Category Archives: Surveillance & Privacy

Right to Privacy Extends to Foreign Internet Users, German Court Rules

Privacy rights enshrined in Germany’s Constitution extend to foreigners living abroad and cover their online data, the country’s highest court ruled on Tuesday, ordering Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to overhaul a law governing the foreign intelligence agency.

Continue reading Right to Privacy Extends to Foreign Internet Users, German Court Rules

Europe’s Privacy Law Hasn’t Shown Its Teeth, Frustrating Advocates

[New York Times] When Europe enacted the world’s toughest online privacy law nearly two years ago, it was heralded as a model to crack down on the invasive, data-hungry practices of the world’s largest technology companies.

Now, the law is struggling to fulfill its promise.

Continue reading Europe’s Privacy Law Hasn’t Shown Its Teeth, Frustrating Advocates

EU privacy watchdog calls for pan-European mobile app for virus tracking

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) called on Monday for a pan-European mobile app to track the spread of the new coronavirus instead of the current hodge-podge of apps used in various EU countries which could breach people’s privacy rights.

Faced with thousands of coronavirus-related deaths, governments across Europe have rolled out or plan to launch phone-tracking apps to trace people who came into contact with those infected and to monitor people under quarantine.

‘Cybergulag’: Russia looks to surveillance technology to enforce lockdown

Russia is considering aggressive new surveillance methods as the country seeks to enforce mandatory shelter-in-place orders in cities including Moscow and St Petersburg and other regions across its 11 time zones.

While the details of the new monitoring system have not been confirmed, official statements and leaked plans have indicated they could include mobile apps that track users’ location, CCTV cameras with facial recognition software, QR codes, mobile phone data and credit card records.

Zoom is a big privacy headache. Here’s how you can lock it down

In the coronavirus-fuelled race to work from home, the vast majority of people have settled on one service: Zoom. Even the UK’s meetings of Cobra, the cabinet members tasked with tackling the coronavirus crisis, are using the app to host their meetings remotely. In the first two months of 2020, Zoom added more users than the entirety of 2019, according to estimates from analysts Bernstein – and with screeds of guides about how to harness the power of Zoom, it seems likely those numbers are only increasing.

But privacy experts have been sounding warnings about Zoom’s privacy settings, cautioning that they’re a quagmire of over-intrusive elements that can learn far more about you than they actually need to. Zoom’s privacy policy sort of says it doesn’t sell your data – “which I’m thrilled about,” says Daragh O Brien, a data protection consultant with Castlebridge, an Irish company. “But there’s still an incredible amount of secondary processing you leave yourself open to in the app – and that’s before we even get to the tracker and cookie payload that comes with the web client.”

Also see:

New York Attorney General Looks Into Zoom’s Privacy Practices
As the videoconferencing platform’s popularity has surged, Zoom has scrambled to address a series of data privacy and security problems.

Trolls exploit Zoom privacy settings as app gains popularity
Working and socialising from home has brought new risks to everyday life, as webcam meetings and chatroom cocktail hours contend with privacy invasions, phishing attacks and “zoombombings” – uninvited guests abusing the popular video service to broadcast shocking imagery to all.

Mobile phone industry explores worldwide tracking of users

The mobile phone industry has explored the creation of a global data-sharing system that could track individuals around the world, as part of an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The Guardian has learned that a senior official at GSMA, an international standard-setting body for the mobile phone industry, held discussions with at least one company that is capable of tracking individuals globally through their mobile devices, and discussed the possible creation of a global data-sharing system.

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European powers evaluate potential use of intrusive tool to track coronavirus carriers [AP]
Several European nations are evaluating powerful but potentially intrusive tools for fighting the coronavirus pandemic, a move that could put public health at odds with individual privacy.

Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, 6 other telcos to help EU track virus
Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Orange and five other telecoms providers have agreed to share mobile phone location data with the European Commission to track the spread of the coronavirus, lobbying group GSMA said on Wednesday.

Facebook sued by Australian information watchdog over Cambridge Analytica-linked data breach

Australia’s information commissioner is suing Facebook over allegedly breaching the privacy of over 300,000 Australians caught up in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

In a case lodged in the federal court on Monday, the Australian information commissioner Angelene Falk has alleged Facebook committed serious and repeated interferences with privacy in contravention of Australian privacy law because data collected by Facebook was passed onto the This is Your Digital Life app by Cambridge Analytica for political profiling, which was not what it was collected for.

Facebook, YouTube: Firm must stop scraping faces from sites

Facebook joined YouTube, Twitter and payment service Venmo on Wednesday in demanding that a facial recognition company stop harvesting user images to identify the people in them, which the startup does as part of its work with police.

Facebook said it has demanded New York-based Clearview AI stop accessing or using information from its flagship site and Instagram.

“Scraping people’s information violates our policies,” a company spokesman said.

New Zealanders not doing enough to protect themselves online

New research released today by InternetNZ shows that 93% of New Zealanders are concerned about the security of their personal data. 

But, despite the concern, we aren’t seeing enough action being taken by New Zealanders to improve their online security.

InternetNZ’s research shows 1 in 5 New Zealanders don’t protect their devices with a password or PIN. And only 35% regularly back up their content.

The number of people using two-factor or multi-factor authentication has increased by 7% in the last year but is still only sitting at 35%

InternetNZ’s Engagement Director, Andrew Cushen says it’s important InternetNZ and others continue work to educate New Zealanders on the importance of online security best practice.

“Turning on two-factor authentication protects your accounts by adding a second step to log in. It's easy for you to use, but makes it hard for anyone else to use your identity or get your data.”

Despite security concerns, nine out of ten New Zealanders believe the benefits of the Internet outweigh the negatives. This is consistent with the research findings from previous years. 

“We’re pleased to see New Zealanders recognise and value the benefits the Internet offers,” says Cushen.

With access to information and ease of communication topping the list of key benefits again, it’s more important than ever that we work to increase digital inclusion. 

“Every New Zealander deserves access to the key benefits the Internet offers, says Cushen.

“Supporting New Zealanders access to resources and initiatives to build their skill and confidence, and helping the Government to prioritise meaningful investment in digital inclusion, are key goals for InternetNZ this year.”

InternetNZ will continue to commission this research each year to demonstrate what people think today, and how their thinking changes over time.

See the full research slides.

Also see:

Addressing digital identity: What it means for our personal data, breaches and digital divides: A blog post by David Morrison, InternetNZ’s Commercial Director
In a world of ever increasing data breaches and abuse of personal data, I believe we will see a growing public awareness of the importance of our personal data. With this awareness will develop a demand for a new way to engage with online services where trust is at the core.

Facebook has agreed to pay $550 million to settle class-action privacy lawsuit, days after Supreme Court declined to take case

Facebook has agreed to pay roughly half a billion dollars to settle a class-action case alleging the company violated Illinois law in the way it collected data for its facial-recognition tools, the tech giant said Wednesday.

The $550 million settlement — revealed by company executives during their latest earnings call — comes after Facebook tried, and failed, to quash the lawsuit in a petition to the Supreme Court. If the company prevailed, it might have made it harder for other Web users to bring similar legal actions. The settlement must still be reviewed by a judge.