Category: Q&A

Q&A: Author April Falcon Doss

‘You Shouldn’t Have to Be a Privacy Expert’ to Understand Data Rights

By Rachel Looker   

Author April Falcon Doss has spent decades in the data-privacy and cybersecurity sphere.   

Currently a partner at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr in Washington, Doss chairs the law firm’s cybersecurity and privacy practice and co-chairs its congressional investigations practice.  

She also spent more than a decade at the U.S. National Security Agency, as associate general counsel for intelligence law. Doss also served as the senior minority counsel for the Russia investigation for the Senate Intelligence Committee.  

A graduate of Yale University and the University of California at Berkeley, Doss is the author of “Cyber Privacy: Who Has Your Data and Why You Should Care,” released in November.  

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Q&A: Author Janna Malamud Smith

‘People Are Giving Up a Lot of Autonomy’

By Samantha Stone  

Last of two parts. 

In 1997, psychotherapist Janna Malamud Smith published “Private Matters: In Defense of the Personal Life.” 

She used examples from history and literature to explore the concept of privacy and to describe why we need it. 

There’s also a dose of insight from Smith the therapist, who notes how the drive to heal can push private matters voluntarily into the public sphere. 

In the last of a two-part interview, Smith, 69, told Digital Privacy News how relinquishing privacy could invite harm.

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Q&A: Author Janna Malamud Smith

Without Privacy, ‘You Don’t Have the Space to Make the Choices You Want to Make’ 

By Samantha Stone  

First of two parts. 

Long before smartphones, Facebook or airport security agents peering inside duffel bags, Janna Malamud Smith wrote about privacy as necessary to human well-being. 

But what does privacy look like — and how much is enough?  

Smith’s book, “Private Matters: In Defense of the Personal Life,” was first published in 1997. 

It explores privacy from the perspective of a psychotherapist — and, not incidentally, the daughter of a high-profile literary figure. 

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Q&A: Ames Grawert, Brennan Center for Justice

We Must Be ‘Serious About Giving People a Second Chance’

By Mary Pieper

Ames Grawert is senior counsel and the John L. Neu justice counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School.

He is a coauthor of a recent study, “Conviction, Imprisonment and Lost Earnings: How Involvement with the Criminal Justice System Deepens Inequality.” 

The study describes how criminal convictions negatively affect an individual’s finances for a lifetime because of the stigma that prevents them from finding quality jobs.

Grawert told Digital Privacy News that those who have been convicted in the past must have the opportunity to make a new start.

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Q&A: Blogger Bruce Schneier

‘There Is No Appetite to Curtail Surveillance Capitalism’

By Jackson Chen

Last of two parts.

Bruce Schneier has penned an extensive collection of his musings on topics ranging from cryptography to encryption to digital-security issues to mass surveillance.

In “Data and Goliath” (2015) Schneier offered an extensive look at how governments and companies conduct mass surveillance and how it affects peoples’ daily lives.

In the last of a two-part interview, Schneier, 58, told Digital Privacy News that tech monopolies must be broken up to give customers better choices.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

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Q&A: Author Bruce Schneier

‘We Need to Think of Privacy as a Right and Not as Property’

By Jackson Chen

First of two parts.

Privacy is an essential part of how people act freely, according to Bruce Schneier, a security technologist who works with Harvard University, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Tor Project and others.

Schneier, 58, has been writing about security issues since 2004 — and, despite the rapid technological leaps since then, he remains current on crucial privacy issues.

In the years since, private companies have grown accustomed to gathering consumer data, while governments are finally starting to look at privacy regulation.

In the first of a two-part interview, Schneier told Digital Privacy News that one key principle must be understood by these organizations: Privacy is not property but a human right. 

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Q&A: Zimbabwe’s Kuda Hove

‘There Are No Safeguards to People’s Right to Privacy’

By Maureen Nkatha

With no active law on how private data that is collected should be stored or handled, human-rights activists and privacy experts in Zimbabwe are questioning just how ready the country is for facial-recognition technology. 

The country’s Freedom of Information Act was enforced starting last July, providing citizens and media the right to access information. However, the law does not clearly outline how data collection is handled.

Kuda Hove, a policy officer at Privacy International, told Digital Privacy News that surveillance in Zimbabwe went beyond investigating crimes and was now used as a political tool against those speaking against President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling party.

Hove, who holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of South Africa, also led the Information and Communication Technology (ICT)’s policy and legal work at the Zimbabwean chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa.

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Q&A: Kian Vesteinsson of Freedom House Research Group

COVID Is ‘Laying the Foundation for the Future Surveillance State’

By Patrick W. Dunne

Kian Vesteinsson is a research analyst for technology and democracy at Freedom House, a research institute in Washington.

He also greatly contributes to the annual “Freedom on the Net” report produced by the nonprofit, which was established in 1941.

The report, released in October, analyzes how countries worldwide handle internet freedom.

“The public-health crisis has created an opening for the digitization, collection and analysis of people’s most intimate data without adequate protections against abuses,” reads an excerpt from the 2020 report.

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Q&A: EFF’s Cindy Cohn

COVID and Privacy: ‘Bad Ideas About Tracking People’

By Nora Macaluso

Last of three parts.

Established in 1990, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has a history of fighting government and private efforts to monitor civilians.

In 2005, Cindy Cohn, as EFF’s legal director and general counsel, led a class-action lawsuit against Sony BMG, alleging that the entertainment giant built a flawed and invasive computer program into as many as 22 million music CDs to block copying by the public.

In a 2007 settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, Sony made available a patch that was designed to resolve the security vulnerability.

The next year, EFF began representing victims in a lawsuit challenging an illegal surveillance program run by the National Security Agency (NSA) conducted under the guise of the U.S. Patriot Act. The litigation continues.

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Q&A: Cindy Cohn of the EFF

Authorities Are Growing More ‘Hostile to Your Ability to Lock Up Your Data’

By Nora Macaluso

Second of three parts.

Law enforcement and tech companies have been teaming up on surveillance — and privacy advocates say that could be problematic.

In today’s Digital Privacy News interview, Electronic Frontier Foundation Executive Director Cindy Cohn discussed the link between litigation and policy change and the need for a national privacy law.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Q&A: EFF’s Cindy Cohn

‘We’re Going to Die by a Death of a Thousand Cuts for Privacy’

By Nora Macaluso

First of three parts.

Cindy Cohn, executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has advocated for privacy on issues ranging from privately developed surveillance technology to government spying to human rights.

In 2005, she also led the foundation in a national class-action lawsuit against Sony BMG, arguing that the company had included a flawed and overreaching computer program in millions of music CDs sold to the public.

The entertainment behemoth ultimately settled with the Federal Trade Commission.

Cohn, 57, has helmed EFF since 2015, after serving as legal director, as well as its general counsel, for 15 years. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, the University of Iowa and the London School of Economics.

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Q&A: UC-Berkeley’s Daniel Aranki

Monitoring Employees by AI Raises New Class of Privacy Fears

By Victor R. Bradley

The general public is broadly aware that artificial intelligence and increasingly powerful statistical models have given companies the ability to build intrusive customer profiles based on web-surfing behavior.

Less discussed, however, is the power such technology confers upon employers. 

This neglected legal and ethical area is becoming increasingly prominent. In February, U.S. House Labor and Education Committee held a hearing: “The Future of Work: Protecting Workers’ Civil Rights in the Digital Age.”

The session investigated the ways algorithms and automated surveillance technology could reproduce and exacerbate existing biases in the workplace.

The explosion in remote work since March because of COVID-19 has made such investigation increasingly necessary, as employers must increasingly rely on supervision via cyberspace. 

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Q&A: Kristin Johnson of Emory University

‘We’re Never Clear About the Data That’s Being Gathered’

By C.J. Thompson

Guarding private information is only getting tougher.

The lack of federal data-privacy legislation, combined with the ramifications of the intensifying pandemic, is increasing the entry points for compromising data.

Kristin Johnson, Asa Griggs Candler professor of law at the Emory University Law School, told Digital Privacy News that more public vigilance was needed.

She argues in a soon-to-be-published academic paper — “Regulating Digital Surveillance: Protecting Privacy in a Pandemic” — that when it comes to privacy intrusion, financial-transaction data is as critical a privacy issue as geolocation tracking.

As such, the choice to add apps to devices should not be taken lightly.

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Q&A: Ethan Zuckerman at UMass

What Infrastructures Bring a ‘Healthy Online Life?’

By Mukund Rathi

Ethan Zuckerman is a visiting research scholar at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and a new faculty member at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. 

He has started the Institute for Digital Public Infrastructure at Amherst, which advocates for treating internet platforms as public spaces and public goods, “much as public television and radio have complemented commercial broadcasting,” according to the institute’s website.

Formerly the director of the Center for Civic Media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Zuckerman created pop-up internet ads in 1997. In 2014, he apologized for unintentionally creating one the internet’s most despised forms of advertising.

But he told Digital Privacy News that this new approach regarding platforms would help protect privacy and help users control their data online.

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Q&A: Simple Analytics’ Adriaan van Rossum

‘Analytics Is Basically a Knife’

By Jackson Chen 

Google Analytics may be one of the most popular analytics platforms, but Adriaan van Rossum felt it was far from being the best. 

Van Rossum, who created a privacy-friendly alternative called Simple Analytics, believes analytics platforms do not need to track cookies while still providing essential visitor data. 

With more users concerned with how their data is being used and with governments passing laws on how companies can gather peoples’ online history, van Rossum told Digital Privacy News that not all analytics tools should be invasive. 

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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 Pollicy.org, 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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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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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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Q&A: CDT’s William Adler

Even a Small Breach in Election Security Can Sow Distrust

By Mary Pieper

William T. Adler, senior technologist in elections and security at the Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington, recently participated in a news briefing on election security.

With record early voting leading into Tuesday’s election, Adler and his colleagues explained what election officials were doing to prevent security breaches. They also discussed online misinformation and voting suppression.

In a follow-up interview, Adler told Digital Privacy News that, while election officials had made numerous security improvements, vulnerabilities still existed.

An attack on just one voting machine could create widespread doubts about overall election security, he said.

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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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