Google Shutters Initiative to Provide Cloud Services in China

Google ended its Isolated Region initiative to offer cloud services in China and other so-called sovereignty sensitive markets that strictly regulate companies whose services include collecting or processing personal data. Begun in 2018, the Isolated Region initiative would have complied with rules in China that require Western companies providing data or networking to form joint ventures with Chinese companies. The business would also be sequestered from Google’s existing cloud services including data centers. Continue reading Google Shutters Initiative to Provide Cloud Services in China

Big Tech Firms Cease Processing User Data From Hong Kong

When China imposed a National Security Law in Hong Kong on June 30, tech companies including Facebook, Google, Twitter and Dubai’s Telegram Group ceased processing requests for user data from that city in protest. A Facebook spokesperson said the company believes “freedom of expression is a fundamental human right.” Facebook-owned WhatsApp paused reviews “pending further assessment,” including consulting with human rights experts, of the Chinese law. In addition, TikTok stated it will stop offering its social media app in Hong Kong. Continue reading Big Tech Firms Cease Processing User Data From Hong Kong

Big Tech Firms Face More EU Scrutiny, Facebook Loses Case

The European Union increased its efforts to regulate major U.S. technology companies, including Amazon, Apple and Google, with a new tool that allows it to investigate any potential antitrust issue and force changes without proving illegality. EU antitrust head Margrethe Vestager warned that the tech behemoths potentially risk being broken up as a “last resort” if they don’t adhere to the rules. Meanwhile, a German high court ruled against Facebook finding it abused its social media dominance to illegally harvest user data. Continue reading Big Tech Firms Face More EU Scrutiny, Facebook Loses Case

Google Plans Changes to How Long It Holds on to User Data

Google disclosed that it had changed its policy regarding how long it will hang on to users’ search data. Last year, the company introduced an option that allowed users to automatically delete data related to Internet searches, requests made to Google Assistant and location history after three months or 18 months. Beginning now, Google’s default policy is to automatically delete location history, voice recordings and web/app activity on new accounts after 18 months. The settings on existing accounts will remain the same. Continue reading Google Plans Changes to How Long It Holds on to User Data

Neeva: A New Search Engine With No Ads or Data Collection

Former Google executive in charge of advertising Sridhar Ramaswamy has launched Neeva, a search engine that will not show ads or collect information about users. At Google, Ramaswamy became disillusioned by how the need for constant growth disadvantaged consumers. He decided to leave shortly after questionable videos featured ads — automatically served by Google’s algorithms — for Deutsche Bank, Amazon, eBay and Adidas. His epiphany was that “an ad-supported model had limitations.”   Continue reading Neeva: A New Search Engine With No Ads or Data Collection

Facebook’s Purchase of Giphy to Provide Valuable User Data

Facebook has acquired the GIF platform Giphy for $400 million. Giphy’s 100+ million active daily users send over 1 billion GIFs a day. Facebook stated that Giphy’s content database will be integrated into its apps including Instagram, although it didn’t state a timeframe. Since every social app offers at least some GIF integration, including many that rely on a GIF keyboard and Giphy’s database, Facebook’s purchase is both a competitive edge and another way to harvest the kind of data that attracts advertisers. Continue reading Facebook’s Purchase of Giphy to Provide Valuable User Data

EU Presses Facebook for Documents Related to Competition

The European Commission’ antitrust probe into Facebook is now seeking internal documents related to allegations that Facebook suppressed competition by leveraging its own access to users’ data. EU investigators are also looking into changes Facebook made to software interfaces that enabled app developers to access data, as well as more information on Facebook’s use of Israeli VPN app Onavo it purchased in 2013. Facebook, which shut down Onavo last year, said it disclosed its data collection to users. Continue reading EU Presses Facebook for Documents Related to Competition

Spotify Plans to Run Targeted Ads in its Exclusive Podcasts

During CES 2020, Spotify revealed plans to leverage its massive amount of user data in order to introduce targeted advertising in its exclusive podcast content. With its proprietary Streaming Ad Insertion (SAI) tech, Spotify will analyze data based on user location, type of device, gender, age and more to insert advertisements in real time (Spotify already automates dynamic ad insertion for its music streaming). The company could eventually become a major podcast ad network if it ends up placing ads in other networks’ content as well. Continue reading Spotify Plans to Run Targeted Ads in its Exclusive Podcasts

Comparison of Biometric Data Use, Storage in 50 Countries

The use of biometrics — and the resulting data — are growing exponentially. Pro-consumer website Comparitech analyzed 50 different countries to create a more detailed picture of where and why biometrics are collected and how the data is being stored. Although the U.S. is one of the countries whose biometric collection is “extensive and invasive,” in related news, the Department of Homeland Security mothballed a plan to require facial recognition screening for every person before leaving or entering the country. Continue reading Comparison of Biometric Data Use, Storage in 50 Countries

Republicans Issue Draft of Federal Data Privacy Legislation

Senate Commerce Committee chair Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) proposed draft legislation that he said will support tough protections for consumer data and address the concerns of Democrats. Last week, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), the Committee’s top Democrat, proposed a data privacy law. The idea, Wicker continued, is to create a national privacy law that will override state privacy laws passed by California and other states. He and others believe state laws will create an unwieldy patchwork. Continue reading Republicans Issue Draft of Federal Data Privacy Legislation

Democrats Introduce New Online Privacy Rights Legislation

The Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act (COPRA) is a stalled bipartisan effort to protect consumers’ rights to privacy and prevent companies from hiding what they are doing with user data. To reinvigorate the debate, a group of Democrats, led by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), top Democrat in the Senate Commerce Committee, introduced their version of the federal privacy law. “[Privacy rights] should be like your Miranda rights — clear as a bell as to what they are and what constitutes a violation,” she said. Continue reading Democrats Introduce New Online Privacy Rights Legislation

Apple Chief Tim Cook Calls For National Data Regulations

Apple chief executive Tim Cook stated that, because tech companies haven’t self-policed their use of data, “it’s time to have rigorous regulation.” Although he also warned that regulators are too focused on breaking up the Big Tech companies, he admitted that “if one of the companies is found to be a monopoly, and regulators can prove they’ve abused that monopoly power, a breakup might be necessary.” Pew Research reported that about 60 percent of Americans believe their data is being collected on a daily basis. Continue reading Apple Chief Tim Cook Calls For National Data Regulations

YouTube’s New Video Policy Places the Onus on Creators

Beginning in January 2020, YouTube will begin enforcement of a new policy that blocks data collection for content aimed at children. The result for content creators will be lower ad revenue; viewers will no longer see popular features such as comments and end screens. Google confirmed the new policy is the result of a $170 million settlement in September that YouTube reached with the Federal Trade Commission for allegedly violating children’s privacy rights under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Continue reading YouTube’s New Video Policy Places the Onus on Creators

Google Culls Patient Data to Build Healthcare Search Tools

Google and Ascension, the second-largest health system in the U.S., have been collecting the personal health data of tens of millions of people in 21 states. Project Nightingale, the tech giant’s effort to enter healthcare, has culled lab results, diagnoses and hospitalization records, which include patient names and dates of birth. No doctor or patient has been notified, which has sparked a federal inquiry, but some experts say the initiative is permissible since Google is developing software to improve the healthcare system. Google explained that its partnership with Ascension is not a secret and was first announced in July during a Q2 earnings call. Continue reading Google Culls Patient Data to Build Healthcare Search Tools

California Attorney General Sues Facebook For Documents

California attorney general Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit in California Superior Court to obtain Facebook documents and email correspondence between chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg. Becerra revealed that, over an 18-month period, Facebook has “ignored or resisted” his dozens of requests for these documents. Meanwhile, internal Facebook documents recently made public revealed the company was more interested in defeating rivals than improving customer privacy. Continue reading California Attorney General Sues Facebook For Documents

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