Ireland DPC Fines Meta $275 Million for Data Privacy Breach

Meta Platforms has been fined $275 million for violating European Union privacy rules, the result of a 2021 data leak that led to the online publication of personal information belonging to 500 million Facebook users. The penalty is the latest imposed on Meta by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, which in September imposed a $400 million penalty on Instagram for mishandling children’s data. In October 2021, the same regulator fined Meta $235 million for violations by its WhatsApp messaging service. In total, Irish authorities have imposed penalties of more than $900 million on Meta in the past two years. Continue reading Ireland DPC Fines Meta $275 Million for Data Privacy Breach

White House Updates Data Protection Framework with the EU

President Biden has signed an executive order designed to repair data sharing with the European Union. The arrangement has been in disarray since 2020, when the Court of Justice of the European Union nullified the Privacy Shield, jeopardizing what the White House calls a $7.1 trillion economic relationship, premised on companies doing business on both sides of the pond. Friday’s executive order stipulates new ways for the EU to challenge what it had previously identified as objectionable U.S. government surveillance practices. In March, the U.S. and European Union agreed “in principle” to a revamped framework for data transfers. Continue reading White House Updates Data Protection Framework with the EU

California’s Online Child Safety Bill Could Set New Standards

A first of its kind U.S. proposal to protecting children online cleared the California Legislature Tuesday and was sent to the desk of Governor Gavin Newsom. The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act will require social media platforms to implement guardrails for users under 18. The new rules will curb risks — such as allowing strangers to message children — and require changes to recommendation algorithms and ad targeting where minors are concerned. The bill was drafted following Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s 2021 congressional testimony about the negative effects of social media on children’s mental health. Continue reading California’s Online Child Safety Bill Could Set New Standards

Meta Tentatively Settles the Cambridge Analytica Privacy Suit

Meta Platforms has agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by users who accused its Facebook platform of improperly sharing personal data with third parties including, most notoriously, the now-defunct Cambridge Analytica. Financial details were not disclosed, but on Friday both Meta and the plaintiffs said in a joint filing in San Francisco federal court that the parties reached a tentative settlement. The UK-based Cambridge Analytica shuttered in 2018 after a scandal involving use of Facebook data to influence voters in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Continue reading Meta Tentatively Settles the Cambridge Analytica Privacy Suit

Google Debuts AI Test Kitchen, LaMDA Language Generator

Google has launched an AI Test Kitchen and is inviting users to sign up to test experimental AI-powered systems and provide feedback before the applications are deployed for commercial use. First up is the Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA), which has shown promising early results. The AI Test Kitchen has begun a gradual rollout to small groups of U.S. on Android with plans to include iOS in the coming weeks. According to Google, “as we move ahead with development, we feel a great responsibility to get this right.”  Continue reading Google Debuts AI Test Kitchen, LaMDA Language Generator

FTC Chair Khan Calls for Privacy Rules and Data Limitations

Federal Trade Commission chair Lina Khan says it’s time for the FTC and Congress to deliver on consumer privacy protection, legislating to ensure that consumers don’t have to surrender personal data in order to enjoy online tools that are essential to everyday life. Speaking Monday at the IAPP Global Privacy Summit 2022 in Washington, D.C., Khan emphasized creating “substantive limits rather than just procedural protections” when it comes to personal data. Meanwhile, Big Tech did its own lobbying on behalf of consumer privacy. Continue reading FTC Chair Khan Calls for Privacy Rules and Data Limitations

Researchers Discover Malware on Apps in Google Play Store

Google has removed dozens of apps from the Google Play Store after finding they were harvesting data from millions of Android phones. The spyware creator, Panama’s  Measurement Systems S. de R.L., has been linked with a Virginia defense contractor that has done work for U.S. national-security agencies in the areas of cyberintelligence, network defense and intelligence intercepts. Researchers found the errant code embedded in apps for Muslim prayers, speed-trap detection, QR-code reading and other popular consumer programs that have been downloaded more than 10 million times. Continue reading Researchers Discover Malware on Apps in Google Play Store

Startups Want Consumers to Be Paid for Their Personal Data

Personal data is fueling a $455.3 billion online advertising market, and a crop of new startups wants consumers whose information creates the value to get a piece of that action. Among the startups are Brave Software, Tapestri, Reklaim and Streamlytics. Now real estate billionaire Frank McCourt has committed $250 million to fund Project Liberty, which he hopes will restyle the web as a platform owned by the public. Of that amount, McCourt — former owner of the L.A. Dodgers — earmarked $25 million to create a decentralized social networking protocol that aims to reinvent the model for consumer data governance online. Continue reading Startups Want Consumers to Be Paid for Their Personal Data

European Union Supports New Restrictions on Targeted Ads

In what could be bad news for companies such as Facebook and Google, the European Parliament has voted to toughen limits on the use of consumer data for advertising. The Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) voted overwhelmingly under the Digital Markets Act (DMA) to support stricter consent requirements for how personal information is used to serve ads, expanding the draft legislation to include a ban on the commercial use of the personal data of minors. The proposed law blacklists some practices of Big Tech platforms and empowers the EU Commission to undertake investigations, adding sanctions for non-compliant behavior. Continue reading European Union Supports New Restrictions on Targeted Ads

Pandemic Fosters Wider Adoption of QR Codes and Tracking

During the COVID-19 pandemic, QR codes that allow customers to order and pay for food and drinks caught on in restaurants and appear to be here for good. Retail chains including CVS and Foot Locker have also added them as have marketers. Because QR codes can store digital information and open an app or website that tracks peoples’ personal information, they’re ideal for vendors looking to create their own customer databases. Consumers will soon be served customized offers marketed within QR code payment systems. Continue reading Pandemic Fosters Wider Adoption of QR Codes and Tracking

ByteDance Pauses its IPO After Meeting with Chinese Officials

Beijing-based ByteDance, parent company of social video app TikTok, which was valued at $180 billion in December, indefinitely put plans on hold for a public offering. The company had been considering an IPO in the United States or Hong Kong but its founder and CEO Zhang Yiming changed his mind after meeting with China’s cyberspace and security regulators who reportedly told him to focus on data-security risks and other issues. Another reason for holding off is that the company did not have a chief financial officer at the time. Continue reading ByteDance Pauses its IPO After Meeting with Chinese Officials

Legislators Planning to Revamp Antitrust Laws for Digital Era

U.S. antitrust laws date back to the days of Big Oil. When a federal judge this week dismissed antitrust lawsuits brought against Facebook by the Federal Trade Commission and 48 states, experts called for a modernization of the laws themselves. The judge who dismissed the lawsuits said that the FTC didn’t prove its claim that Facebook was a monopoly and the states brought their case too long after Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp. Representative David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) said the U.S. needs a “massive overhaul of our antitrust laws.” Continue reading Legislators Planning to Revamp Antitrust Laws for Digital Era

ByteDance Revenue, Profit Leap in 2020 But No IPO in Sight

Privately-held startup ByteDance, owner of TikTok, reported that its revenue more than doubled to $34.3 billion last year, rising 111 percent from a year ago while gross profit rose 93 percent to $19 billion. As of December 2020, ByteDance — which also runs Douyin, the domestic Chinese version of TikTok, and Jinri Toutiao, a news aggregation app — had about 1.9 billion monthly active users on all its platforms. Due to share-based compensation to workers, the company had a $2.1 billion operating loss last year. Continue reading ByteDance Revenue, Profit Leap in 2020 But No IPO in Sight

European Union Plans Framework for Secure Digital Identities

The European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, announced a proposal yesterday to create a European Digital Identity system that would “be available to all EU citizens, residents and businesses in the EU.” The goal is to enable citizens who are interested “to prove their identity and share electronic documents from their European Digital Identity wallets with the click of a button on their phone.” In addition, these citizens would “be able to access online services with their national digital identification,” that would be recognized throughout European Union’s Member States. Continue reading European Union Plans Framework for Secure Digital Identities

Senators Press Ad-Auctioneers for Personal Data Sales Info

Senate Finance Committee chair Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) heads a bipartisan group of U.S. senators attempting to understand more about digital advertising auctions and their relationship to personalized ads. The group sent a letter to the largest companies that run these auctions, including AT&T, Index Exchange, Google, Magnite, OpenX Software, PubMatic, Twitter and Verizon Communications. The senators want the names of all foreign clients gaining access to user data through the auctions, citing concerns of national security. Continue reading Senators Press Ad-Auctioneers for Personal Data Sales Info