Month: September 2020

Q&A: Technologist Cory Doctorow

‘We Can Pass Laws That Make Being Anti-Privacy Unprofitable’

By Jeff Benson

Second of three parts.

Technologist and author Cory Doctorow doesn’t buy the argument that we can’t regulate Big Tech because they’ll move overseas.

In today’s Digital Privacy News interview, the second of three parts, he said that U.S. laws allowed monopolies to expand across the globe, that changing those rules were “politically difficult” and that companies only cared about privacy if they could profit from it.

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European Court Spurns Challenge to UK Government Surveillance

By Robert Bateman

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) struck a severe blow to privacy advocates this month when it rejected a legal challenge to the U.K. government’s surveillance activities on procedural grounds.

The case was brought by advocacy groups, who argued that the government’s cellphone-hacking and surveillance violated European human-rights law.

The court ruled Sept. 3 that the case was inadmissible because the advocates had not exhausted the U.K.’s domestic legal procedures.

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Q&A: British Author Cory Doctorow

Breaking Up Monopolies Unleashes Innovation, Competition

By Jeff Benson

First of three parts.

Cory Doctorow is one of the world’s most prolific tech and science fiction writers.

In between releasing his second graphic novel, “Poesy the Monster Slayer,” in July and a sequel to “Little Brother” (due out in October), Doctorow managed to fit in a 27,000-word treatise on breaking up tech monopolies.

Published on OneZero late last month (and available for free to read), “How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism” argues that the government needs to step up its antitrust efforts or else Facebook, Google and their ilk will invade people’s privacy with impunity.

In the first of a three-part interview, Doctorow told Digital Privacy News that breaking up monopolies helped tech grow, that Facebook won’t stop hoarding data on its own — and provided questions that really should be asked about Big Tech.

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Review: ‘The Social Dilemma’

True Confessions But No Real Answers

By Kelvin Childs

“The Social Dilemma,” a Netflix documentary-drama by director Jeff Orlowski, shows the common ground that undergirds a society relentlessly being fractured with each “like,” tweet and click on social media.

Orlowski, 34, is behind such hit nature documentaries as “Chasing Ice” (2012) and “Chasing Coral” (2017).

In “Social,” Orlowski parades numerous former founders, executives and engineers from the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google, Apple, Uber and Firefox as if they are at a confessional — sounding the alarm about the Frankenstein they all had a hand in creating.

Yet, they disingenuously declare that no one’s fingerprints in particular are on the weapons they claim were formed from their work.

Tellingly, “Social” has no current representatives of the companies speaking to how — or, whether — they’ve course-corrected.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appears in news footage evading congressional questions on his company’s responsibility and asserting that it can set things right with its algorithms.

But these former insiders and some outside critics, in rebuttal to Zuckerberg, say it can’t be done.

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Health Guidelines Seek to Protect Data Not Covered by HIPAA Law

By Myrle Croasdale

The “Wild West” of unprotected personal health data may be nearing an end.

Two organizations, the eHealth Initiative (eHI) and the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), have proposed voluntary privacy standards to protect consumer-generated health information not covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

“With the rise of wearable devices, wellness apps and other online services, huge amounts of information reflecting users’ health are being created and held by entities that are not bound by HIPAA regulations,” Alexandra Reeve Givens, CDT’s president and CEO, told Digital Privacy News.

“We hope this framework serves as a first step to providing greater privacy rights and protections for consumers.”

Along with setting privacy standards, the draft framework recommends a self-regulatory enforcement model to hold participating organizations accountable.

Privacy experts, however, questioned the effectiveness of such an approach. 

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Google Faces $2.5B Lawsuit Over YouTube and Children’s Data

By Robert Bateman

Google faces a $2.5 billion class-action lawsuit in the U.K., over allegations that its YouTube video-sharing platform is “breaching millions of young peoples’ privacy and data rights.” 

The case is on behalf of an estimated 5 million children under 13 across England and Wales, according to a Sept.14 news release from the case’s legal team.

If successful, it would be the first class-action lawsuit against a tech company in Europe. 

Google, which acquired YouTube in 2006, is accused of violating U.K. law, which states that children under 13 are unable to consent to the collection of their personal information.

“They’re using this data to capture the attention of our children,” Duncan McCann, the representative claimant in the case, told Digital Privacy News. 

He has three children aged 13 or under, and McCann said he was concerned about how Google used their personal information on YouTube.

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‘Trusted Technology Partner’?

Privacy Experts Alarmed at Oracle’s Role in Proposed TikTok Deal

By Charles McDermid

The impact of the White House’s decision to ban TikTok and WeChat that began Sunday remained unclear, but global privacy experts were alarmed that Oracle Corp. could still become the “trusted technology partner” of the Chinese owner of the two widely popular apps.

They told Digital Privacy News that the possible deal marked the start of a global era of data localization, as nations scrambled to keep citizens’ personal data within their own borders. 

“It’s easier for a government to request data stored on its territory, provided that its laws authorize it,” said Emmanuel Pernot-Leplay, a researcher in data-protection law at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. “It’s much more difficult when it has to make a request for such data when they are stored abroad.

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Q&A: University of Texas’ Murat Kantarcioglu

Online Voting Is Not Safe

By Patrick W. Dunne

With the concerns surrounding a U.S. Postal Service slowdown and voter suppression, discussions continue to grow about online voting for the 2020 election.

But many cybersecurity experts are skeptical, including Murat Kantarcioglu, a professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Kantarcioglu, who holds a doctorate in computer science from Perdue University, told Digital Privacy News that online voting lacked a meaningful method of self-auditing, which eroded trust in the system. 

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Workers, Homeowner Associations Square Off Over Rules in Pandemic

By Joanne Cleaver 

A home-based doggy boarding business nearly cost Dianna Sells her house.  

Sells didn’t realize that her retirement business of taking in sedate older dogs for short periods violated the rules and regulations of the homeowners association (HOA) in which her house is situated in Round Rock, Texas.

After all, her yard is big, the geriatric dogs were quiet — and many of her clients were neighbors. 

Then someone — Sells told Digital Privacy News she still doesn’t know who — complained to the association’s board.

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Back to School, Back to Crime?

Schools See Rise in Cyberthreats With Online Learning

By Samantha Cleaver

This fall, back to school means back on defense.

Schools in Haywood County, N.C., started remote learning last month. They then closed abruptly because of a cyberattack.

Later in the month, Palm Springs Unified Schools in California, also virtual, reported having to clear a hacking attack. The district addressed it with teacher, student and parent training.

This is the landscape for schools for the 2020-21 year. With networks branching out into households, and hackers well aware of the value of education data, phishing and ransomware attacks are expected to be a common occurrence, experts told Digital Privacy News.

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