Month: July 2020

EU Strikes Down Privacy Shield, With Major Implications for UK Economy

By Robert Bateman

The world of digital privacy was shaken this month, when the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) invalidated the Privacy Shield framework, which allows certain businesses to freely transfer personal information from the E.U. to the U.S.

The E.U. court ruled July 16 in Luxembourg that U.S. surveillance laws violated the privacy of European citizens. International data transfers to the U.S. can still take place, however, subject to standard contractual clauses to protect personal information, written by the European Commission.

Experts on both sides of the Atlantic told Digital Privacy News that the U.K., which has similarly intrusive surveillance laws to the United States, could be disproportionately affected by the decision.

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Facebook Touts Messenger Rooms as Zoom Alternative, But Experts Question Claims

By Aishwarya Jagani

Facebook recently debuted its Messenger Rooms group video-chat service, touting it as a safer alternative to the Zoom’s embattled video-conferencing platform, but experts tell Digital Privacy News that’s not the case.

“In terms of privacy, I would consider FBMR to be slightly higher-risk than Microsoft Teams and definitely better than Zoom, but on a par with Google Meet,” said U.K. privacy expert Rowenna Fielding.

“Both Facebook and Google’s business model is based on harvesting people’s data to profile them for microtargeting of advertising,” she explained, “whereas Microsoft doesn’t data-mine enterprise products — and Zoom has clarified that they don’t data-mine user content at all.”

Fielding, head of individuals’ rights and freedoms at the data-protection consultancy Protecture in Bristol, was just as ambivalent about Messenger’s security features.

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Researchers Wary of Census Bureau’s Plan to Use ‘Differential Privacy’ in 2020 Count

By Tammy Joyner

As a demographer, Alexis Santos relies heavily on census data to track public-health disparities, especially in communities of color.

But a proposed change by the U.S. Census Bureau designed to further safeguard the confidentiality of its data threatens to upend the work of Santos and other researchers.

The bureau wants to use a new algorithm called differential privacy, beginning with this year’s census.

“Differential privacy is more concrete,” Maria Filippelli, a public-interest technology fellow at the New America think tank in Washington, told Digital Privacy News. “It’s more technical.

“In the end, a set of mathematical equations or algorithms will process the data, so that it’s more secure,” she said.

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The US Hasn’t Passed a Strong Data-Privacy Law in 20 Years. It’s Not Getting Easier

By Charles McDermid

Two most-recent privacy bills introduced to Congress indicate an increasingly partisan approach to surveillance technology, adding yet another stumbling block for U.S. lawmakers who have not passed a significant federal data-protection law in two decades, experts told Digital Privacy News. 

More than a dozen privacy bills now are before Congress, including the additions last month of the Democratic-backed Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act of 2020 and the Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act, which was put forth by Republicans. 

In the past, bipartisanship had emerged around national surveillance issues — such as the USA Freedom Act of 2015, which updated parts of the Patriot Act — but privacy advocates now worry that today’s polarized political arena could worsen the legislative logjam.

The U.S. remains one of the last developed countries that does not have any national consumer privacy or data-security laws, or its own federal data-protection agency.

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Electronic Warrants Aid Police, But Post-Arrest Privacy Is Not Assured

By Samantha Stone

It was a birthday celebration. Or was it a post-divorce party? Either way, the evening ended with flashing lights in the rear-view mirror.

Highway patrol officers asked the driver for a blood sample. She was within her legal rights to refuse. Authorities then scrambled for a warrant to take her blood without consent.

“In the old days, if you refused, they were just out of luck,” attorney Paul Burglin, dean of the National College for DUI  Defense in Montgomery, Ala., told Digital Privacy News.

Or, they ended up in court.

“There were cases in Arizona where the cops were sticking a needle in suspects in the back of the patrol car,” Burglin said. “They were holding people down in California and forcibly taking a sample.”

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