Month: October 2020

UK’s Privacy Law Overhaul Could Damage Post-Brexit Economy

By Robert Bateman

The U.K. government is planning a significant overhaul of its privacy laws in a move that experts told Digital Privacy News risked damaging the country’s economy and relations with the European Union.

The government’s national data strategy, published last month, says that the U.K. “will control its own data protection laws and regulations in line with its interests” after the country’s transition out of the EU.

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Experts Split on Calif.’s Prop 24

By Patrick W. Dunne

California residents will vote Tuesday on a divisive privacy initiative: Prop 24, also known as the California Privacy Rights and Enforcement Act.

Alastair Mactaggart, the San Francisco developer, wrote and financed Prop 24 to enhance or adjust provisions of his previous initiative, the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA).

Prop 24 would require businesses to provide customers with an opt-out regarding the collection of their private data and would limit how that information is used and stored.

“Prop 24 aims to give California privacy-first protection like Europe has under the General Data Protection Regulation since 2016,” Mactaggart told Digital Privacy News.

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CEOs Queried Again Amid Rift in Bipartisan Moves to Control Big Tech

By Jackson Chen

Big Tech CEOs again are testifying before Congress — this time on Wednesday — about how they run their companies, but now they are in front of a Republican-led panel of the U.S. Senate.

CEOs from Twitter, Google and Facebook will be questioned by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on the liability shield that companies operate under, as well as its content-moderation practices and effect on consumer privacy.

Specifically, the session will discuss how Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act offers online platforms immunity from the content that’s published by its users and if it has allowed tech giants to enable unintended behavior. 

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Where the 2020 Presidential Candidates Stand on Privacy

By Rachel Looker

The 2020 presidential election is a week away — and with it comes the chance for each candidate to determine the direction of data-privacy issues for the next four years.

From regulating social media platforms to enacting stronger privacy legislation, either Republican President Donald Trump or former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden may get the chance to shape the future of digital privacy if re-elected or elected to office.

“When we’re sitting here in January 2021, we will continue to see both the new Congress and the next administration discuss data privacy in some way,” Jennifer Huddleston, director of technology and innovation policy at the American Action Forum (AAF), told Digital Privacy News. 

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Q&A: Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

Americans Deserve ‘Full Accounting’ From Big Tech CEOs on Their Practices

By Jeff Benson

Nearly two weeks ago, The New York Post published what it deemed a bombshell story allegedly linking Hunter Biden to a Ukrainian-influence campaign on his father, then-Vice President Joe Biden.

Many social media users didn’t hear about it until later.

Twitter blocked the article for purportedly breaching its privacy policies, while Facebook slowed down dissemination so the report could be fact-checked.

The incident put further strain on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which gives online publishers broad discretion to moderate content submitted by users.

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Photo Apps Convenient But Rife With Privacy, Security Risks

By Rob Sabo

Photography’s shift from film to digital has brought about an unprecedented explosion of images taken.

In 2000, for instance, Kodak reported that consumers snapped a record 80 billion film photos. But this year, consumers are expected to capture 1.4 trillion digital images via smartphones, webcams, GoPros, drones and DSLR cameras.

Digital now rules the photography realm, but the power of the printed image hasn’t dissipated.

Photo-printing apps — Snapfish and Shutterfly, along with Costco, Walmart, Walgreens and other retailers — allow customers to upload and print digital images from smartphones or other devices.

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‘Finally, We Have One’

Experts: Google Lawsuit Shows US Failure to Protect Consumer Privacy

By Jackson Chen

The U.S. Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against Google illustrates how federal regulators failed to protect consumer privacy as technology companies exploded to dominate — if not control — nearly every aspect of American life, experts told Digital Privacy News.

“What you’re seeing is the result of years and years of the Federal Trade Commission’s failure to take privacy into consideration,” said Caitriona Fitzgerald of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).

“When you’re looking at a big company like Google or Facebook, so much of the way it is now is because they want so much of that personal data they hold.”

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Your Voter Data Is Not Private — And Almost Anyone Can Get It

By Nora Macaluso

When you register to vote in any election, you may be giving out more information than you think. And, depending on where you live, that data may be readily available to anyone who wants it — no questions asked. 

For his 2012 reelection campaign, Democratic President Barack Obama’s team pioneered the use of big data for political use, amassing a huge database of potential voters to target with ads and get-out-the-vote efforts.

Republicans followed suit — and now both parties have access to troves of data they can manipulate to target specific voter groups. 

Campaigns use big data to “track voter participation and build their parties,” Connie Uthoff, of the George Washington University’s College of Professional Studies, told Digital Privacy News.

The problem is “state law varies about voter information, and states mandate how it can be used,” she said.

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Want $400 From Facebook?

Tech Giant Reaches Settlement for Breaching Ill. Biometric Privacy Laws

By Patrick W. Dunne

Facebook may owe you as much as $400.

The social media giant recently settled a class-action lawsuit and agreed to pay out $650 million to Illinois residents for violating the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), one of the strictest laws of its kind. 

Known as Patel vs. Facebook, the case initially was brought by a group of plaintiffs in the Northern District of California in San Francisco, alleging the company had violated BIPA, which was enacted in 2008.

In August 2019, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, also in San Francisco, affirmed the district court’s recognition of Facebook’s harm, stating that the company could not violate privacy rights.

The settlement was reached in July.

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Q&A: San Diego State’s Daniel Eaton

‘Work From Home Is Still Work and Subject to Work Rules’

By Victor Bradley

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in May, Gallup found that 52% of employed U.S. adults worked from home full-time, versus fewer than 6% as recently as 2017.

As such, employers increasingly have turned to technology to monitor and analyze employee behavior. These include AI-capable systems, which they claim to use big data-based insights to identify — even predict — problematic employee behaviors.

But Daniel E. Eaton, a lecturer in employment law and business ethics at San Diego State University’s Fowler College of Business, told Digital Privacy News that federal privacy rights for workers were limited in general, leaving this new frontier essentially unregulated.

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Despite Concessions, Experts Warn $2.1B Google-Fitbit Deal Risks Privacy, Competition

By Robert Bateman

The European Commission has extended its deadline for a decision on Google’s $2.1 billion acquisition of fitness-tracking company Fitbit, despite Google last week tweaking its concessions aimed at allaying European Union antitrust concerns, according to news reports.

The commission, which acts as the EU’s competition regulator, is investigating the privacy and antitrust implications of the deal. 

As a precondition of the takeover, Google has pledged that it will not use Fitbit customers’ health data to personalize online ads for 10 years. It also said it would open up its Android application processing interface (API) to competitors.

But Google last week revised the package after the commission received feedback from rivals and consumers, Reuters reports, citing “people familiar with the matter” and declining to provide further details.

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‘I Refuse to Be a Commodity’

Dealing With a Digital Divide in the Same Household

Beth and John Shulman-Ment agree about most things, except online privacy.

By Sue Treiman

After 40 years together, Beth and John Shulman-Ment of Westchester County, N.Y., agree about most things — except online privacy.

“I refuse to be a commodity that sites like Google sell to third parties,” John, 67, a lifelong computer scientist, told Digital Privacy News.

Beth, 65, a homecare nurse, however, accepts the risk.

“When I weigh John’s privacy concerns against staying in touch, it feels worth the tradeoff,” she said.

“And besides,” Beth added, “I have nothing to hide.”

Given rising concerns about personal data and more enforced time at home because of COVID-19, the number of spouses, partners, roommates and colleagues who share WIFI connections without sharing equal faith in online privacy safeguards is bound to increase.

Are some relationships bound to be affected?

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‘That’s the Reality’

Employees Suing Over COVID Disclosures in the Workplace

By Tammy Joyner

A showdown is brewing between workers and employers.

As COVID-19 rages on, more employees are contracting the virus yet are being forced to keep quiet about outbreaks on the job, experts told Digital Privacy News.

Companies are using privacy laws to keep workers from alerting others about the life-threatening virus, they said.

Undeterred, workers are fighting back with complaints and lawsuits.

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Is China Exporting ‘Surveillance Creep’ Throughout the World? Experts Weigh In

By Charles McDermid

First of two parts.

Concern has intensified in recent weeks over the global expansion of China’s so-called techno-authoritarianism, with Western media and the U.S. government warning that Beijing already is exporting its surveillance tactics around the world.

Critics of China’s data-collection policies have plenty of ammunition, from the use of new technology to spy on Uighurs and other Muslim minorities to the ambitious plan to develop a genetic map of 700 million Chinese men and boys. 

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Q&A: South African Professor Uche Mbanaso

‘Privacy Means to Be “Left Alone,” But the Context Has Changed’

By Maureen Nkatha

South Africa’s Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) took effect in July, becoming one of the few African nations to have adopted effective data-protection legislation.

The act defines how personal information can be collected and shared by public and private-sector organizations. They now must report all data breaches to the country’s information regulator.

Uche Mbanaso, a visiting senior lecturer at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, told Digital Privacy News that one of the greatest challenges to implementing the law is the fluidity of privacy data, which many infrastructures were not yet designed to handle.

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VA Did Not Disclose Huge Data Breach for 7 Weeks

By Andy Arnold

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced a data breach seven weeks after it occurred in July, affecting the personal information of 46,000 veterans and as many as 17,000 community-care providers that administer health services to veterans.

But while agency officials said the lag was necessary to follow federal government protocols and to inform the affected vets, experts told Digital Privacy News that the notification was quick work on the VA’s part.

Rebecca Herold, CEO of the Privacy Professor consultancy in Des Moines, Iowa, called the seven weeks “reasonable.”

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Femtech Apps Under Fire for Broad Sharing of Sensitive Data

By Mary Pieper

Women who use apps to track ovulation, menstrual cycles and pregnancy could be revealing intimate information about themselves not only to advertisers, but also to insurers and employers, privacy experts and lawmakers told Digital Privacy News.

“You have no idea” who has your data, said New York State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan. “This is a very in-depth invasion of your privacy if you stop to think about it.”

Allegations disclosed in recent news reports that the fertility app Premom was sharing user data without permission to Chinese advertising companies was just the latest instance of femtech apps coming under fire.

Last month, seven bipartisan U.S. senators wrote Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph Simons, calling for an investigation of the allegations.

The report, in The Washington Post, was based on research by the nonprofit International Digital Accountability Council (IDAC).

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Stolen Data Not Fetching Much Cash on Dark Web, Reports Show

By Nora Macaluso

It’s common knowledge that the costs, in time and in money, associated with having one’s personal information stolen can be devastating.

Perhaps what’s surprising is how little that information brings when it’s sold: in many cases, next to nothing, according to companies that track prices on the dark web.

Researchers from the website Privacy Affairs searched the dark web to see what kinds of information was available and how much it costs, compiling the average prices into an index released in July.

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Is Privacy Losing in US-China Fight for Control Over Data?

By Charles McDermid

Influence on global data-security standards has emerged as yet another Big Power battleground, with the United States and China promoting rival campaigns that are heavy on geopolitical posturing — but light on details about laws, enforcement and effect. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in August unveiled the “Clean Network” program to safeguard “sensitive information from aggressive intrusions by malign actors, such as the Chinese Communist Party.”

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Facebook Claim on EU Service After Ruling Seen as ‘Bluff’

By Robert Bateman

Facebook has said it is “not clear” how it will continue to provide Facebook and Instagram in the European Union if it is forced to comply with a recent legal ruling.

The company’s associate general counsel made the comments in a Sept. 10 filing with the Irish High Court. Facebook, based in Menlo Park, Calif., has been ordered to suspend data transfers from the E.U. to the U.S., following a landmark legal case known as “Schrems II.”

But some legal experts told Digital Privacy News that Facebook was quite capable of complying with the E.U.’s rules, while others considered the comments to be a “bluff.”

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