Daily Digest (6/2)

FBI Seeks Information on Those Inciting Violence at Weekend Protests; OSHA Revises Guidance on Tracking COVID-19 in the Workplace; Zoom Plans Strong Encryption for Paying Customers; UK Privacy Group Prepares Legal Challenge to NHS Test-and-Trace Plans. Click “Continue reading” below.

FBI Seeks Information on Those Inciting Violence at Weekend Protests

The FBI said Monday that it was seeking information on individuals who incited violence during weekend protests across the country.

“We are committed to apprehending and charging violent instigators who are exploiting legitimate, peaceful protests and engaging in violations of federal law,” the agency said in a news release.

“The continued violence, potential threat to life and destruction of property across the United States interferes with the rights and safety of First Amendment-protected peaceful demonstrators, as well as all other citizens.”

Demonstrations in cities across the country turned violent over the weekend in response to the May 25 death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

Floyd, 46, who is black, died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes. The officer, Derek Chauvin, and three others were fired.

Chauvin, 44, has been charged with third-degree murder.

Several state governors called out National Guard units to quell protesters.

“The FBI respects the rights of individuals to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights,” the agency said. “Our mission of protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution is dual and simultaneous, not contradictory.”

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OSHA Revises Guidance on Tracking COVID-19 in the Workplace

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has revised its recommendations for employers who seek to determine whether employees who have contracted COVID-19 did so in the workplace. 

Employers now are required to investigate the cause of an employee’s infection within certain parameters, the agency said.

In the revised guidelines, which took effect May 26, “employers should be taking action to determine whether employee COVID-19 illnesses are work-related and thus recordable.

“Given the nature of the disease and ubiquity of community spread, however, in many instances, it remains difficult to determine whether a COVID-19 illness is work-related, especially when an employee has experienced potential exposure both in and out of the workplace,” the agency said.

OSHA also said it was “exercising its enforcement discretion in order to provide certainty to employers and workers.”

In addition, employers with fewer than 10 employees “and certain employers in low-hazard industries” do not have recording obligations. 

Regarding compliance safety and health officers, OSHA said employers “should not be expected to undertake extensive medical inquiries, given employee privacy concerns and most employers’ lack of experience in this area.”

The agency said that it was “sufficient in most circumstances for the employer” to ask the employee how they think they caught COVID-19, “while respecting employee privacy, discuss with the employee his work and out-of-work activities” and review the work environment.

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Zoom Plans Strong Encryption for Paying Customers

Embattled video-conferencing provider Zoom Communications Inc. said it planned to strengthen its encryption of video calls hosted by paying clients and institutions like schools, but not by users of its free consumer accounts.

The company, whose business has boomed with the coronavirus pandemic, discussed the move on a call Friday with civil liberties groups and child-sex abuse fighters on Thursday, Reuters reports, and Zoom security consultant Alex Stamos confirmed it on Friday.

Stamos said the plan was subject to change and it was not yet clear which, if any, nonprofits or other users, such as political dissidents, might qualify for accounts that would allow for more secure video meetings.

He added that technological, safety and business factors went into the plan, which drew mixed reactions from privacy advocates.

Gennie Gebhart, a researcher with the Electronic Frontier Foundation who was on Thursday’s call, said she hoped Zoom would change course and offer protected video more widely.

But Jon Callas, a technology fellow of the American Civil Liberties Union, said Zoom’s strategy seemed a reasonable compromise.

“Those of us who are doing secure communication believe we need to do things about the real horrible stuff,” he told Reuters.

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UK Privacy Group Prepares Legal Challenge to NHS Test-and-Trace Plans

U.K. privacy advocates are planning a court challenge to the National Health Service’s (NHS) coronavirus test-and-trace program, amid rising concerns about the amount of contact data to be collected and retained by the government.

The Open Rights Group (ORG) has instructed lawyer Ravi Naik to draft a letter outlining its concerns after Public Health England said it would retain “personally identifiable” data of those who test positive for COVID-19 for 20 years, The Guardian reports.

“The government needs to better explain its reasoning; what they have done so far has been rushed,” said Jim Killock, ORG’s executive director. “Our concern is people will feel reluctant to participate if they feel their personal data is leaving their control.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has argued that existing data-protection law was sufficient, while Lady Dido Harding, the chair of NHS test-and-trace program, said last week that any information collected would be part of “an NHS conversation, entirely confidential.”

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By DPN Staff