Daily Digest (7/9)

US Probing Allegations TikTok violated Children’s Privacy; FBI Chief Rips Chinese Cyberattacks on US; Hackers Find Footage on Police Body Cameras Bought on eBay; Federal Judge Rejects Much of Legal Challenge to Maine’s Online Privacy Law. Click “Continue reading” below.

US Probing Allegations TikTok violated Children’s Privacy

The Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Justice Department are investigating whether the TikTok app failed to live up to a 2019 agreement aimed at protecting children’s privacy, two people interviewed by the agencies told Reuters.

The development is the latest bump for the short-video company, which is popular with teens. TikTok has seen scrutiny, including from the national security-focused Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, rise sharply because of its Chinese parent corporation. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that the United States was “certainly looking at” banning TikTok, suggesting it shared information with the Chinese government, a charge it denied.

A staffer in a Massachusetts tech policy group and another source said they took part in separate conference calls with FTC and Justice Department officials to discuss accusations that TikTok had failed to live up to an agreement announced in February 2019, Reuters reports.

The Center for Digital Democracy, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and others in May asked the trade commission to look into their allegations that TikTok failed to delete videos and personal information about users 13 and younger as it had agreed to do, among other violations.

A TikTok spokesman told Reuters that the company took “safety seriously for all our users,” adding that in the United States they “accommodate users under 13 in a limited-app experience that introduces additional safety and privacy protections designed specifically for a younger audience.”

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FBI Chief Rips Chinese Cyberattacks on US

In blistering remarks, FBI Director Christopher Wray attacked the Chinese government for its use of espionage and cyberattacks against the United States.

“The stakes could not be higher, and the potential economic harm to American businesses and the economy as a whole almost defies calculation,” Wray said Tuesday at a speech at the Hudson Institute in Washington, CNBC reports.

The day before, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s threatened to ban TikTok as well as other Chinese social media apps, citing national security concerns.

“To achieve its goals and surpass America, China recognizes it needs to make leaps in cutting-edge technology, but the sad fact is that instead of engaging in the hard slog of innovation, China often steals American intellectual property and then uses it to compete against the very American companies it victimizes, in effect, cheating twice,” Wray said.

The Chinese government targets “research on everything from military equipment to wind turbines,” he said.

When asked if the White House had an estimate on the financial damage the Chinese government has caused to the American economy, Wray said he did not know of an exact number, but added that “every figure I’ve seen is breathtaking,” according to CNBC.

“Confronting this threat effectively does not mean we shouldn’t do business with the Chinese, does not mean we shouldn’t host Chinese visitors; it does not mean we shouldn’t welcome Chinese students or coexist with China on the world stage,” Wray said.

“It does mean that when China violates our criminal laws and international norms, we are not going to tolerate, much less enable.”

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Hackers Find Footage on Police Body Cameras Bought on eBay

Hackers are buying decommissioned police body cameras online, and some are finding troves of video evidence after successfully extracting data from the devices.

One Twitter user, d0tslash, last week found one such cache while searching inside an Axon-branded body camera he bought on eBay.

Based on screenshots of the extracted footage, which include people in military fatigues searching a home and an officer filling out paperwork, the camera appears to belong to military police at Fort Huachuca, a U.S. Army installation in Arizona, Vice’s Motherboard site reports.

“[I] searched for one on eBay to wrap up an old to-do in my brain to buy some and examine them,” d0tslash said, providing a link to the eBay listing, which advertised a non-working Axon body camera with a missing battery. “I’ve actually had it about a month now just sitting.”

To access the data, d0tslash copied the raw disk image from an internal SD card mounted inside the device. He then used an old U.S. Air Force forensics tool from the early 2000’s called foreMost, which successfully located video files within the mass of unencrypted data.

The device in question appears to be an older version of the Axon Body, which normally transfers video data to a computer after being docked in a proprietary cradle.

“Zero encryption. [It] was just in the raw,” said d0tslash, who posted some screenshots to confirm the footage’s authenticity. 

“As I understand the specific system I have is from 2015, and is not necessarily representative of newer technology from Axon. I’ve not done any analysis though.”

The eBay seller did not respond to a request for comment, Motherboard reports.

Used body cameras are commonly for sale online, and several other hackers followed up with their own findings, according to the report.

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Federal Judge Rejects Much of Legal Challenge to Maine’s Online Privacy Law

A federal judge has rejected much of a legal challenge to Maine’s internet privacy law.

The law, which took effect July 1, requires internet service providers to get consumers’ consent before using or sharing their internet-use data, The Portland Press Herald reports.

Four internet industry groups, representing internet service providers and led by the Pennsylvania-based trade group ACA Connects, sued in February seeking to block the law — which sets some of the strictest consumer-privacy rules in the country.

The law was modeled on a rule adopted by the Federal Communications Commission under former President Barack Obama, but was overturned under President Donald Trump in 2017.

The providers argued that Maine’s law violates First Amendment protections by, among other things, restricting the providers from advertising or marketing services to customers or from offering discounts or rewards in loyalty programs.

Both providers and the state sought a “judgment on the pleadings,” asking the judge to rule on the basis of preliminary arguments instead of waiting for a full trial.

“Consumers expect – and deserve – the same meaningful privacy protections across the internet,” said Brian Dietz, a senior vice president for NCTA, the Internet & Television Association, one of the groups that challenged the Maine law.

ISPs support a comprehensive national policy for internet privacy, he said.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Bangor.

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By DPN Staff