Tag: News

Despite Concessions, Experts Warn $2.1B Google-Fitbit Deal Risks Privacy, Competition

By Robert Bateman

The European Commission has extended its deadline for a decision on Google’s $2.1 billion acquisition of fitness-tracking company Fitbit, despite Google last week tweaking its concessions aimed at allaying European Union antitrust concerns, according to news reports.

The commission, which acts as the EU’s competition regulator, is investigating the privacy and antitrust implications of the deal. 

As a precondition of the takeover, Google has pledged that it will not use Fitbit customers’ health data to personalize online ads for 10 years. It also said it would open up its Android application processing interface (API) to competitors.

But Google last week revised the package after the commission received feedback from rivals and consumers, Reuters reports, citing “people familiar with the matter” and declining to provide further details.

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‘I Refuse to Be a Commodity’

Dealing With a Digital Divide in the Same Household

Beth and John Shulman-Ment agree about most things, except online privacy.

By Sue Treiman

After 40 years together, Beth and John Shulman-Ment of Westchester County, N.Y., agree about most things — except online privacy.

“I refuse to be a commodity that sites like Google sell to third parties,” John, 67, a lifelong computer scientist, told Digital Privacy News.

Beth, 65, a homecare nurse, however, accepts the risk.

“When I weigh John’s privacy concerns against staying in touch, it feels worth the tradeoff,” she said.

“And besides,” Beth added, “I have nothing to hide.”

Given rising concerns about personal data and more enforced time at home because of COVID-19, the number of spouses, partners, roommates and colleagues who share WIFI connections without sharing equal faith in online privacy safeguards is bound to increase.

Are some relationships bound to be affected?

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‘That’s the Reality’

Employees Suing Over COVID Disclosures in the Workplace

By Tammy Joyner

A showdown is brewing between workers and employers.

As COVID-19 rages on, more employees are contracting the virus yet are being forced to keep quiet about outbreaks on the job, experts told Digital Privacy News.

Companies are using privacy laws to keep workers from alerting others about the life-threatening virus, they said.

Undeterred, workers are fighting back with complaints and lawsuits.

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Is China Exporting ‘Surveillance Creep’ Throughout the World? Experts Weigh In

By Charles McDermid

First of two parts.

Concern has intensified in recent weeks over the global expansion of China’s so-called techno-authoritarianism, with Western media and the U.S. government warning that Beijing already is exporting its surveillance tactics around the world.

Critics of China’s data-collection policies have plenty of ammunition, from the use of new technology to spy on Uighurs and other Muslim minorities to the ambitious plan to develop a genetic map of 700 million Chinese men and boys. 

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Q&A: South African Professor Uche Mbanaso

‘Privacy Means to Be “Left Alone,” But the Context Has Changed’

By Maureen Nkatha

South Africa’s Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) took effect in July, becoming one of the few African nations to have adopted effective data-protection legislation.

The act defines how personal information can be collected and shared by public and private-sector organizations. They now must report all data breaches to the country’s information regulator.

Uche Mbanaso, a visiting senior lecturer at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, told Digital Privacy News that one of the greatest challenges to implementing the law is the fluidity of privacy data, which many infrastructures were not yet designed to handle.

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VA Did Not Disclose Huge Data Breach for 7 Weeks

By Andy Arnold

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced a data breach seven weeks after it occurred in July, affecting the personal information of 46,000 veterans and as many as 17,000 community-care providers that administer health services to veterans.

But while agency officials said the lag was necessary to follow federal government protocols and to inform the affected vets, experts told Digital Privacy News that the notification was quick work on the VA’s part.

Rebecca Herold, CEO of the Privacy Professor consultancy in Des Moines, Iowa, called the seven weeks “reasonable.”

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Femtech Apps Under Fire for Broad Sharing of Sensitive Data

By Mary Pieper

Women who use apps to track ovulation, menstrual cycles and pregnancy could be revealing intimate information about themselves not only to advertisers, but also to insurers and employers, privacy experts and lawmakers told Digital Privacy News.

“You have no idea” who has your data, said New York State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan. “This is a very in-depth invasion of your privacy if you stop to think about it.”

Allegations disclosed in recent news reports that the fertility app Premom was sharing user data without permission to Chinese advertising companies was just the latest instance of femtech apps coming under fire.

Last month, seven bipartisan U.S. senators wrote Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph Simons, calling for an investigation of the allegations.

The report, in The Washington Post, was based on research by the nonprofit International Digital Accountability Council (IDAC).

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Stolen Data Not Fetching Much Cash on Dark Web, Reports Show

By Nora Macaluso

It’s common knowledge that the costs, in time and in money, associated with having one’s personal information stolen can be devastating.

Perhaps what’s surprising is how little that information brings when it’s sold: in many cases, next to nothing, according to companies that track prices on the dark web.

Researchers from the website Privacy Affairs searched the dark web to see what kinds of information was available and how much it costs, compiling the average prices into an index released in July.

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Facebook Claim on EU Service After Ruling Seen as ‘Bluff’

By Robert Bateman

Facebook has said it is “not clear” how it will continue to provide Facebook and Instagram in the European Union if it is forced to comply with a recent legal ruling.

The company’s associate general counsel made the comments in a Sept. 10 filing with the Irish High Court. Facebook, based in Menlo Park, Calif., has been ordered to suspend data transfers from the E.U. to the U.S., following a landmark legal case known as “Schrems II.”

But some legal experts told Digital Privacy News that Facebook was quite capable of complying with the E.U.’s rules, while others considered the comments to be a “bluff.”

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Q&A: Sen. Bill Cassidy, R- La.

Privacy Proposal Would Protect Consumers, COVID Health Data 

By Rachel Looker 

For Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., promoting public health while protecting consumer privacy goes hand in hand during a public-health crisis like COVID-19. 

He recently introduced the Exposure Notification Privacy Act to limit data-collection and usage while requiring the involvement from public-health officials in deploying contact-tracing apps and other exposure-notification systems.

The legislation would give consumers control over their health data by highlighting voluntary participation, user consent and the right to delete data on exposure-notification systems.

Cassidy introduced the bipartisan legislation in June with two Democrats, Sen. Maria Cantwell, Wash., and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minn.

He told Digital Privacy News that Congress was overdue in examining at how personal health information was being marketed for commercial purposes, unbeknownst to users.  

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