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

Microsoft Debuts Project to Adopt Blockchain for Digital IDs

Last year, Microsoft described the idea of a “self-sovereign digital identity,” and has now introduced a project that would shift login credentials to blockchain. With this model, users — not Microsoft — would be responsible for their own digital identities and the portable credentials would, in principle, allow access to numerous applications. Advocates of blockchain champion the concept as more private, preventing anyone from following the user’s activity on the Internet and limiting the opportunity for hacks. Continue reading Microsoft Debuts Project to Adopt Blockchain for Digital IDs

San Francisco Is First to Prohibit Use of Facial Recognition

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors, in an 8-to-1 vote, outlawed the use of facial recognition by police and other agencies, making it the first major U.S. city to do so. The vote comes as many U.S. cities are turning to facial recognition to identify criminals, while civil rights advocates warn of its potential for mass surveillance and abuse. But San Francisco city supervisor Aaron Peskin, who sponsored the bill, said its passage sent a message, particularly from a city known as a center for new technology. Continue reading San Francisco Is First to Prohibit Use of Facial Recognition

WhatsApp Calls Used to Inject Spyware on Mobile Phones

Hackers have reportedly been injecting Israeli spyware onto smartphones via the popular Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp. The surveillance software, named Pegasus, was developed by Israeli firm NSO Group and can access an iPhone with a single missed voice call on WhatsApp. NSO claims that it carefully vets its customers; the company’s software is intended for government agencies to combat crime and terrorism. While it is currently unknown how many users may have been affected at this point (the problem was first discovered in early May), WhatsApp says it has created a patch to address the vulnerability. Continue reading WhatsApp Calls Used to Inject Spyware on Mobile Phones

Google Announces Plans to Bring Electronic IDs to Android

On the final day of its annual I/O developer conference in Mountain View last week, Google announced plans to bring Electronic IDs like driver’s licenses and club memberships to Android, and that all new Android Q devices would be required to encrypt user data. These developments could move users one step closer to using digital wallets as valid identification for in-person transactions. As part of the announcement, Google indicated that it’s looking into adding Electronic ID support so developers can build mobile apps for secure ID use.

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Coalition Alleges Amazon Illegally Collects Children’s Data

A coalition of 19 consumer and privacy groups plans to file a complaint against Amazon alleging that the e-commerce company’s Echo Dot Kids Edition illegally collects voice recordings and other information from users under age 13, which is a violation of the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, known as COPPA. The Echo Dot Kids Edition is much like the Echo Dot smart speaker device, but targeted to kids using a design featuring bright colors. Via the device, kids can ask questions, play music, and more using voice commands.

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Google Unveils New Devices, Privacy Features at I/O Event

At this week’s Google I/O developer conference in Mountain View, California, the company unveiled new tools for a number of its products designed to help consumers control their personal data and how their online activities are tracked. “We think privacy is for everyone — not just for the few,” explained Google CEO Sundar Pichai. “We want to do more to stay ahead of constantly evolving user expectations.” In addition to detailing privacy features, Google made announcements regarding its two latest Pixel devices, its newest version of Android, the Nest Hub Max smart display, and updates to Google Assistant. Continue reading Google Unveils New Devices, Privacy Features at I/O Event

New Google Privacy Tools Aim to Limit Third-Party Cookies

In what could be touted as a privacy-related commitment, Google is expected to unveil new tools designed to limit the use of tracking cookies, including a dashboard-like function within its popular Chrome web browser that would give users information about where they’re being tracked and how to stop it, when desired. These tools are a product of years of internal debate, but the move could potentially strengthen Google’s lead in the digital advertising sector, while dealing a blow to other digital marketing companies.

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Facebook Is Developing Cryptocurrency Payments System

Facebook is currently recruiting financial firms and online merchants to launch a “cryptocurrency-based payments system on the back of its gigantic social network,” reports The Wall Street Journal. At its center is a digital coin that users would be able to send to one another and use to make purchases on Facebook and on the broader Internet. This has the potential to significantly disrupt, or even up-end, “the traditional, lucrative plumbing of e-commerce and would likely be the most mainstream application yet of cryptocurrency.”

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Facebook Pushes Core Principles at Developer Conference

With an emphasis on privacy, Facebook made a series of compelling announcements at its annual F8 developer conference this week. Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg detailed six core principles that will be embedded across the company’s services: private interactions, improved data encryption, interoperability, general safety, reducing permanence and secure data storage. The principles arrive following a difficult period for the social giant, as it continues to face criticism regarding privacy-related scandals while contending with increased scrutiny from global regulators. Continue reading Facebook Pushes Core Principles at Developer Conference

Facebook Unveils First Design Changes to Enhance Privacy

Under the dark cloud of various privacy-related scandals, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced the first of a series in design changes meant to shift the social media platform away from town square-style communication and toward more direct, private communication between users and groups. On Tuesday at Facebook’s annual developer conference, the company showcased a redesign of its mobile app and desktop site, both of which add new features to promote group-based communication rather than a focus on the News Feed.

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Apple Facing Criticism for Restricting Parental Control Apps

“Can you really trust that Apple wants people to spend less time on their phones?” asked Fred Stutzman, founder and chief executive of Freedom, an app designed to limit screen time. Freedom had 770,000 downloads before Apple removed it from the App Store in August, and other app makers have similar stories. According to analysis from The New York Times and app-data firm Sensor Tower, Apple removed or restricted at least 11 of the 17 most downloaded screen time and parental-control apps as well as clamping down on similar but lesser known apps.

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Global Regulators Looking Into Facebook Privacy Practices

Regulators have reached a tipping point with Facebook after years of half-measures regarding the social media giant’s security-related missteps. Now, regulators across four continents are attempting to reign in Facebook’s behavior. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission hasn’t come to a decisive conclusion regarding what constraints to implement, but the agency is looking to address a wide range of issues, including violations reported almost monthly, according to a source close to the investigation.

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Canada, New York Rebuke Facebook For Privacy Violations

In Canada, privacy commissioners stated that Facebook’s “superficial and ineffective safeguards and consent mechanisms” violated local and national laws in allowing third parties to access users’ personal data — and that the company has refused to fix the problems. The New York State attorney general plans to investigate Facebook’s “unauthorized collection” of 1.5+ million users’ email address books. Facebook just banned “personality quiz” apps similar to the one behind the Cambridge Analytica scandal, to improve security. Continue reading Canada, New York Rebuke Facebook For Privacy Violations

New Reports Reveal Unsettling Facts About Voice Assistants

Microsoft reports that 41 percent of those using voice assistants are concerned about “trust, privacy and passive listening.” Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft, the major voice assistant providers, rely on humans to review collected voice data — although most people are unaware of this. Bloomberg also delved into Amazon’s Alexa team following a report that the company reviews audio clips from commands. Five employees familiar with the program revealed they can “in some cases easily find a customer’s home address.” Continue reading New Reports Reveal Unsettling Facts About Voice Assistants

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