Category: News

‘ToSDR’ Ramps Up Efforts to End ‘Gotcha’ Privacy Policies, Terms

By Sue Treiman

A grassroots website is reigniting its campaign against the so-called “biggest lie on the internet” — the assumption that people actually read and agree to the “terms of service” and the privacy policies they accept.

The ToSDR site — “Terms of Service; Didn’t Read” — was conceived at a 2011 European open software conference to warn consumers that what they didn’t know (and didn’t read) could hurt them.

Grassroots activists wanted to educate consumers about the policy “traps” frequently hidden within provisions they tended to overlook.

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Brain-Computer Interface: Evolving Tech Begs Many Privacy Issues

By Rifki Aria Nugraha

Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) technology could bring challenges to individual privacy, cybersecurity expert Pablo Ballarin Usieto told Digital Privacy News.

“If this data is not properly processed, the malicious can retrieve very valuable information about the person,” Usieto, co-founder of the Balusian cybersecurity firm in Spain, said of the technology.

It relies on devices that read a user’s brain activities, retrieving information from them.

The technology is premature, Usieto explained, and any mishandling could lead to abuse of confidential data regarding an individual’s health, personal preferences and emotions.

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Facebook ‘Blocklists’ Raise First Amendment Issues at Public Colleges

By Jason Collins

Public universities are using Facebook filters to censor and block student speech, raising critical First Amendment questions, experts tell Digital Privacy News.

The “blocklists” limit student comments on Facebook when accounts are accessed via university networks. The institutions’ filters flag certain words, automatically hiding the comments that contain them.

“State universities are preemptively censoring large swaths of protected speech and altering the public discourse with just a few clicks of the mouse — and Facebook gives them all the tools they need to do it,” Robert Shibley, director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), told Digital Privacy News.

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Sun, STEM, Security: Summer Camps Go Virtual and Deal with Privacy Issues

By Samantha Cleaver

Ellen Zavian’s 14-year-old son was interested in the University of Maryland engineering Seaperch camp, but instead of being on campus, it was moved online.

Campers use materials at home and work through experiments led through Zoom calls.

Zavian, a member of the Safe Tech Committee in Montgomery County, Md., outside Washington, read the fine print and saw that campers had the option to use cameras for recordings. She liked that.

For Zavian and her family, the ability to opt out of audio and video recording helped them think through how her son would attend camp securely.

She is one of many parents who find themselves preparing for online summer camp for the first time. On the other side, many camps are moving into the uncharted territory of online programming.

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Privacy Advocates Wary About Tech Giants’ Facial-Recognition Moves

By Robert Bateman

In the wake of worldwide protests over police brutality, three major technology giants have announced significant changes to their development and sale of facial-recognition technology — but privacy advocates told Digital Privacy News that the changes amounted to little more than public posturing.

The announcements began June 8, when IBM Corp. told Congress that it would stop offering general-purpose facial-recognition software, citing a desire to “help advance this nation’s pursuit of equity and justice.”

Two days later, Amazon followed, saying in a blog post that it was “implementing a one-year moratorium” on police use of its facial software. 

Then, in a June 12 interview with The Washington Post, Microsoft Corp. President Brad Smith said the company would not offer facial-recognition software to U.S. police departments until federal regulation was in place.

But privacy campaigners were cautiously welcoming these changes. They told Digital Privacy News that the efforts did not go far enough, while others remained cynical about the companies’ motivations.

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What Has US Learned from Asia’s COVID-Privacy Battle? Not Much, Experts Say

By Charles McDermid

Last of two parts.

The United States has done little to implement the data-privacy lessons learned in Asia after regional governments rolled out strict measures to control the spread of COVID-19, analysts told Digital Privacy News. 

In some Asian countries, the tough tactics — contact-tracing apps and so-called digital fencing — drew data-security concerns from an internet-savvy region long weary of hacks, leaks and enhanced surveillance. 

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Asia on the Front Lines of COVID Battle, But at What Privacy Cost?

By Charles McDermid

First of two parts.

Governments across Asia have recently deployed COVID-19 surveillance measures with the potential to reshape the world’s approach to public-health crises — and to forever alter the global debate over data privacy and protection. 

As the pandemic erupted, Asian nations moved quickly to monitor their citizens: from “digital fencing” in Hong Kong and Taiwan, to color-coded “health passports” in China and India, as well as data-collection platforms in Singapore and South Korea. 

But as the conversation shifted from emergency tactics to the eventual aftermath, many experts wondered which tools would be shut down or dismantled in the post-pandemic world, and how that uncharted process might actually work.

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Experts: COVID Pandemic Could Jeopardize 2020 Census Count

By Tammy Joyner 

Where were you on April 1, 2020?

That’s what the U.S. Census Bureau wants to know, but the coronavirus outbreak has made it tough for the agency to conduct its decennial count of America’s population.

With the global pandemic threatening a second — and possibly more virulent— wave, the bureau faces possible further delays in gathering data for the count.

“From the 60,000-foot view, the pandemic has disrupted every single 2020 Census operation — either in small ways or significantly,” Terri Ann Lowenthal, a nationally recognized expert and consultant on the census, told Digital Privacy News. “This is not a minor matter.”

Nearly three months have passed since April 1. The more time passes, the greater likelihood individual responses to the census may be inaccurate, experts said.

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In Nashville, Sharing COVID Data With Police Raises Fears Among Blacks, Immigrants

By Mary Pieper

Critics of sharing information about those who are COVID-positive with police and other first responders say it’s a privacy breach that disproportionally affects African Americans and other people of color.

“It’s a perfect storm,” Craig Klugman, professor of bioethics and health humanities at DePaul University in Chicago, told Digital Privacy News. “There’s a lot of distrust out there.”

Klugman and Nashville Metro Council member Colby Sledge in Tennessee said that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, black and immigrant communities were suspicious about how the government used their personal information.

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Wearable Devices Bring Many Privacy Issues

By Sheryl Nance-Nash

You have your Fitbit, Apple Watch or whatever wearable serves as a personal trainer of sorts. Kudos for your quest for fitness.

You have good intentions, but others see opportunity in that band on your wrist: It’s loaded with data. 

“Don’t be naïve and think that a simple fitness application isn’t harmless, or at least, doesn’t pose any risks,” Paul Howard, investigative coordinator with the Smith Investigation Agency, told Digital Privacy News. The Ontario-based company specializes in internet scams.

“We live in a greedy world,” Howard added. “People make a lot of money gathering information.”

Truth is, the line is blurred when it comes to privacy.

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