Month: November 2020

Q&A: IAWRT’S Cecilia M. Maundu

‘The Internet is Gender-Blind. Let No One Tell You Otherwise’

By Maureen Nkatha

In an August report on internet experiences of women in Africa by, a Uganda-based civic technology organization, more than half of those interviewed reported suffering from anxiety because of negative online experiences.

Cecilia M. Maundu, a specialist in gender digital-security training, has been working to educate women and minority groups on the importance of cybersecurity training in Kenya.

Maundu, who holds a master’s in communication from the University of Nairobi, also is secretary general of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) in Nairobi.

She told Digital Privacy News that online gender-based violence is a global issue and governments worldwide should enforce laws to prosecute perpetrators.

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No More Hackers in Hoodies

Recruiting and Retaining Women to Cybersecurity Careers

By Samantha Cleaver

When Lasya Sreenivasan applied to high school in 2016 in Phoenix, Ariz., she was reticent to go into computer science.

Both parents worked in the field, and, said Sreenivasan, “I had this idea from what I saw in movies that computer scientists worked on their laptops all day, typing random things.”

Sreenivasan, 17, didn’t see how that job incorporated her interests in psychology, linguistics, and history.

But, after a two-week summer course, Sreenivasan was intrigued and decided to give computer science a try. She enrolled in the Center for Research Engineering Science and Technology (CREST) program at Paradise Valley High School.

Few girls enrolled in computer science, so when Sreenivasan saw another girl in her freshman class, they immediately became friends.

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Review: ‘Coded Bias’

Indie Film Unpacks Bias in Algorithms

By C.J. Thompson

“Coded Bias” is a new independent documentary about the omnipresence of artificial intelligence — and the myriad ways the biases of its creators are baked into its performance. 

The film centers on Massachusetts Institute of Technology doctoral candidate Joy Buolamwini, 31, whose key epiphany occurs when she uses computer-vision software for a project — and it fails to identify her dark-complexioned face.

It engages, however, when she dons a white face mask.

The “Coded Bias” poster features an image of that soulless, synthetic white mask with brown eyes staring from behind it — and the film’s implications are equally haunting. 

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UK Police Targeting Black People With Fingerprint Scanners

By Robert Bateman

Police forces across England and Wales have increased their use of mobile fingerprint scanning — and Black people are disproportionately targeted with this biometric technology, according to recent news reports analyzing police statistics.

But privacy advocates and civil rights groups told Digital Privacy News that the practice was damaging trust in the police and could hamper efforts to fight crime.

“Black communities are much more likely to be surveilled and treated as potential criminals, despite a lack of reasonable suspicion,” said Ella Jakubowska, policy officer for European Digital Rights (EDRi) in Brussels, which campaigns against biometric surveillance.

“Why would we even think about bringing in new biometric technology — which civil society groups have shown can pose an enormous threat to people’s rights and liberties — when we already have so much underlying bias and discrimination in how police forces engage with racialized and minoritized communities?”

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Facebook CEO Touts Progress on Privacy, But Experts Raise Doubts

By Jackson Chen

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently touted to Congress the company’s privacy efforts stemming from a record $5 billion Federal Trade Commission settlement last year, including “an industry-leading privacy program.”

“We have more than a thousand engineers working on the privacy program now,” Zuckerberg told the Senate Commerce Committee at an October hearing. “I think that settlement will be quite effective in ensuring that people’s data and privacy are protected.”

But experts told Digital Privacy News that the settlement did not address the root issue of Facebook’s privacy practices and instead raised more questions.

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New Zealanders at Odds Over New Privacy Law Days Before Taking Effect

By Melt Strydom

Days before a new privacy law takes effect in New Zealand, stark differences remained between advocates praising its stronger privacy protections and opponents badgering it as a “toothless tiger” because of its seemingly small fines compared with regulations in other countries.

“Even the best of laws, including the new European regulation, will have the same problem, but our law remains fit for purpose — as it is principles-based and is one-size-fits-all, covering all sectors,” Gehan Gunasekara, chairman of the New Zealand Privacy Foundation (NZPF), said of the New Zealand Privacy Act of 2020.

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Q&A: CDT’s Alexandra Reeve Givens

‘We Fight for an Open and Accessible Internet’

By Samantha Stone

Alexandra Reeve Givens was in grade school when the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) was founded.

CDT, based in Washington, is deeply rooted in digital technology’s original sin: exposing users to scrutiny by anyone with the means and the motive to probe.

By that standard, the organization is both young, at 26, and mature — having influenced public policy for a quarter of a century.

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Rights Group Sues UK Privacy Regulator in Landmark Case

By Robert Bateman

A digital-rights organization, the Open Rights Group (ORG), is taking the U.K.’s privacy regulator to court over allegations that it has failed to address illegal practices in the digital advertising technology — adtech — industry.

The claim, filed Oct. 21 with the U.K.’s Information Rights Tribunal, follows a complaint first filed with the regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), by ORG Executive Director Jim Killock in September 2018.

The complaint alleged that Google and other tech companies were using people’s personal data illegally, via a process called “real-time bidding” (RTB).

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‘A Hard Sell’

Farmers Wary on Giving Up Data to Big Ag Firms

By Christopher Adams

Iowa farmer Jeff Frank has used precision technology for years. He believes in it.

He helped ag giant Monsanto — absorbed by Bayer in 2018 — break ground on its acquired Precision Planting technology and digital-agriculture platform FieldView a few years back.

He even sold drones for a while.

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‘No Absolute Freedom of the Press’

How China Is Disabling Hong Kong’s Free Press

By Patrick McShane

In these occasional reports, Digital Privacy News examines the fallout from China’s new “national security law” on Hong Kong.

Whenever a totalitarian regime endeavours to destroy a free press, various methods can be applied.

In the case of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its drive to disable and eliminate Hong Kong’s free press, the party has used a range of tried-and-true techniques.

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‘Ask Before You App’

School Districts Vetting Online Learning Apps More Because of Growing Privacy Concerns

By Samantha Cleaver

During her years in the classroom, Karen Mensing, technology integration facilitator with the Paradise Valley Unified School District in Phoenix, Ariz., used every cool new app she came across.

“I wanted to try the new apps,” Mensing told Digital Privacy News. “It was fun.”

And, for a long time, “We weren’t vetting apps,” she said. “It was, like, do what works for you.”

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Q&A: University of Chicago’s Ben Zhao and Heather Zheng

‘Fawkes’ Tool Protects Against Unregulated Facial Software

Examples of original photos and versions that have been “cloaked” by the Fawkes tool created by a team at the University of Chicago. Team co-leaders Heather Zheng and Ben Zhao are pictured on the bottom row. Credit: SAND Lab, University of Chicago.

By Rachel Looker

With the abundance of surveillance cameras in stores, at traffic lights and in most people’s pockets, the possibility of your face being captured for unsavory purposes has become more prevalent than ever before.

To protect individual privacy, University of Chicago professors Ben Zhao and Heather Zheng led a team to create the “Fawkes” algorithmic and software tool.

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EU Proposals Could Restrict Targeted Ads

By Robert Bateman

Politicians in the EU are calling for strict regulations on targeted advertising, including considering a phase-out that would bring a total ban.

The European Parliament, which comprises elected representatives from each EU country, last month called for targeted advertising to be “regulated more strictly in favor of less intrusive, contextualized forms of advertising.” 

Legislators envision new forms of online ads that “require less data and do not depend on previous user interaction with content,” according to an Oct. 20 news release. 

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Officials Urge Tech Firms to Help Them Access User Data

By Robert Bateman

Governments across the world are calling on technology firms to allow agencies access to private communications, claiming that end-to-end encryption that shuts out law enforcement presents a “severe risk to public safety.”

In a statement, signed Oct. 11, the governments of the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India and Japan argued that software developers should “engage in consultation with governments and other stakeholders” to “embed the safety of the public in system design.”

But experts told Digital Privacy News that the proposals presented an unacceptable risk to individual privacy.

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COVID-Stressed Homeowners Face Another Wrinkle With HOA Boards

By Joanne Cleaver

Privacy practices by homeowners’ associations (HOA) are one more headache for financially stressed Americans trying to avoid foreclosure. 

Petitioning a board for suspension of association fees is fraught with potential privacy pitfalls, lawyers and professional HOA managers told Digital Privacy News.

Laws that dictate condo board rules vary by state, but whether a board actually handles members’ financial information with discretion is another matter, they said.

HOA members should not expect sensitive financial information brought to boards in seeking fee relief to be kept confidential, said Brian Boger, an attorney in Columbia, S.C., who specializes in HOA disputes.

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Toll Roads Going Electronic, Raising Privacy, Security Issues

Man-operated toll booths, though not this bullet-riddled one from the death of Sonny Corleone in 1972’s “The Godfather,” have given way to technologies that now raise privacy issues. Credit: Paramount Pictures.

By Rob Sabo

The death of fictional New York mobster Sonny Corleone in “The Godfather” is perhaps the most famous movie scene involving a toll booth in American cinematic history.

But this month, such settings will be relegated to history — as toll booths along the 420-mile New York State Thruway system go dark in favor of electronic tolling monitors.

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Uproar in UK Over Police Getting COVID Self-Isolation Data

By Robert Bateman

Police in England will receive the personal information of people told to self-isolate because of COVID-19, as part of a policy that aims to increase compliance with pandemic emergency laws.

But experts in epidemiology, social psychology — even policing — told Digital Privacy News that the practice ultimately could harm efforts to fight COVID.

“Collective pandemic response is completely dependent on public trust,” said Deepti Gurdasani, senior lecturer in clinical epidemiology and statistical genetics at Queen Mary’s University of London.

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‘Basis of a Lie’

Facebook Begins Controversial Integration of Messenger, Instagram

By Robert Bateman

Facebook has begun the long-planned integration of its Messenger and Instagram platforms, as governments and regulators show increasing concern about its market dominance.

The change will allow Facebook and Instagram users to send private messages to one another between platforms. Facebook also plans to include its WhatsApp platform in the integration.

Antitrust regulators in the U.S. and European Union have scrutinized Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp. Some experts told Digital Privacy News that Facebook’s plans might be designed to disrupt regulators’ activities.

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Synthetic Identity Fraud Is Growing, Federal Reserve Says

By Lisa Rabasca Roepe

One of the fastest-growing financial crimes, synthetic identity fraud, often is undetected by banks and consumers — costing U.S. lenders as much as $6 billion a year, though experts said that losses might be much higher because schemes are miscategorized as credit losses.

That’s because synthetic identity fraud uses real information, such as a stolen Social Security number, with fictional information — a name, address or birth date — to open new lines of credit.

Over time, fraudsters can build up lines of credit, only to max it out and then walk away, forcing banks to write off millions of dollars in losses, according to the Federal Reserve.

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China Gets First Law for Data-Protection: Tech Giants Take Note

By Charles McDermid

China is fast-tracking the country’s first law to protect privacy and personal data, a long-awaited move heralded by pro-Beijing media but questioned by experts for not restricting state surveillance and for forcing economies to pick a side in the escalating tech war with the U.S.

The National People’s Congress, China’s powerful legislative body, last week released for public review the first draft of the Personal Information Protection Law.

If approved in the coming weeks, as expected, it would become China’s first unified national law on the protection of personal information.

No similar legislation exists in the United States.

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