Legislators Urge FTC to Scrutinize Mobile Ad Data Collection

Members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission urging it to investigate how the mobile advertising industry tracks consumers without their knowledge via digital display ads. The covert practice, known as “bidstream” data, enables the collection of sensitive information about consumers that is then packaged and sold by data brokers. Meanwhile, Google released “Ads Transparency Spotlight,” a Chrome extension to inform consumers about how advertisers are targeting them. Continue reading Legislators Urge FTC to Scrutinize Mobile Ad Data Collection

Government Surveillance Bill Is Sidelined by Privacy Question

The House of Representatives, after closed-door negotiations, came to an agreement to bring an amendment to vote that would protect Americans from FBI and CIA surveillance of their web browsing history without a warrant. The amendment, introduced by Zoe Lofgren (D-California) and Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), would be a “significant reform to Section 215 [of the USA Patriot Act] that protects Americans’ civil liberties,” said Lofgren. However, after full details of the proposal were released, debate over who would specifically be protected led to the amendment’s downfall. Continue reading Government Surveillance Bill Is Sidelined by Privacy Question

Twitter Warns Clearview to Stop Scraping its Users’ Photos

Clearview AI has scraped over three billion photos from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Venmo and hundreds of other websites to create a facial recognition database now used by the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and over 600 law enforcement agencies. Twitter just sent a cease-and-decease letter to the startup demanding that it stop taking photos and other data from its site and to delete any data it has already collected. Twitter accused Clearview AI of violating its policies. Continue reading Twitter Warns Clearview to Stop Scraping its Users’ Photos

CES 2020: Evaluating the Relevance of CDA’s Section 230

Suppose you post your latest travel photos on your website, and later, in the comments section, a drug dealer offers his illegal wares for sale. Under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, noted CTA senior vice president of government affairs Michael Petricone, you cannot be prosecuted for drug sales. “Section 230 provides broad but not absolute immunity for Internet service providers for content published by users,” he said. “It’s important for platforms — but it can also encourage toxic online behavior.” Continue reading CES 2020: Evaluating the Relevance of CDA’s Section 230

Blizzard Suspends Pro eSports Player for His Political Stance

Gaming company Activision Blizzard suspended an eSports player who, during a live broadcast, expressed his support for the pro-democracy protest movement in Hong Kong. Professional “Hearthstone” player Chung Ng Wai has been suspended for a year and forced to give up $10,000 in prize money. The move led to a significant backlash from gamers and politicians via social media and online forums. The public relations dilemma is similar to what played out this week following NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s support of free speech, which led to the decision by China’s state-run television not to broadcast two NBA games. Continue reading Blizzard Suspends Pro eSports Player for His Political Stance

Facebook Freezes 69,000 Apps for Collecting Personal Data

Last Friday, Facebook suspended 69,000 apps, stating that they had harvested users’ personal data. The investigation began in March 2018, after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, leading to the suspensions of those apps, associated with 400 developers. The Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey investigated and found that 10,000 of the 69,000 apps were found to have “potentially misappropriated” personal data, often as a way to add new users. The Justice Department and the FBI are still investigating Cambridge Analytica. Continue reading Facebook Freezes 69,000 Apps for Collecting Personal Data

Congress Calls For End to Tech Firms’ Audio Transcriptions

A bipartisan group of Congress members castigated Facebook for hiring contractors to transcribe audio clips and urged regulation to prevent it in the future. The transcriptions were made to help Facebook improve its artificial intelligence-enabled speech recognition, and are part of a move to improve the capabilities of voice assistants (Amazon, Apple and Google are among companies that have taken similar approaches). Last year, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) circulated a draft law that would impose steep fines and even prison for executives who failed to protect users’ personal data. Continue reading Congress Calls For End to Tech Firms’ Audio Transcriptions

Capital One Hacker Stole Data From More Than 30 Entities

Former Amazon employee Paige Thompson, charged with hacking Capital One Financial records, illegally accessed terabytes of data from 30+ other companies and institutions, according to authorities. Thompson, arrested July 29, was accused of stealing 106 million Capital One records, considered to be one of the largest thefts of cloud-based data. Court documents reveal that Thompson stole 140,000 Social Security numbers, 80,000 bank account numbers, millions of credit card applications and one million Canadian social insurance numbers. Continue reading Capital One Hacker Stole Data From More Than 30 Entities

Senators Press For National Artificial Intelligence Strategy

Several U.S. senators have proposed the Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act to create a national AI strategy and fund federal R&D in this growing area to the tune of $2.2 billion. The initiative’s $2.2 billion would be awarded over a five-year period to multiple federal agencies. At the same time, although the European Commission put out guidelines for artificial intelligence technology, some experts are saying that the tech companies that participated in drafting guidelines compromised them to protect their own interests. Continue reading Senators Press For National Artificial Intelligence Strategy

The Industry Built Upon Analyzing, Selling Your Location Data

Location data has become big business. According to recent research from The New York Times, at least 75 companies receive reams of precise, anonymous location data from apps with enabled location services. Some of these companies state they track up to 200 million mobile devices, to collect such data, which they sell, use or analyze for customers such as advertisers, retail companies and financial outlets including hedge funds. The location-targeted advertising industry is valued at $21 billion this year. Continue reading The Industry Built Upon Analyzing, Selling Your Location Data

Facebook Fails to Police Device Makers’ Use of Personal Data

Last month, Facebook admitted that it failed to properly oversee the seven device manufacturers that the company allowed to access personal data of hundreds of million of people in order to build a so-called Facebook Experience. The Silicon Valley company detailed its errors, which was detected by its own government-approved privacy monitor in 2013, in a letter to Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), a privacy advocate and frequent Facebook critic. Meanwhile, Facebook users whose data was compromised have not been alerted. Continue reading Facebook Fails to Police Device Makers’ Use of Personal Data

Oregon Senator Proposes a Consumer Data Protection Bill

Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden drafted a data privacy bill akin to the recent General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation in Europe. Dubbed the Consumer Data Protection Act, Wyden’s bill would give users more control over selling and sharing their data, and would give the Federal Trade Commission authority to set privacy and security standards and fine those companies that do not protect consumer data. One provision is a “Do Not Track” feature that would allow people to opt out of being tracked. Continue reading Oregon Senator Proposes a Consumer Data Protection Bill

Lawmakers Speak Out Against FCC’s Plans for Net Neutrality

The current Republican-majority FCC intends to end net neutrality rules, as spelled out in 2015’s Open Internet Order. Now, 10 members of Congress are fighting back with an official comment describing their position. Among the signers are Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-PA), ranking members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. At the same time, 15 Senate Democrats, led by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) have asked FCC chair Ajit Pai for more time for comments, given the record volume of public interest. Continue reading Lawmakers Speak Out Against FCC’s Plans for Net Neutrality

In a First, Yahoo Secretly Scans All Incoming Emails for Feds

In response to a classified edict from the National Security Agency or the FBI, Yahoo scanned all of its users’ incoming emails for a specific “set of characters,” keeping the scans and the software system it built to do so a secret. Millions of emails were scanned, but neither federal agency nor Yahoo will say if they found what they were looking for. Experts say this is the first case of a U.S. Internet company agreeing to search all arriving emails, rather than stored messages or a small number of email accounts. Continue reading In a First, Yahoo Secretly Scans All Incoming Emails for Feds

Proposed Encryption Bill Faces Opposition from Silicon Valley

Washington and Silicon Valley are poised to clash again in the ongoing debate over encryption technology in relation to data privacy, law enforcement and national security. Senate Intelligence Committee chair Richard Burr (Republican, NC) and Dianne Feinstein (Democrat, CA), the panel’s vice chair, have introduced proposed legislation that would require companies to unlock encrypted devices when served a court order. Congress has been working on a balance between security and privacy regarding encryption, especially in the wake of the recent iPhone case. Continue reading Proposed Encryption Bill Faces Opposition from Silicon Valley