How a Few Thoughtless Words About Privacy Led To Huge Political and Economic Headaches

 
 

One of the most surprising developments in recent years is how privacy – something that by definition is about small, intimate things – has become a major global force in the spheres of economics and politics. Perhaps the clearest demonstration of that transformation involves data flows across the Atlantic, and the Austrian lawyer and activist Max Schrems.

As the New York Times reported in 2015, Schrems was a 24-year-old student studying at the Santa Clara School of Law in California, when lawyers from Silicon Valley came to talk to students about their companies’ approach to privacy. Schrems was “taken aback” when he heard them say that they didn’t take Europe’s privacy laws very seriously, since companies rarely faced any significant penalties for breaking them.

What was probably just an off-the-cuff remark by a lawyer touched Schrems, an Austrian national, personally. It spurred him to investigate how Facebook dealt with EU data protection laws. In particular, Schrems asked to see all the data the company had collected from him, as he was entitled to do under EU privacy laws.

He was surprised to see that Facebook had retained information that he had deleted, including highly personal matters. Schrems filed various complaints with the Irish Data Protection Commission, which regulates Facebook in the EU because Facebook’s European headquarters are located in Ireland.

The revelation by Edward Snowden in 2013 that the US National Security Agency could access the personal data of EU citizens, thanks to the Prism program, led to another privacy complaint by Schrems, which concerned the transfer of his personal data from the EU to the US.

Under the 1995 EU Data Protection Directive, which preceded today’s better-known General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), that was only permitted if the receiving country offered “an adequate level of protection of the data”. Schrems claimed that Snowden’s leaks revealed that the US did not offer the necessary level of protection.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the EU’s highest court, agreed with him, and ruled that the Safe Harbor framework agreed between the US and the EU to legalise the transfer of personal data was invalid. That ruling made the transfers to the US of personal data concerning EU citizens much harder, since companies could not depend on the Safe Harbor framework.

To remedy the situation, a replacement for the Safe Harbor scheme was agreed between the US and the EU. However, as PIA blog reported in 2020 the Privacy Shield was also sunk by the CJEU, largely on the same grounds as before.

Since then, the US and EU have been working hard to come up with a third framework to allow the smooth transfer of EU personal data in a way that is legal under the GDPR. Businesses on both sides of the Atlantic were becoming seriously concerned about the delay. The US Chamber of Commerce of Commerce and BusinessEurope issued a joint statement on the topic, which includes the following:

We call on the European Commission and on the U.S. Administration to swiftly conclude a robust new framework for data transfers, addressing the problems which led to the invalidation of the Privacy Shield, and upholding our shared transatlantic values of privacy and security.

Finalizing a new agreement will not only provide a legal mechanism that is accessible to small and medium-sized businesses but also will remove growing uncertainty around the role of standard contractual clauses, which are relied upon for the bulk of cross-border data flows. We are confident that a new agreement is within reach that can provide long-term legal certainty and will in turn yield increased innovation, cooperation, and growth across the transatlantic economy.

Indeed, the President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has just announced that the EU and US have “found an agreement in principle on a new framework for transatlantic data flows.” However, there are few details yet. In particular, it is not clear whether it can deal with the fallout of an important recent judgment handed down by the US Supreme Court. An opinion piece in The Hill explains:

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this month in FBI v. Fazaga, a case challenging FBI surveillance, will make it significantly harder for people to pursue surveillance cases, and for U.S. and European Union (EU) negotiators to secure a lasting agreement for transatlantic transfers of private data.

The justices gave the U.S. government more latitude to invoke “state secrets” in spying cases. But ironically, that victory undercuts the Biden administration’s efforts to show that the United States has sufficiently strong privacy protections to sustain a new Privacy Shield agreement — unless Congress steps in now.

The future “Trans-Atlantic Data Privacy Framework” has “a new multi-layer redress mechanism”, and specifies that “intelligence collection may be undertaken only where necessary to advance legitimate national security objectives, and must not disproportionately impact the protection of individual privacy and civil liberties”.

However, without full details of how those will work in practice, it’s impossible to say whether it is likely that the CJEU would rule that the new framework is invalid, as it did for the other two. Max Schrems has already indicated that he or others will bring a legal challenge if the new framework seems to offer insufficient safeguards.

Without a valid framework, companies will be forced to come up with expensive and messy ad hoc solutions that will act as a significant obstacle to the frictionless flow of personal data across the Atlantic. And all because of a few words said by a lawyer in front of one particular student.

By: Glyn Moody

Source: How a Few Thoughtless Words about Privacy Led to Huge Political and Economic Headaches for the US and EU political and economic headache

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Critics:

By: Cameron F. Kerry

Recent congressional hearings and data breaches have prompted more legislators and business leaders to say the time for broad federal privacy legislation has come. Cameron Kerry presents the case for adoption of a baseline framework to protect consumer privacy in the U.S.

Most recent proposals for privacy legislation aim at slices of the issues this explosion presents. The Equifax breach produced legislation aimed at data brokers. Responses to the role of Facebook and Twitter in public debate have focused on political ad disclosure, what to do about bots, or limits to online tracking for ads.

Most state legislation has targeted specific topics like use of data from ed-tech products, access to social media accounts by employers, and privacy protections from drones and license-plate readers. Facebook’s simplification and expansion of its privacy controls and recent federal privacy bills in reaction to events focus on increasing transparency and consumer choice. So does the newly enacted California Privacy Act.

Our existing laws developed as a series of responses to specific concerns, a checkerboard of federal and state laws, common law jurisprudence, and public and private enforcement that has built up over more than a century.

It began with the famous Harvard Law Review article by (later) Justice Louis Brandeis and his law partner Samuel Warren in 1890 that provided a foundation for case law and state statutes for much of the 20th Century, much of which addressed the impact of mass media on individuals who wanted, as Warren and Brandeis put it, “to be let alone.”

The advent of mainframe computers saw the first data privacy laws adopted in 1974 to address the power of information in the hands of big institutions like banks and government: the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act that gives us access to information on credit reports and the Privacy Act that governs federal agencies.

Today, our checkerboard of privacy and data security laws covers data that concerns people the most. These include health data, genetic information, student records and information pertaining to children in general, financial information, and electronic communications (with differing rules for telecommunications carriers, cable providers, and emails).

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China Leaps Ahead in Effort to Rein In Algorithms

Beijing is building a system to ensure that the automated processes of Internet platforms are fair, transparent and in line with the ideology of the Communist Party

Regulators called for the algorithms to be fair and transparent, following the ideology of the Communist Party of China.

The campaign puts China one step ahead in policing tech forums, as governments around the world grapple with how to respond to automated technologies that reshape business, social interactions and politics.

Earlier this year, the European Union proposed restricting certain uses of artificial intelligence to reduce potential harm. In the US, lawmakers are investigating Facebook’s influence Inc. NS

Algorithm-driven content on users, after Businesshala reported that the company’s Instagram app has a negative impact on children’s mental health.

China has targeted algorithms more aggressively under the close watch of its domestic tech sector. Draft guidelines released this summer would require algorithms to protect the rights of workers and consumers, and restrict the use of algorithms to manipulate user accounts, online traffic or search results.

“We don’t necessarily see China as a regulatory innovator, but in this case they are,” said Rogier Creamers, an assistant professor at Leiden University in the Netherlands, which focuses on Chinese technical policy.

Under a three-year plan released last week, Chinese regulators outlined steps to monitor algorithms, including a registration process and the establishment of a technical team to evaluate the mechanisms and risks of an algorithm.

The latest campaign builds on a broad regulatory push in China’s tech sector that has prompted investigations into some of the country’s biggest companies, including e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding. Ltd.

The push is partly directed at business practices that regulators deem harmful so workers or consumers.

Companies such as Meituan and Didi have faced heat over the working conditions of drivers, as well as calls for creating algorithms that schedule workers’ tasks and pay more transparently. Officials have also warned tech companies this year against exploiting personal data and using algorithms to charge discriminatory prices from customers.

China’s Cyberspace Administration, Alibaba and Didi did not respond to requests for comment. China is currently celebrating its National Day holiday.

Meituan declined to comment. The company previously published an explanation of its delivery algorithm and said it is making changes to give delivery drivers more flexibility.

Experts said it would be a challenge for regulators to tighten controls on algorithms without hindering development or innovation in one of China’s most successful sectors. Internet companies rely on complex mathematical instructions for tasks ranging from analysis of social-media behavior to mapping optimal distribution routes.

While algorithms have contributed to technological advancement and societal development, the CAC said in last week’s announcement, they have also brought “challenges to ideological security, a fair and equal society, and the protection of the legal rights of Internet users.”

Beijing-based partner at law firm Bird & Bird, James Gong, said tighter regulatory oversight of algorithms is likely to impact China’s internet industry.

Mr. Gong said of the country’s Internet companies, “Almost all of them use algorithms and automated decision-making and profiling to ensure that their marketing is more accurate and to improve business efficiency and increase profits.” Is.”

A senior manager at ByteDance Ltd said the requirement to register the algorithm would only add a step, restricting the learning of user behavior and recommendation services, as well as requiring disclosure of proprietary technology that could hurt the company’s business. .

ByteDance, which owns social-media sensation TikTok and its Chinese sister app Douyin, is known for its powerful algorithms that drive user recommendations and content.

“The regulatory environment is clear, and we need to start thinking about how to adjust accordingly,” the ByteDance manager said. He said that since most of the new regulation is still under debate, it is difficult to say what the immediate commercial impact will be.

ByteDance did not respond to a request for comment.

Sam Sachs, senior fellow at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center, said China’s approach could appeal to other countries that want a thriving digital economy while maintaining a firm grip on political and social discourse. However, she said there is still a lot of uncertainty over the details and enforcement of these new rules.

“I think they understand that this is an impossible task that they have set for themselves,” Ms Sachs said. “I would also say that three years can be ambitious.”

The CAC guidelines also state that algorithms used by Chinese companies must uphold core socialist values ​​and promote “positive energy” in content provided to users.

China is taking more control of online content and communities. In recent months, it has severely restricted online-videogame time for players under the age of 18, banned pop-idol rankings and criticized online male personalities for being too sacrilegious. are visible.

“It’s almost taking online censorship up a notch,” Ms Sachs said. “It is saying that you have an obligation to ensure that any content that is algorithmically driven that you feed into the online space is to shape socialist values.”

By: Stephanie Yang, Reporter, The Wall Street Journal

Source: China Leaps Ahead in Effort to Rein In Algorithms

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How the Pandemic Finally Ushered in the Golden Age of the QR Code

Last month, Denso Wave Inc., an obscure Japanese conglomerate that sounds vaguely made up, received a prestigious award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the largest association of technical professionals in the world. 

Ordinarily, this would be one of those tossed-off bits of corporate news that appears in press releases before sinking to the bottom of the internet archives like a high school lacrosse score. But the timing was noteworthy. After all, Denso Wave, the venerable honoree, was being celebrated in 2020 for something its workers had invented all the way back in 1994: the QR Code. 

Given the rapid adoption and even more rapid obsolescence of technology, having a 25-year-old invention showered with laurels seems weird — like if the Recording Academy decided to award the Smashing Pumpkins a Grammy for Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness next January. But that’s 2020 for you. Fanny packs and wide-leg jeans are back, Russia is a menace again, Boomers run the show, and everyone is kinda pissed off at Smash Mouth. It’s like the 1990s all over again.


And despite all our rage, the QR code is suddenly very relevant again. After many polarizing years — in which Quick Response codes became a cultural punchline, started to appear on tattoos and gravestones, earned the scorn of Tumblrs and were declared dead — the pandemic has put two-dimensional black-and-white pixel patterns back in our life again, perhaps permanently.

Recently, the payment platform Venmo introduced its very first credit card, which features a huge QR code right on the front. “When you’re out for dinner and everyone throws their card into the folio, the waiter has to split the check between four or five cards,” explained Venmo Senior Vice President Darrell Esch. “Whereas here, I can throw my card into the center, and everybody else can quickly scan my code, link to my Venmo and push the funds to settle.”

The irritating specter of split-check dinners may seem quaint in the era of social distancing, but what the QR code also offers for this surreal time is a way to limit the amount of physical touching strangers and consumers have to do, which is a huge reason why we’re hearing so much about QR codes again. They’re easy enough to use and they help us keep space. Over the summer, the British government released a contact-tracing app using the technology to keep track of attendees at potential super-spreader events, and later this year, CVS will roll out touchless payment using QR codes at 8,000 of its stores. (God willing, the foot-long receipts will remain.) 

Another feature of the QR renaissance revolves around the reality that, in spite of American and European dismissals, QR codes have been insanely popular across much of Asia this whole time. In China, consumers buy everything, from street-cart jianbing to Swarovski crystals, using quick response-enabled payments. In recent years, QR codes have accounted for a full third of mobile transactions there to the tune of a trillion dollars in overall sales.

It’s wild to think that after many clumsy debuts (especially in guerilla marketing campaigns), QR codes are finally having their moment — in fancy restaurants, in social justice protests, in doctors’ offices — but the truth is that we had to grow into our QR codes on this side of the world. And sometimes, that takes many years to do. 

When Americans first started seeing square-patterned panels, we weren’t initially well-equipped to deal with them. The weak cellular data of the “Can you hear me now?” era often made processing a QR code an infuriating experience that belied the whole point of the technology. And then, of course, there were Apple-induced inefficiencies at the head of the trend. “If you wanted to actually scan one of these things, you [needed] to download a separate bespoke app to be able to do it,” Nicolás Rivero recently vented about the early days of consumer QR codes. 

Despite being technologically more prepared, we still have a ways to go before the QR wave means we’ll all be buying street meat or tipping buskers with the whip of a phone. After all, tens of millions of Americans still don’t carry smartphones and tens of millions more are cranky about their tech. And so, like cash, vinyl, or paper books, the old analog ways have a funny tendency to stick around. 

By Adam Chandler @AllMyChandler

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ABC News (Australia)

The coronavirus pandemic has opened up a new frontier for collecting your personal details. Across much of the country customers are having to use their mobile phones to register before they can sit down in a café or restaurant. Some of these online check-ins are run by marketing companies and there are concerns the information could be snatched up by data merchants. Subscribe: http://ab.co/1svxLVE

Read more here: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-10-3…#QRCodes#QRCodeCovidCheckIns ABC News provides around the clock coverage of news events as they break in Australia and abroad, including the latest coronavirus pandemic updates. It’s news when you want it, from Australia’s most trusted news organisation. For more from ABC News, click here: https://ab.co/2kxYCZY Watch more ABC News content ad-free on iview: https://ab.co/2OB7Mk1 Go deeper on our ABC News In-depth channel: https://ab.co/2lNeBn2 Like ABC News on Facebook: http://facebook.com/abcnews.au Follow ABC News on Instagram: http://instagram.com/abcnews_au Follow ABC News on Twitter: http://twitter.com/abcnews#ABCNews#ABCNewsAustralia#breakingnews

We Need to Change How We Share Our Personal Data Online in the Age of COVID19

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A few months into the coronavirus pandemic, the web is more central to humanity’s functioning than I could have imagined 30 years ago. It’s now a lifeline for billions of people and businesses worldwide. But I’m more frustrated now with the current state of the web than ever before. We could be doing so much better.

COVID-19 underscores how urgently we need a new approach to organizing and sharing personal data. You only have to look at the limited scope and the widespread adoption challenges of the pandemic apps offered by various tech companies and governments.

Think of all the data about your life accumulated in the various applications you use – social gatherings, frequent contacts, recent travel, health, fitness, photos, and so on. Why is it that none of that information can be combined and used to help you, especially during a crisis?

It’s because you aren’t in control of your data. Most businesses, from big tech to consumer brands, have siphoned it for their own agendas. Our global reactions to COVID-19 should present us with an urgent impetus to rethink this arrangement.

For some years now, I, along with a growing number of dedicated engineers, have been working on a different kind of technology for the web. It’s called Solid. It’s an update to the web – a course-correction if you will – that provides you with a trusted place or places to store all your digital information about your life, at work and home, no matter what application you use that produces it. The data remains under your control, and you can easily choose who can access it, for what purpose, and for how long. With Solid, you can effectively decide how to share anything with anyone, no matter what app you or the recipient uses. It’s as if your apps could all talk to one another, but only under your supervision.

There’s even more that could have been done to benefit the lives of people impacted by the crisis – simply by linking data between apps. For example:

What if you could safely share photos about your symptoms, your fitness log, the medications you’ve taken, and places you’ve been directly with your doctor? All under your control.

What if your whole family could automatically share location information and daily temperature readings with each other so you’d all feel assured when it was safe to visit your grandfather? And be sure no-one else would see it.

What if health providers could during an outbreak see a map of households flagged as immuno-compromised or at-risk, so they could organize regular medical check-ins? And once the crisis is over, their access to your data could be taken away, and privacy restored.

What if grocery delivery apps could prioritize homes based on whether elderly residents lived there? Without those homes or the people in them having their personal details known by the delivery service.

What if a suddenly unemployed person could, from one simple app, give every government agency access to their financial status and quickly receive a complete overview of all the services for which they’re eligible? Without being concerned that any agency could pry into their personal activity.

None of this is possible within the constructs of today’s web. But all of it and much more could be possible. I don’t believe we should accept the web as it currently is or be resigned to its shortcomings, just because we need it so much. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can make it better.

My goal has always been a web that empowers human beings, redistributes power to individuals, and reimagines distributed creativity, collaboration, and compassion.

Today, developers are creating exciting new applications and organizations are exploring new ways to innovate. The momentum for this new and vibrant web is already palpable, but we must not let the crisis distract us. We must be ready to hit the ground running once this crisis passes so we are better prepared to navigate the next one. To help make this a reality, I co-founded a company, called Inrupt, to support Solid’s evolution into a high-quality, reliable technology that can be used at scale by businesses, developers, and, eventually, by everyone.

Let’s free data from silos and put it to work for our personal benefit and the greater good. Let’s collaborate more effectively and innovate in ways that benefit humanity and revitalize economies. Let’s build these new systems with which people will work together more effectively. Let’s inspire businesses, governments, and developers to build powerful application platforms that work for us, not just for them.

Let’s focus on making the post-COVID-19 world much more effective than the pre-COVID-19 world. Our future depends on it.

BY TIM BERNERS-LEE

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