Tech Execs Address Concerns About Data Privacy Regulation

In a hearing on Wednesday, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed on the need for legislating privacy for online users, but not everyone is on the same page as to what such laws should cover. Amazon and Google executives, whose companies depend on user data for revenue, warned that some kinds of regulation could have the unintended consequence of limiting the services they’re able to provide. What has become clearer is that hammering out the details of the legislation could take a long time. Continue reading Tech Execs Address Concerns About Data Privacy Regulation

State Officials Consider a Joint Investigation of Tech Players

In a meeting of nine state officials and representatives of five other states led by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the market dominance and privacy practices of large tech companies were discussed, as well as the possibility of a joint investigation of tech giants such as Google, Facebook and others. Attorney General Doug Peterson (R-Nebraska) said his state is examining just such a multi-state inquiry into antitrust and consumer protection issues. Potential political bias, a previously raised topic, was barely touched. Continue reading State Officials Consider a Joint Investigation of Tech Players

Two Industry Trade Groups Issue Proposals for Data Privacy

As Congress considers how to regulate technology companies’ handling of personal data, the Internet Association, whose members include Google and Facebook, and BSA/The Software Alliance, which represents Microsoft and Oracle, issued their own proposals. Among the six principles that the Internet Association endorsed is data portability, which allows consumers to take their personal information from one service to another that provides a similar service. BSA/The Software Alliance issued a 10-point framework. Continue reading Two Industry Trade Groups Issue Proposals for Data Privacy

Tech Firms Working With Feds to Create Privacy Legislation

After years of fending off federal attempts to regulate handling of private data, some tech companies are now working with policy makers to create federal privacy laws. The Information Technology Industry Council, which represents Amazon, Facebook, Alphabet’s Google and Salesforce, hopes that federal legislation would preempt state regulations, such as the strict online privacy laws recently adopted by California, and create a single regulation rather than a confusing array of multiple state laws. Continue reading Tech Firms Working With Feds to Create Privacy Legislation

Twitter Takes Stronger Stance Against Misinformation, Spam

In May and June, Twitter deleted more than 143,000 apps that violate its prohibition against using its APIs to automate spam and abuse or breach its privacy rules. The big cleanup is part of Twitter’s overall housekeeping, and includes the removal of “suspicious accounts” from users’ follower lists. According to The Washington Post, Twitter suspended more than 70 million fake accounts. Not all automated accounts are malicious, but the social media platform has been bedeviled by those that are. Continue reading Twitter Takes Stronger Stance Against Misinformation, Spam

Senators Request Investigation of Smart TV Privacy Practices

Senators Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) have written a letter to Federal Trade Commission chair Joseph Simons requesting that his agency investigate the business practices of smart TV manufacturers. The two senators are concerned about “consumer privacy issues raised by the proliferation of smart TV technology,” since some companies are able to identify what people are watching and use that data to feed ads to other device’s in the consumer’s home. Continue reading Senators Request Investigation of Smart TV Privacy Practices

Facebook Reveals More Data Sharing Details in New Report

Facebook revealed that it made a deal to give dozens of app developers, hardware device manufacturers and software developers special access to user data, despite having stated that it did not release personal information to outsiders starting in 2015. In a 747-page document released to Congress last Friday, Facebook described those deals in much greater detail, and also stated why it believed these special deals were necessary to allow developers and manufacturers to become compliant with changes in its policies. Continue reading Facebook Reveals More Data Sharing Details in New Report

Court Rules Police Need a Warrant for Phone Location Data

The Supreme Court has ruled that police need a search warrant to obtain data showing the location of cell phone users. Similar to rulings made in 2012 and 2014, the Supreme Court rejected the argument that police should have the same access as investigators do in order to examine business records held in banks or conduct physical surveillance. The ruling stated the “world of difference” between 1970s decisions allowing the limited personal information obtained in accessing business records and today’s digital records. Continue reading Court Rules Police Need a Warrant for Phone Location Data

Senators Query Amazon on Echo, Data Privacy Parameters

Senators Jeff Flake and Chris Coons asked Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos to explain how the Echo smart speaker listens to and stores users’ voices — and what his company does to protect users’ data. Their concern is sparked by such incidents as an Echo device that mistook background conversation for voice commands of a Portland, Oregon woman, and then sent the private conversation to one of her contacts. Flake and Coons are, respectively, chair and ranking member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law. Continue reading Senators Query Amazon on Echo, Data Privacy Parameters

Facebook Extended Some Partner Deals to Share More Data

In 2015, Facebook said it ended data sharing of its users’ records with other companies. Now, court documents, company officials and sources reveal that, after that date, Facebook struck so-called whitelist deals to share information with many more companies than previously acknowledged, including Royal Bank of Canada and Nissan Motor, both of which were Facebook advertisers. Among the shared data were phone numbers and the “friend link” that measured degrees of closeness between the targeted user and others in her network. Continue reading Facebook Extended Some Partner Deals to Share More Data

WhatsApp and Facebook Execs Split Over Business Strategy

The long slow-boil dispute between Facebook and WhatsApp’s two founders over how to create more revenue out of the acquired app has led to an ugly breakup. WhatsApp founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton reportedly had constant disagreements with Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, who were both eager for a greater return on the company they purchased for $22 billion in 2014. Facebook remained committed to its advertising model, and Koum and Acton were opposed to targeted ads. Continue reading WhatsApp and Facebook Execs Split Over Business Strategy

Facebook Criticized for Sharing User Data with Device Makers

Over the last ten years, Facebook inked agreements with at least 60 phone and device manufacturers to share access to troves of users’ personal information. Among those manufacturers are Amazon, Apple, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung, in addition to several Chinese electronics companies. These data-access partnerships started before Facebook apps were widely available on smartphones. As a result of these deals, Facebook increased its influence as a social media platform, and device makers offered popular features including “like” buttons, messaging and address books. Continue reading Facebook Criticized for Sharing User Data with Device Makers

California Data Privacy Measure Is Likely to Impact the Nation

It’s not just Europe that’s battening down the privacy hatches with the recently activated General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). California voters in November will likely be able to weigh in on the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, an initiative that would provide the state one of the broadest online privacy laws in the country. One of this initiative’s most significant backers is San Francisco real estate mogul Alastair Mactaggart, who put more than $2 million of his own money into getting it on the ballot. Continue reading California Data Privacy Measure Is Likely to Impact the Nation

EU Data Law Soon Goes into Effect, May Spark Privacy Debate

On May 25, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect. Although the law bans companies from forcing its users to give up personal data as a condition of service, it allows for exceptions, such as when the information is necessary to fulfill a contract. Those exceptions are the new battlefield over privacy issues, including what “freely given” consent means. At the crux is “behavioral advertising,” worth billions of dollars annually, that targets users based on their Internet activity. Continue reading EU Data Law Soon Goes into Effect, May Spark Privacy Debate

Facebook Establishes Team to Integrate Privacy into Products

In the wake of criticism over data privacy issues and in anticipation of the European Union’s stricter data regulations, Facebook has formed a new team devoted to privacy. The 300-person team, headed by product director David Baser, is tasked with integrating stronger privacy features into all Facebook products. The first such tool is Clear History, which the company introduced at last week’s F8 conference. This feature allows users to opt out of Facebook collecting and matching their browsing history to their profile. Continue reading Facebook Establishes Team to Integrate Privacy into Products

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