FBI and Law Enforcement Use New Facial Recognition Tool

A small startup named Clearview AI, led by Hoan Ton-That, created a facial recognition app that may exceed the scope of anything built by the U.S. government or Big Tech companies. Now in the hands of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and hundreds of other law enforcement agencies, the app allows the user to take a photo of a person, upload it and search a database of more than three billion images to find public photos of that person with links to where they appeared. Images have been scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and “millions of other websites.” Continue reading FBI and Law Enforcement Use New Facial Recognition Tool

CES 2020: The High-Wire Tension of Innovation and Privacy

CTA director of regulatory affairs Rachel Nemeth, who moderated a CES panel on innovation and privacy, asked Baker Botts co-chair, antitrust group Maureen Ohlhausen to put the topic in historic context. “The Congressional debate on the Fair Credit Reporting Act (1970) brought forward many of the same issues we’re discussing today,” said Ohlhausen, who also served as a commissioner and acting chair of the FTC. “People were worried about computers and the use of their data. The FTC has long enforced privacy statutes, and began to apply them to the Internet once it became consumer-oriented.” Continue reading CES 2020: The High-Wire Tension of Innovation and Privacy

Facebook Takes Additional Steps to Address Data Concerns

Facebook vice president of global affairs Nick Clegg warned antitrust regulators that data is not a simple resource that can be easily monopolized but a more complicated commodity that can be shared and kept simultaneously. He urged officials to “relinquish” the idea that data is a finite resource that can be used in finite ways. Facebook and Google are facing scrutiny by the U.S. Justice Department, Federal Trade Commission and European Commission. Meanwhile, Facebook is also testing a data portability tool. Continue reading Facebook Takes Additional Steps to Address Data Concerns

Lawmakers Introduce Sweeping Online Privacy Legislation

Currently, the Federal Trade Commission is the government agency responsible for monitoring privacy violations. But, in response to rising calls to regulate big tech companies, two legislators — Anna Eshoo (D-California) and Zoe Lofgren (D-California) — have sponsored the Online Privacy Act. Among its provisions, the Act would create the Digital Privacy Agency (DPA) to enforce privacy legislation, backed up by 1,600 officials. The size would make it on a par with the Federal Communications Commission. Continue reading Lawmakers Introduce Sweeping Online Privacy Legislation

House Hearings Consider Balance of Competition, Privacy

The House Judiciary Committee held hearings that included testimony about how tech giants Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have collected significant quantities of data that give them a dominant market power that endangers consumer privacy. House Republicans, however, noted that strong data protection regulations in Europe, as well as other privacy regulations, could hurt competition among these companies. The hearing is the latest effort in the House’s antitrust investigation into digital giants. Continue reading House Hearings Consider Balance of Competition, Privacy

Landmark Privacy Case: EU Court Rules in Favor of Google

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has ruled that Google will not be required to apply “right to be forgotten” rules globally. Based on the landmark privacy case, the tech giant will only need to remove links to sensitive personal data and disputed search results in Europe, after it receives approved takedown requests. The case was initiated in France in 2015 when privacy watchdog CNIL ordered Google to remove certain search results globally under “right to be forgotten” laws. Google refused and took the case to the French Council of State, which eventually turned to the CJEU.  Continue reading Landmark Privacy Case: EU Court Rules in Favor of Google

Technology Chief Executives Lobby for Federal Privacy Law

Congress just received an open letter on behalf of the Business Roundtable, an association comprised of the chief executives of the U.S.’s biggest companies. Signed by 51 tech company executives, the letter asks legislators to create a federal law on data privacy, thus avoiding the patchwork-quilt of state laws now being passed. Amazon, AT&T, Dell, IBM, Qualcomm, SAP, Salesforce, Visa, Mastercard, JPMorgan Chase, State Farm and Walmart are just some of the companies whose chief executives signed the letter. Continue reading Technology Chief Executives Lobby for Federal Privacy Law

Companies Prep for Brunt of California Consumer Privacy Act

Beginning January 2020, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) will allow that state’s residents to find out exactly what personal data companies hold about them — and ask them to delete such information. Consumers will also have the option of opting out of allowing their personal information to be sold. The legislation — which was designed to make Amazon, Facebook, Google and others more transparent — will impact a wide range of companies, large and small, including airlines, banks, retailers and restaurants. Continue reading Companies Prep for Brunt of California Consumer Privacy Act

Google Shutters Mobile Data Service For Wireless Carriers

Google shut down its free Mobile Network Insights service, which provided Android phone data to wireless carriers, to avert regulatory scrutiny. The service, launched in March 2017 and shuttered this April, mapped carrier signal strengths and connection speeds area-by-area, helping carriers to determine where their coverage needed to be increased or strengthened. The anonymous data was retrieved from devices using Google’s Android operating system, which accounts for about 75 percent of the world’s smartphones. Continue reading Google Shutters Mobile Data Service For Wireless Carriers

Facebook Moves to Defend Itself Against Regulatory Threats

Under pressure from legislators and others, Facebook has taken steps to protect itself. According to sources, the company ceased talks to buy video-focused social network Houseparty to forestall increased antitrust concerns. In response to calls to break up Facebook, the company took internal measures to make that more difficult to do by reorganizing its departments and rebranding Instagram and WhatsApp. Elsewhere, the European Union is expected to issue decisions by the end of the year related to privacy issues involving Facebook. Continue reading Facebook Moves to Defend Itself Against Regulatory Threats

Google Stops Human Review of Assistant Voice Clips in EU

Google is pausing Google Assistant voice transcriptions in the European Union for at least three months. In mid-July, it admitted that about 1,000 private communications were made available to human contractors evaluating Assistant’s speech recognition accuracy, revealing personal and private information. A Google spokesperson reported that the company ceased voice transcription involving human moderators after learning of additional leaks in the Netherlands. Amazon will allow Alexa users to opt out of the human review of recordings and Apple has halted its program allowing human contractors to listen in on Siri recordings. Continue reading Google Stops Human Review of Assistant Voice Clips in EU

Apple Ends Practice of Humans Monitoring Siri Recordings

Apple will no longer allow human contractors to listen in on users’ Siri recordings to “grade” them, and will not resume the program until it has completed a “thorough review.” The company also stated that, as part of a future update, users will be able to opt out of the quality assurance program. Apple told users that Siri data might be used to improve their experience, but not that humans would be listening to it. Most of the compromised confidential information was recorded via an accidental trigger of Siri. Continue reading Apple Ends Practice of Humans Monitoring Siri Recordings

Facebook in Global Crosshairs for Privacy, Antitrust Issues

The Federal Trade Commission fined Facebook about $5 billion for privacy violations, but the sum is considered a slap on the wrist since it neither hurt the company’s bottom line nor limited its ability to collect data. But, since 2016, 43+ countries have passed or introduced laws regulating social media and the spread of fake news, and U.S., European and Canadian regulators have initiated investigations and proposed regulations that will likely be much more draconian. Congress is considering a federal privacy law. Continue reading Facebook in Global Crosshairs for Privacy, Antitrust Issues

Spotify Allows Music Labels to Access Data About its Users

Music streaming service Spotify allows users to “pre-save” an upcoming release to their accounts. But users don’t realize that, by doing so, they are also agreeing to let Spotify release more personal data than is typical to the upcoming release’s label. Those labels can access information to track a user’s listening behavior, change the musicians they follow and possibly even control their music streaming remotely. In an era in which data privacy is receiving more consumer attention, Spotify’s practice is likely to become an issue. Continue reading Spotify Allows Music Labels to Access Data About its Users

Microsoft Urges U.S. to Adopt Laws Similar to EU’s GDPR

Microsoft corporate vice president/deputy general counsel Julie Brill believes that the federal government is essential in guaranteeing “a strong right to privacy” in the United States. She noted that California and Illinois have enacted serious data protection laws, but that the U.S. needs federal regulation. She came to that conclusion after observing that the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), enacted almost one year ago, has been “very effective” in transforming how companies manage personal data. Continue reading Microsoft Urges U.S. to Adopt Laws Similar to EU’s GDPR

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