’ Erik Learned-Miller

Why Facial-Recognition Technologies Need Their Own FDA

By Jeff Benson

First of two parts.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has worked to ensure the nation’s food and drug supplies are safe and effective since its initial founding in 1927.

In a white paper released last month, “Facial Recognition Technologies in the Wild: A Call for a Federal Office,” four researchers argue that emerging facial-recognition tech needs its own version of the FDA. 

Co-author Erik Learned-Miller, a professor of computer science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, believes facial-recognition technologies (FRTs) are too complex for legislation alone to be effective.

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What Has US Learned from Asia’s COVID-Privacy Battle? Not Much, Experts Say

By Charles McDermid

Last of two parts.

The United States has done little to implement the data-privacy lessons learned in Asia after regional governments rolled out strict measures to control the spread of COVID-19, analysts told Digital Privacy News. 

In some Asian countries, the tough tactics — contact-tracing apps and so-called digital fencing — drew data-security concerns from an internet-savvy region long weary of hacks, leaks and enhanced surveillance. 

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Asia on the Front Lines of COVID Battle, But at What Privacy Cost?

By Charles McDermid

First of two parts.

Governments across Asia have recently deployed COVID-19 surveillance measures with the potential to reshape the world’s approach to public-health crises — and to forever alter the global debate over data privacy and protection. 

As the pandemic erupted, Asian nations moved quickly to monitor their citizens: from “digital fencing” in Hong Kong and Taiwan, to color-coded “health passports” in China and India, as well as data-collection platforms in Singapore and South Korea. 

But as the conversation shifted from emergency tactics to the eventual aftermath, many experts wondered which tools would be shut down or dismantled in the post-pandemic world, and how that uncharted process might actually work.

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Experts: COVID Pandemic Could Jeopardize 2020 Census Count

By Tammy Joyner 

Where were you on April 1, 2020?

That’s what the U.S. Census Bureau wants to know, but the coronavirus outbreak has made it tough for the agency to conduct its decennial count of America’s population.

With the global pandemic threatening a second — and possibly more virulent— wave, the bureau faces possible further delays in gathering data for the count.

“From the 60,000-foot view, the pandemic has disrupted every single 2020 Census operation — either in small ways or significantly,” Terri Ann Lowenthal, a nationally recognized expert and consultant on the census, told Digital Privacy News. “This is not a minor matter.”

Nearly three months have passed since April 1. The more time passes, the greater likelihood individual responses to the census may be inaccurate, experts said.

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In Nashville, Sharing COVID Data With Police Raises Fears Among Blacks, Immigrants

By Mary Pieper

Critics of sharing information about those who are COVID-positive with police and other first responders say it’s a privacy breach that disproportionally affects African Americans and other people of color.

“It’s a perfect storm,” Craig Klugman, professor of bioethics and health humanities at DePaul University in Chicago, told Digital Privacy News. “There’s a lot of distrust out there.”

Klugman and Nashville Metro Council member Colby Sledge in Tennessee said that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, black and immigrant communities were suspicious about how the government used their personal information.

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Q&A: Kenyan Technology Expert Malcolm Kijirah

Contact-Tracing in Africa Faces Unusual Challenges

By Maureen Nkatha

Are contact-tracing apps the answer to reducing the spread of COVID-19 infections in Kenya?

Continued concerns among citizens and digital privacy advocates have raised questions on whether Kenyans are ready to risk their privacy to curb the spread of coronavirus in the East African nation.

Among the laws in place to combat cybercrime in Kenya include last year’s Data Protection Act and the 2014 policies developed from the African Union’s Malabo Convention.

But Malcolm Kijirah told Digital Privacy News that implementing these laws remained a challenge in Kenya. A lawyer in private practice, he also is a research fellow at the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law at Strathmore University in Nairobi.

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Wearable Devices Bring Many Privacy Issues

By Sheryl Nance-Nash

You have your Fitbit, Apple Watch or whatever wearable serves as a personal trainer of sorts. Kudos for your quest for fitness.

You have good intentions, but others see opportunity in that band on your wrist: It’s loaded with data. 

“Don’t be naïve and think that a simple fitness application isn’t harmless, or at least, doesn’t pose any risks,” Paul Howard, investigative coordinator with the Smith Investigation Agency, told Digital Privacy News. The Ontario-based company specializes in internet scams.

“We live in a greedy world,” Howard added. “People make a lot of money gathering information.”

Truth is, the line is blurred when it comes to privacy.

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A Company’s Biggest Privacy Threat? Insiders

By Patrick W. Dunne

Earlier this year, Tesla Inc. sued an alleged malicious user who “conducted quite extensive and damaging sabotage” on the company.

The lawsuit contended that the accused made several destructive changes to Tesla’s source code and exported gigabytes of data to sell to a third party. 

However, the disturbance did not come from a hacker group. It came from inside the company, based in Palo Alto, Calif.

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In Uganda, the President and a Dissident Square Off Over a Twitter Block

By Jeff Benson

Last year, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni had a thorn in his side.

A Harvard student, Hillary Innocent Taylor Seguya, had been calling him a dictator and criticizing his posts on Twitter.

So, Museveni, who’s been in power since 1986, did what any irritated private citizen would do: He blocked Seguya, effectively preventing him from seeing or commenting on his posts.

But according to Seguya, Museveni wasn’t using his platform as a private citizen — and, thus, shouldn’t be allowed to use the platform’s privacy features.

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Experts: COVID’s Financial Fallout May Require More Data Than Ever

By Joanne Cleaver 

As Americans emerge from sheltering in place, the privacy view from the front door may still be foggy. 

Grace periods that allowed homeowners and renters to skip, reduce or delay monthly housing payments won’t last forever.

But the financial fallout might, housing-finance experts told Digital Privacy News, might force Americans to reveal more personal data than ever to restructure their own housing stability.

The extra $600 a week in unemployment compensation flowing from the federal CARES Act expires next month.

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Q&A: Journalist, Author David Burnham

‘It’s a Very Discouraging Time for Democracy’

By Aisheh Barghouti

Last of two parts.

David Burnham spent years as an investigative reporter.

Now 87, Burnham is co-director and co-founder of the nonprofit Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a nonpartisan research organization in Syracuse, N.Y., that since 1989 has maintained and analyzed a vast database of federal enforcement, staffing and financial information.

During his long career as a journalist and at TRAC, Burnham has worked to hold federal agencies accountable for accomplishing their stated goals.

He is the author of “The Rise of the Computer State” (1983), about computers’ threat to privacy and democracy; “A Law Unto Itself” (1988), on the IRS and its abuses, and “Above the Law” (1996), spotlighting the U.S. Justice Department.

In today’s report, Burnham told Digital Privacy News that the collapse of the media is a primary reason privacy is in greater jeopardy today.

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Q&A: Journalist, Author David Burnham

‘Society has gotten less interested in privacy’

By Aisheh Barghouti

First of two parts.

David Burnham is a former investigative reporter who, during his tenure at The New York Times, covered everything from corruption in the New York City Police Department to the inner workings of the Internal Revenue Service.

His groundbreaking work on corruption in the police department led to revelations documented in the 1973 film “Serpico.” Burnham was also the journalist labor union activist Karen Silkwood (on whom the 1983 film “Silkwood” is based) was on her way to meet when she was killed in a car accident that remains suspicious.

Now 87, he is co-director and co-founder of the nonprofit Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a nonpartisan research organization that maintains a database of federal enforcement, staffing and financial data.

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Experts: UK’s 20-Year Retention of Health Data Violates Law

By Robert Bateman

The U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) has set up a “Test and Trace” program to help track the spread of COVID-19. 

The program, rolled out May 28, involves “contact-tracing” — gathering information about COVID-19 patients and those with whom they have been in contact, with an aim to slow the spread of the virus.

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Chinese Drone Donations Sow Rift Between Police, Legislators

By Christopher Adams

As relations between the United States and China become increasingly strained, the pervasive use of Beijing-manufactured drones by American government agencies and public-safety forces have come under fire because of privacy concerns.

Da Jiang Innovations (DJI), the dominant player in the drone market, recently donated several unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to more than 40 U.S. law-enforcement agencies.

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In India, Mandatory COVID App Raises Privacy and Data-Theft Issues

By Aishwarya Jagani

The government of India last month took several steps to allay some privacy fears over its official COVID-19 contact-tracing app, Aarogya Setu.

The app’s terms of service now says the government will accept “limited liability” for data collected by the app, which had not been the case. The device also is now open-sourced, allowing independent coders and researchers to check for security flaws.

But Aarogya Setu, announced in April by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, still remains under fire: The device is mandatory for many Indian citizens, as well as for central government employees and those traveling by air or train.

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Ease of Voice Recognition Technology Brings Great Risks

By Brittany VanDerBill

Technology brings increased convenience and other benefits to users. Voice recognition technology provides the added ease of operating smartphones and other devices orally. 

But this convenience could come at the cost of privacy, experts tell Digital Privacy News.

“Voice recognition technology is actually quite advanced and capable of a lot of privacy violations that people might not even think of,” said Brian Green, director of technology ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University in California.

Green’s views mirror the results of a study last year by the University of Michigan and National Science Foundation, which found how voice recognition technology could be exploited with lasers and audio signals to hack into and use smart devices.

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New AMA Privacy Principles Seek to Build Public Trust

By Myrle Croasdale

Physicians expect to field patients’ medical questions. Nowadays, however, they also can expect questions on what health-related apps and websites are safe to use.

“I see it all the time in my own practice,” Dr. Jesse Ehrenfeld, an anesthesiologist at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and American Medical Association (AMA) board member, told Digital Privacy News. “I get lots of questions from my patients on how safe it is.

“Like the hospital patient portal or the pharmacy app to manage their own prescriptions,” Ehrenfeld posed. “Right now, it’s hard to provide good guidance to patients about what the apps are and are not doing, because there’s no transparency.”

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Q&A: Varonis Field CTO Brian Vecci

Too Much Company Data ‘Is Open to Everybody’

By Patrick W. Dunne

Some of the most significant breaches the world has seen in the past few years — Tesla, Target, Capital One — all came from within the company.

About a third of all data breaches involve insiders according to the 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report.

Brian Vecci, field chief technology officer at Varonis Systems Inc. in New York, tells Digital Privacy News that companies are vulnerable to such attacks in many ways.

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Freelancers Wary After Ohio Data Breach of Pandemic Jobless Aid Program

By Joanne Cleaver

When Karen Anderson saw that self-employed workers could qualify for financial assistance through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) section of the federal CARES Act, the California freelance editor thought that — just maybe — freelancers might catch a break this year. 

Then Anderson heard of the data breaches in Ohio, Illinois, and Colorado, all resulting from faulty PUA payment systems quickly built and introduced by Deloitte, the U.K.-based consulting and accounting giant. 

“It discourages people who are qualified,” Anderson told Digital Privacy News of such glitches. “They’re afraid to apply.”

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