Daily Digest (12/3)

NLRB: Google Spied on Workers Before Firing Them; DHS Watchdog to Open Probe on Phone Surveillance Without Warrants; GAO Publishes Report on AI in Health Care; Verizon Media Launches Cookieless IDs for Advertising 

NLRB: Google Spied on Workers Before Firing Them

Google violated U.S. labor laws by spying on workers who were organizing employee protests and then firing two of them, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) determined on Wednesday. 

The complaint to the agency followed a yearlong investigation prompted by a petition of five people fired by Google after they led efforts to protest company policies, Reuters reports. 

The Communications Workers of America helped author the workers’ complaint.

The complaint named two employees, Laurence Berland and Kathryn Spiers, who were fired late last year in connection with employee activism against Google’s decision to work with IRI Consultants, a firm known for its antiunion efforts, The Verge reports.

Berland organized against Google’s decision to work with IRI Consultants and was let go for reviewing other employees’ calendars, while Spiers was dismissed after she created a pop-up for Google employees visiting IRI’s website.

The NLRB found that Google violated labor laws by placing workers on administrative leave and terminating one of them for accessing documents related to how the company polices internal forums.

The agency also found Google’s policies for limiting access to some documents and its practices for investigating workplace organizing unlawful, Berland told the Verge.

The NLRB’s case is expected to be heard and decided by an administrative law judge in the coming months.

“Google has always worked to support a culture of internal discussion, and we place immense trust in our employees,” a company representative told the Verge in a statement.

“Of course, employees have protected labor rights that we strongly support — but we have always taken information security very seriously.

“We’re confident in our decision and legal position,” the statement added. “Actions undertaken by the employees at issue were a serious violation of our policies and an unacceptable breach of a trusted responsibility.”

Sources (all links external): 

DHS Watchdog to Open Probe on Phone Surveillance Without Warrants

The Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog said Wednesday that it would open an investigation into the use of mobile phone surveillance technology to track Americans without a warrant.

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) told five Democratic senators that the office would initiate an audit “to determine if the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its components have developed, updated and adhered to policies related to cellphone surveillance devices,” The Wall Street Journal reports. 

The letter came in response to a request in October from Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden, Ore.; Elizabeth Warren, Mass.; Sherrod Brown, Ohio.; Ed Markey, also Mass., and Brian Schatz, Hawaii.

They had called for a probe into whether the purchase of commercial cellphone data for law-enforcement purposes was lawful.

“DHS always has and will continue to cooperate fully with OIG investigations,” an agency spokesman told the Journal.

The senators had asked for an investigation after news reports earlier this year that agencies within DHS paid nearly half a million dollars to use a database from government contractor Venntel to access the location of U.S. mobile devices. 

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials confirmed to the Senate in September that it was tracking phones using Venntel’s product, the Journal reports. 

“If federal agencies are tracking American citizens without warrants, the public deserves answers and accountability,” Wyden told The Hill in a statement.

“I won’t accept anything less than a thorough and swift inspector general investigation that sheds light on CBP’s phone-location data-surveillance program.”

GAO Publishes Report About AI in Health Care 

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the National Academy of Medicine (NAM)  published a report Monday on the use of artificial intelligence in the U.S. health care system. 

The report, “Artificial Intelligence in Health Care,” discussed how clinical administrative AI tools have improved treatment options and have reduced burdens on providers, according to a report by the International Association of Privacy Professionals.

“Studies have demonstrated improved results when providers and AI tools work together rather than each working independently,” the GAO report stated. 

“Availability of large amounts of health data and advanced analytical tools, such as those using AI, also promise significant advances in precision medicine.”

But the report also found challenges that could block AI development in the health care system, including access to data, bias, transparency and privacy concerns, liability issues, and scaling and integration concerns.

“The limited transparency of AI tools used in health care — referred to by some experts as ‘black box medicine’ — makes it difficult for providers, regulators and others to determine whether an AI tool is safe and effective,” the report said. 

“As more AI systems are developed and deployed in clinical settings, large quantities of patient data will be in the hands of more people and organizations, which can contribute to patient privacy risks.” 

“Health records are rich in valuable and sensitive information, such as social security numbers, addresses, mental health information, communicable disease diagnoses and credit-card information.” 

In addition, patient advocacy groups raised concerns about how the AI tools use potentially sensitive information, according to the report.

The GAO developed six policy options to reduce challenges including collaboration between developers and health care providers, creating high-quality data access mechanisms, and establishing best practices for development, implementation and use of the technologies, IAPP reports. 

Verizon Media Launches Cookieless IDs for Advertising

Verizon Media has launched a cookieless ID for the advertising industry on Tuesday, as marketers and publishers search for alternative methods to identify consumers. 

The company’s “Connect ID” has been powered by relationships between 900 million global consumers via more than 30 Verizon Media brands, including Yahoo, HuffPost, AOL and TechCrunch, Media Post reports. 

The unified ID allowed advertisers to buy, measure and optimize ads while enabling publishers to manage, monetize and navigate audiences without third-party cookies

Verizon Media estimated that the solution has delivered a 33% lift in performance for advertiser campaigns.

Ivan Markman, Verizon Media’s chief business officer, called the business the “only independent ad platform with a full-stack DSP and SSP to protect data integrity across demand and supply,” Media Post reports. 

— By DPN Staff