Daily Digest (11/4)

Privacy Issues on Ballot in 2 Key States on Election Day; UK Police Using Fingerprint Scanners to Target Black Britons; WSJ: Walmart, Comcast in Talks to Develop and Distribute Smart TVs; Australian Media Firm Says Ransomware Hit Could Cost Over $6M.

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Privacy Issues on Ballot in 2 Key States on Election Day

Two privacy initiatives were on the ballot Tuesday, as Golden State residents voted on the California Privacy Rights Act (Prop 24) and voters in Massachusetts addressed a question regarding information collected by connected vehicles.

In California, Prop 24 seeks to expand the state’s current consumer data-privacy laws, including whether to allow consumers to direct businesses not to share their personal information, and to create a state Privacy Protection Agency to enforce data-privacy laws.

Prop 24 also would remove the time period in which businesses could fix data violations before being penalized.

In Massachusetts, voters would decide whether to update the 2013 Motor Vehicle Right to Repair Law, the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAAP) reports.

If passed, the initiative would require car manufacturers to equip vehicles with telematics systems, which collect and wirelessly transmit mechanical data to remote servers, with an open-access data platform that would start with model year 2022 vehicles. 

This would give independent repair shops access to more information to assist with vehicle maintenance and repairs.

The Boston Globe supported the initiative, with its editorial board stating that it remained “inherently unfair for car manufacturers to have sole access to a vehicle’s mechanical data, because it gives their dealerships an advantage over independent auto-repair shops,” IAAP reports.

But the Coalition for Safe and Secure Data opposed the measure, arguing that it expanded the amount of accessible personal information well beyond what was needed for vehicle maintenance and repair.

Independent repair shops only would have access to such data with a car owner’s consent and would not need authorization from vehicle manufacturers, IAAP reports.

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UK Police Using Fingerprint Scanners to Target Black Britons

Three-quarters of the police forces in England and Wales now have access to mobile fingerprint scanners and are using them to target Blacks more often than whites, according to data published Tuesday by Wired.

Twenty-eight of 43 police forces have started using the Strategic Mobile solution technology since it was first tested in 2018, with four conducting their own pilot tests and seven other forces working to begin using the devices.

Between September 2018 and May 2020, police forces have conducted more than 126,800 scans, or approximately 6,000 every month, Wired reports.

The use of fingerprint scans has increased dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data from U.K. Freedom of Information requests, and the devices disproportionately have targeted ethnic minorities.

The Strategic Mobile devices are small electronic scanners that clip onto smartphones and allow police officers to capture a person’s fingerprint at a higher resolution than sensors built into cellphones.

They were introduced to help officers check the identity of unknown persons — and the devices can get results within 60 seconds, Wired reports.

Once a person’s fingerprint has been scanned, it is checked against two government databases: IDENT1, which contains fingerprints of those who previously have been taken into police custody, and IABS, which holds fingerprints of non-U.K. citizens who have entered the country.

Of the 32 police forces in England and Wales that have access to the devices, 19 provided data on the number of scans completed, Wired reports.

As of this past July, eight forces have performed at least 100 scans for every 100,000 people in their respective areas.

Devon and Cornwall had the worst records, according to the report, with Blacks 23 times more likely to be scanned than whites. The data is limited, as race information was provided for only 208 scans. 

Matthew Longman, Cornwall Police’s chief superintendent, acknowledged the racial disparities, telling Wired that his force actively was working to rectify this.

“What the world is telling us right now, and these community voices are telling us right now, is we have to explore the unconscious bias,” he said. “I don’t think there may be, in an organization of 5,500 people, some bad apples — but on the whole, I don’t believe my officers are going out and making decisions purely based on race.”

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WSJ: Walmart, Comcast in Talks to Develop and Distribute Smart TVs

Walmart and Comcast Corp are discussing whether to develop and distribute smart TVs, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

Under the terms being discussed, Walmart would promote TV sets running Comcast software and would get a share of recurring revenue from the cable company in return, according to the report, which cited “people familiar with the matter.”

Comcast, which is competing with Netflix and Apple’s Apple TV+ for part of the crowded streaming market, could promote its new streaming service, Peacock, in the smart TVs, the Journal said.

The strategy would enable Comcast to market to consumers nationwide, a change in a U.S. cable industry where players have stuck for decades to their regional footprints. Comcast would be able to promote Peacock front and center in the smart TVs, the people familiar with the matter said.

Walmart, already a major seller of TV sets, has a partnership with Roku to sell smart TVs under the Walmart brand Onn.

A Comcast spokeswoman declined to comment.

“We’re constantly having conversations with current and new suppliers about innovation and new products we can bring to our customers — and we don’t share details of those discussions,” Ryan Peterson, a Walmart vice president, told the Journal.

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Australian Media Firm Says Ransomware Hit Could Cost Over $6M

The Australian media communications giant Isentia said Tuesday that it could lose as much as $6 million in “remediation costs and lost business” from a ransomware attack last week.

The company, which specializes in media intelligence and data analytics, also has a strong presence in Southeast Asia, Threatpost reports.

Its Mediaportal platform aggregates news about customer brands and is used by public relations and marketers worldwide. Clients include the Australian government, Samsung and Walt Disney Corp.

The attack occurred Oct. 27, leaving workers to prepare media reports manually — and the company and the Australian Cybersecurity Centre quickly confirmed the breach.

“It is difficult to fully assess the impact on our (fiscal year 2021) pretax earnings,” Isentia CEO Ed Harrison said, given that the estimate is based on an ongoing assessment of the incident.

“Key elements of our services” are being restored each day, according to Harrison, and the company is “making good progress,” Threatpost reports.

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— By DPN Staff