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Closely watched California Internet privacy bill dies in final minutes of legislative session

September 18, 2017

California lawmakers on Saturday shelved a bill that would have required Internet service providers such as Verizon, Comcast and AT&T to get permission from customers before using, selling or allowing access to their browser history.

The legislation by Assemblyman Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) would have enshrined in state law some federal Internet privacy regulations that were rolled back this year by President Trump and Congress. The regulations limited what broadband providers can do with their customers’ data.

The defeat capped a behind-the-scenes battle that pitted telecom companies against state Internet service providers (ISPs) and brought other bills to a halt in the state Senate as negotiations unfolded over legislation that would have had national significance.

Most of the “California Privacy Act” would have codified the repealed restrictions crafted by the Federal Communications Commission under the Obama administration.

But it also would have barred Internet service companies from refusing to provide service or limiting service if customers do not waive their privacy rights. And it would have prohibited them from offering customers discounts in exchange for waiving their privacy rights or charging customers a penalty for refusing to do so.

The bill had the support of former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and smaller California ISPs. Opponents — which included tech giants like Google — argued it was being rushed through the legislative process.
For ISPs that are already complying with the former federal regulations, the bill would haven’t made much of a difference operationally, said Ernesto Falcon, legislative counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group based in San Francisco. But the influence of the legislation could have been sweeping.

“California is a critical state because you are covering a large part of the nation just because of its population,” he said. “It sets the stage for other states to follow suit.”

For now, efforts to implement the rules could move to the ballot box. A ballot initiative proposed this month would give California consumers the right to know what personal information businesses are collecting, what they do with it and to whom they are selling it.

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ransomware

Senator Franken asks Apple for privacy guarantees around Face ID data

September 15, 2017

A friendly letter from Senator Al Franken (D-MN) to Apple requests that the latter provide a few more details on the tech behind its Face ID system, which allows users to unlock their iPhone X using facial recognition.

It’s very far from a nastygram; the Senator pretty clearly just wants to cover a bit more ground than Apple had time for in its presentation yesterday. He writes:

I am encouraged by the steps that Apple states it has taken to implement the system responsibly. However, substantial questions remain about how Face ID will impact iPhone users’ privacy and security, and whether the technology will perform equally well on different groups of people. To offer clarity to the millions of Americans who use your products, I ask that you provide more information on how the company has processed these issues internally, as well as any additional steps that it intends to take to protect its users.

Face ID, which uses a Kinect-like system to scan the user’s face and only lets a matching faceprint unlock the phone, is being treated with some skepticism in the tech community. An onstage flub during the iPhone event didn’t help, but there are some usability concerns (how do you unlock your phone while it’s on the table a couple of feet away? Surely not a PIN?) and privacy ones as well.

Of course, there were similar concerns when Apple debuted Touch ID’s fingerprint recognition — and sure enough, Sen. Franken wrote a letter then, too.

His letter today is well-informed as to the potential weaknesses of facial recognition systems. For example, he asks what the source was for the billion face images Apple touted as the training set for the system, since a lack of diversity there could lead to underrepresented groups being unable to use Face ID.

He also asks whether Apple has any plans to use faceprint data for any purpose other than Face ID, whether it’s possible for Apple or any interested third party to extract that data from the phone, and whether the data might be stored remotely.

Interestingly, he asks whether there are any protections against a person being forced to unlock the phone by someone else holding it up to their face. Kind of dark, Senator!

Lastly, he asks how Apple will respond to law enforcement requests for faceprint data. That’s a sticky issue right now considering the amount of pressure tech companies are under to identify users, respond to law enforcement requests and so on.

If Apple’s answers are anything like the answers it gave in its response to the 2013 letter, the gist will be that because the faceprint is stored in the Secure Enclave and therefore is inaccessible to Apple, its services or its partners, many of these questions will be moot.

For the remaining questions, however, I look forward to Apple’s responses and evasions, each of which will likely be illuminating in its own way. Apple is requested to respond to the Senator by October 13.

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Spain slaps Facebook with €1.2 million fine for breaking privacy laws

September 12, 2017

Spain’s data protection watchdog has fined Facebook €1.2 million euros (roughly $1.44 million), after it found three instances when it collected personal data on its Spanish users without informing them of how it was to be used.

The judgement is the latest in a series of legal issues that have befallen the social media giant. According to Mark Scott, Politico’s Chief Politics correspondent, the French, German, and Dutch governments are also looking into how Facebook holds and uses data pertaining to their citizens.

The Spanish data protection authority said that Facebook’s privacy policy contains “generic and unclear terms,” and doesn’t go far enough to collect the consent of its users.

Facebook will likely appeal this ruling. It previously overturned a similar judgement in Belgium, having successfully argued that its base in Ireland means that it’s only subject to Irish law.

€1.2 million euros barely constitutes a slap on the wrist for a company that has Q2 revenues of $9.32 billion. That said, it’s probably relieved the ruling came before the introduction of the tough new GDPR rules, which could have seen the company fined a percentage of its global annual turnover.

We’ve reached out to Facebook, and will update this post if we hear back from it.

“We take note of the DPA’s decision with which we respectfully disagree. Whilst we value the opportunities we’ve had to engage with the DPA to reinforce how seriously we take the privacy of people who use Facebook, we intend to appeal this decision.

“As we made clear to the DPA, users choose which information they want to add to their profile and share with others, such as their religion. However, we do not use this information to target adverts to people.”

“Facebook has long complied with EU data protection law through our establishment in Ireland. We remain open to continuing to discuss these issues with the DPA, whilst we work with our lead regulator the Irish Data Protection Commissioner as we prepare for the EU’s new data protection regulation in 2018.”

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Uber to end post-trip tracking of riders as part of privacy push

August 31, 2017

Uber Technologies Inc. is pulling a heavily criticized feature from its app that allowed it to track riders for up to five minutes after a trip, its security chief told Reuters, as the ride-hailing company tries to fix its poor reputation for customer privacy.

The change, which restores users’ ability to share location data only while using the app, is expected to be announced on Tuesday and rolled out to iPhone users starting this week. It comes as Uber tries to recover from a series of crises culminating in the ouster of Chief Executive Travis Kalanick and other top executives.

Dara Khosrowshahi, the CEO of travel-booking company Expedia Inc., is set to become Uber’s new chief executive, sources have told Reuters.

The location-tracking update is unrelated to executive changes, said Joe Sullivan, Uber’s chief security officer, in an interview with Reuters. Sullivan and his team of about 500 have been working to beef up customer privacy at Uber since he joined in 2015.

“We’ve been building through the turmoil and challenges because we already had our mandate,” said Sullivan, who is a
member of the executive leadership team that has been co-running Uber since Kalanick left in June.

Uber must make changes at top to fix culture woes, experts say
uber
An update to the app made last November eliminated the option for users to limit data gathering to only when the app is in use, instead forcing them to choose between letting Uber always collect location data or never collect it. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

An update to the app made last November eliminated the option for users to limit data-gathering to only when the app is
in use, instead forcing them to choose between letting Uber always collect location data or never collect it.

Safety feature

Uber said it needed permission to always gather data in order to track riders for five minutes after a trip was completed, which the company believed could help in ensuring customers’ physical safety. The option to never track required riders to manually enter pickup and drop-off addresses.

But the changes were met with swift criticism by some users and privacy advocates who called them a breach of user trust by a company already under fire for how it collects and uses customers’ data. Uber said it never actually began post-trip tracking for iPhone users and suspended it for Android users.

‘Data is the new oil’: Your personal information is now the world’s most valuable commodity

Privacy experts call on Uber to investigate after man gets nearly $1000 bogus bill
Sullivan said Uber made a mistake by asking for more information from users without making clear what value Uber
would offer in return. If Uber decides that tracking a rider’s location for five minutes is valuable in the future, it will seek to explain what the value is and allow customers to opt in to the setting, he said.

Sullivan said Uber was committed to privacy but had previously suffered “a lack of expertise” in the area.

The change comes two weeks after Uber settled a U.S. Federal Trade Commission complaint that the company failed to protect the personal information of drivers and passengers and was deceptive about its efforts to prevent snooping by its employees.

Uber agreed to conduct an audit every two years for the next 20 years to ensure compliance with FTC requirements.

The location-tracking changes will initially only be available to iPhone users, but Uber intends to bring parity to Android devices, Sullivan said.

The changes are part of a series of updates expected in the coming year to improve privacy, security and transparency at Uber, Sullivan said.

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60217341

What happens to Aadhaar, Section 377?

August 25, 2017

NEW DELHI: A nine-judge Supreme Court bench unanimously ruled on Thursday that privacy is a fundamental right+ , protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty and as part of the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution+ .
Here is a citizen’s guide to the SC verdict:
Can I be forced to get an Aadhaar card? If I already have one, do I still have to link it with my bank account, PAN card, mobile number…
A 3-judge bench will examine if Aadhaar is still valid+ . Most likely, Aadhaar will stay, but there will be clear guidelines for its usage. Thursday’s ruling allows government to collate data without being accused of violating privacy if it is done for national security or for effective distribution of scarce national resources, food and other essential items.
Does the judgment decriminalise consensual sexual relations among members of the LGBT community?
The court has observed that one’s sexual orientation is undoubtedly an attribute of privacy. The right to privacy cannot be denied even if a small fraction of the population is affected. In an earlier judgment, a two-judge bench of the SC had upheld Section 377. On Thursday, the 9-member bench termed the earlier judgment as “completely flawed”. A pending petition may soon get decided along the lines indicated by the bench.
The SC recognises the challenge posed by sharing of personal data and firms collating them to create meta-data for commercial exploitation. It has asked the govt to provide a robust data protection regime. New law on data collection and usage are already in the making.
What about beef ban, prohibition and other such restrictions?
Most of these restrictions are enforced under existing laws. But anyone who has a problem with these laws can now challenge them directly in the SC, on the ground that these provisions violate his right to privacy and personal choice.

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imrs
Closely watched California Internet privacy bill dies in final minutes of legislative session
September 18, 2017

California lawmakers on Saturday shelved a bill that would have required Internet service providers ...

Read more
ransomware
Senator Franken asks Apple for privacy guarantees around Face ID data
September 15, 2017

A friendly letter from Senator Al Franken (D-MN) to Apple requests that the latter provide a few m...

Read more
fb featured image
Spain slaps Facebook with €1.2 million fine for breaking privacy laws
September 12, 2017

Spain’s data protection watchdog has fined Facebook €1.2 million euros (roughly $1.44 million), ...

Read more
screen-shot-2015-02-05-at-3-44-09-pm-100567029-primary-idge-100573576-primary-idge-100574407-large-idge-100650434-primary-idge
Uber to end post-trip tracking of riders as part of privacy push
August 31, 2017

Uber Technologies Inc. is pulling a heavily criticized feature from its app that allowed it to track...

Read more
60217341
What happens to Aadhaar, Section 377?
August 25, 2017

NEW DELHI: A nine-judge Supreme Court bench unanimously ruled on Thursday that privacy is a fundamen...

Read more