Tag: Q&A

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: 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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Q&A: Blogger Cory Doctorow

‘Companies Have Your Back When Having Your Back Is Good for Them’

By Jeff Benson

Last of three parts.

Cory Doctorow’s latest book, “How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism,” has much to say about how using antitrust law can lead to better privacy.

But it has less to say about what consumers can do avoid online surveillance. 

In this final installment of a three-part interview, Doctorow told Digital Privacy News that the internet became centralized through mergers, that personal data leaks were unavoidable and that consumers should be battling for stronger penalties for companies that break the law.

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Q&A: Technologist Cory Doctorow

‘We Can Pass Laws That Make Being Anti-Privacy Unprofitable’

By Jeff Benson

Second of three parts.

Technologist and author Cory Doctorow doesn’t buy the argument that we can’t regulate Big Tech because they’ll move overseas.

In today’s Digital Privacy News interview, the second of three parts, he said that U.S. laws allowed monopolies to expand across the globe, that changing those rules were “politically difficult” and that companies only cared about privacy if they could profit from it.

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Q&A: British Author Cory Doctorow

Breaking Up Monopolies Unleashes Innovation, Competition

By Jeff Benson

First of three parts.

Cory Doctorow is one of the world’s most prolific tech and science fiction writers.

In between releasing his second graphic novel, “Poesy the Monster Slayer,” in July and a sequel to “Little Brother” (due out in October), Doctorow managed to fit in a 27,000-word treatise on breaking up tech monopolies.

Published on OneZero late last month (and available for free to read), “How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism” argues that the government needs to step up its antitrust efforts or else Facebook, Google and their ilk will invade people’s privacy with impunity.

In the first of a three-part interview, Doctorow told Digital Privacy News that breaking up monopolies helped tech grow, that Facebook won’t stop hoarding data on its own — and provided questions that really should be asked about Big Tech.

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Q&A: University of Texas’ Murat Kantarcioglu

Online Voting Is Not Safe

By Patrick W. Dunne

With the concerns surrounding a U.S. Postal Service slowdown and voter suppression, discussions continue to grow about online voting for the 2020 election.

But many cybersecurity experts are skeptical, including Murat Kantarcioglu, a professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Kantarcioglu, who holds a doctorate in computer science from Perdue University, told Digital Privacy News that online voting lacked a meaningful method of self-auditing, which eroded trust in the system. 

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Q&A: Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C.

Bill Seeks to Limit Use of Police Cameras

By Mukund Rathi 

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., introduced the Federal Police Camera and Accountability Act in June 2019.

It was incorporated into the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act that recently passed the House of Representatives.

The bill regulates federal law-enforcement’s use of body and dashboard cameras.

Generally, it requires them to activate cameras when interacting with the public and to disclose videos on appropriate requests.

The legislation would affect the more than 30 federal law-enforcement agencies working in Washington.

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Q&A: The Markup’s Nabiha Syed

Privacy Has Its Roots in Outrage

By C.J. Thompson

Nabiha Syed is a media attorney and president of The Markup, an independent news website dedicated to illuminating concerning privacy issues.

“Part of our mission is to help people understand exactly how their privacy is being affected by technology,” she told Digital Privacy News.

The need for new privacy laws and regulation are primary components of a landscape that has never been more complex, cluttered — and, in many ways — cloaked.

But Syed remains encouraged by the current wave of public activism, as it is exactly what’s needed to provoke meaningful privacy protections. 

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Q&A: HIBP’s Troy Hunt

The Public Needs to Know Where Their Data Has Been

By Emilie Rodriguez

The Adobe data breach occurred in October 2013, the largest known at the time. Hackers exposed user account information, created a source code leak, and stole nearly 3 million encrypted customer credit card records.

An estimated 38 million users were affected.

After the incident, Troy Hunt, an Australian internet security professional, started the website “Have I Been Pwned” (HIBP).

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Q&A: Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Privacy and Encryption Make Us Safer

By Jeff Benson

Last of two parts.

Sen. Ron Wyden is well aware that Washington isn’t monolithic.

The legislator works in a capital city stacked with regulatory bodies and law-enforcement agencies with their own agendas.

In today’s Digital Privacy News interview, the senior senator from Oregon discusses pushing the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to crack down on shady data brokers, the debate over creating encryption backdoors for the FBI — and why government agencies shouldn’t be able to buy personal data they’d otherwise need a warrant to get.

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Q&A: Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

‘There Really Is an Opportunity to Pass Meaningful Privacy Legislation’

By Jeff Benson

First of two parts.

Sen. Ron Wyden moved from the U.S. House of Representatives to the Senate in 1996 on the most analog of agendas: He was a big proponent of wood products, an industry that forested Oregon dominated.

Yet his move coincided with the advent of the digital age.

Before his House term ended, he crafted what became known as Section 230, which gave websites the power to moderate user-generated content while protecting them from libel laws applicable to newspapers.

The law helped turn internet companies into big business.

Now, Wyden is grappling with how to keep Big Tech from abusing citizens’ privacy.

Last year, he introduced the Mind Your Own Business Act, which would hold big-tech companies responsible for protecting users’ personal data — and impose criminal penalties for CEOs who lie to Congress or regulators about privacy.

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