Privacy

UK watchdog has eyes on Google-DeepMind’s health app hand-off

The shock news yesterday that Google is taking over a health app rolled out to UK hospitals over the past few years by its AI division, DeepMind, has caught the eye of the country’s data protection watchdog — which said today that it’s monitoring developments. An ICO spokesperson told us: “An ICO investigation and an independent audit into the use of Google Deepmind’s Streams service by the Royal Free both highlighted the importance of clear and effective governance when NHS bodies use third parties to provide digital services, particularly to ensure the original purpose for processing personal data is respected. “We expect all the measures set out in our undertaking, and in the audit, should remain in place even if the identity of the third party changes. We are continuing to monitor the ...

Hackers stole income, immigration and tax data in Healthcare.gov breach, government confirms

Hackers siphoned off thousands of Healthcare.gov applications by breaking into the accounts of brokers and agents tasked with helping customers sign up for healthcare plans. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said in a post buried on its website that found that the hackers obtained “inappropriate access” to a number of broker and agent accounts, which “engaged in excessive searching” of the government’s healthcare marketplace systems. CMS didn’t say how the attackers gained access to the accounts, but said it shut off the affected accounts “immediately.” In a letter sent to affected customers this week (and buried on the Healthcare.gov website), CMS disclosed that sensitive personal data — including partial Social Security numbers, immigration status and some tax informat...

Facebook starts shipping Portal, clarifies privacy/ad policy

Planning to get in early on the Portal phenomenon? Facebook announced today that it’s starting to ship the video chat device. The company’s first true piece of devoted hardware comes in two configurations: the Echo Show-like Portal and the larger Portal+ . Which run $199 and $349, respectively. There’s also a two-fer $298 bundle on the smaller unit. The device raised some privacy red flags since it was announced early last month. The company attempted to nip some of the those issues in the bud ahead of launch — after all, 2018 hasn’t been a great year for Facebook privacy. The site also hasn’t done itself any favors by offering some murky comments around data tracking and ad targeting in subsequent weeks. With all that in mind, Facebook is also marking the launch with a blog post further s...

Facebook is facing an EU data probe over fake ads

The UK’s privacy watchdog has asked Facebook’s lead EU regulator to look into ongoing data protection concerns about its ad platform — including how its platform is being used to target and spread fake adverts to try to manipulate voters. Facebook’s international HQ is in Ireland so the regulator in play here is the Irish Data Protection Commission. The ICO noted the action in a 113-page report to parliament yesterday giving an update on its long-running investigation into the use of data analytics in political campaigns — writing: We have referred our ongoing concerns about Facebook’s targeting functions and techniques that are used to monitor individuals’ browsing habits, interactions and behaviour across the internet and different devices to the to the IDPC. Under the GDPR, the IDPC is ...

Facial recognition startup Kairos founder continues to fight attempted takeover

There’s some turmoil brewing over at Miami-based facial recognition startup Kairos. Late last month, New World Angels President and Kairos board chairperson Steve O’Hara sent a letter to Kairos founder Brian Brackeen notifying him of his termination from the role of chief executive officer. The termination letter cited willful misconduct as the cause for Brackeen’s termination. Specifically, O’Hara said Brackeen misled shareholders and potential investors, misappropriated corporate funds, did not report to the board of directors and created a divisive atmosphere. Kairos is trying to tackle the society-wide problem of discrimination in artificial intelligence. While that’s not the company’s explicit mission — it’s to provide authentication tools to businesses — algorithmic bias has long bee...

Big tech must not reframe digital ethics in its image

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s visage loomed large over the European parliament this week, both literally and figuratively, as global privacy regulators gathered in Brussels to interrogate the human impacts of technologies that derive their power and persuasiveness from our data. The eponymous social network has been at the center of a privacy storm this year. And every fresh Facebook content concern — be it about discrimination or hate speech or cultural insensitivity — adds to a damaging flood. The overarching discussion topic at the privacy and data protection confab, both in the public sessions and behind closed doors, was ethics: How to ensure engineers, technologists and companies operate with a sense of civic duty and build products that serve the good of humanity. So, in other ...

Europe’s parliament calls for full audit of Facebook in wake of breach scandal

The European Parliament has called for a full audit of Facebook following a string of data breach scandals —  including the Cambridge Analytica affair. MEPs are urging the company to allow European Union bodies to carry out a full audit to assess data protection and security of users’ personal data, following the scandal in which the data of 87 million Facebook users was improperly obtained and misused. In the resolution, adopted today, they have also recommended Facebook make additional changes to combat election interference — asserting the company has not just breached the trust of European users “but indeed EU law”. We’ve reached out to the company for comment on the parliament’s resolution. Earlier this month the EU parliament’s civil liberties committee adopted a similar resolution, ...

Tim Berners-Lee on the huge sociotechnical design challenge

In a speech discussing ethics and the Internet, the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has tasked the technology industry and its coder army with paying continuous attention to the world their software is consuming as they go about connecting humanity through technology. Coding must mean consciously grappling with ethical choices in addition to architecting systems that respect core human rights like privacy, he suggested. “Ethics, like technology, is design,” he told delegates at the 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (ICDPPC) which is taking place in Brussels this week. “As we’re designing the system, we’re designing society. Ethical rules that we choose to put in that design [impact the society]… Nothing is self evident. Everythi...

Mozilla is matching all donations to the Tor Project

Firefox parent Mozilla is returning to back the Tor Project, its long-time ally, after it committed to matching all donations made to fund Tor, the open source initiative to improve online privacy which has just started its annual end of year funding drive. Tor announced Mozilla’s support today, extending the pair’s partnership which last year helped Tor raise over $400,000 from a similar campaign last year. That is a small seed round for a tech startup, but it represents an important source of income for Tor, which began soliciting ‘crowdfunded’ donations in 2015 in a bid to offset its reliance on government grants. The company’s latest publicly available accounts cover 2015 when Tor received a record $3.3 million in donations. That’s up from $2.5 million in 2014 and it represented Tor’s ...

Apple’s Tim Cook makes blistering attack on the “data industrial complex”

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has joined the chorus of voices warning that data itself is being weaponized again people and societies — arguing that the trade in digital data has exploded into a “data industrial complex”. Cook did not namecheck the adtech elephants in the room: Google, Facebook and other background data brokers that profit from privacy-hostile business models. But his target was clear. “Our own information — from the everyday to the deeply personal — is being weaponized against us with military efficiency,” warned Cook. “These scraps of data, each one harmless enough on its own, are carefully assembled, synthesized, traded and sold. “Taken to the extreme this process creates an enduring digital profile and lets companies know you better than you may know yourself. Your profile is a...

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook to flag trust and humanity in major privacy speech

Apple CEO Tim Cook is expected to endorse the idea of a “comprehensive federal privacy law” for the U.S. in a keynote speech tomorrow. He will also back Europe’s approach to data protection and privacy — recently cemented in place via the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — essentially saying technology does not have to be creepy to be innovative. Nor should the tech itself be a cause of harm. Cook will be addressing the 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (ICDPPC), which is being held in Brussels this year to coincide with the introduction of GDPR. Europe’s updated privacy framework came into timely force, this May, weeks after the Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal had erupted into a major global scandal — further raising the profile of...

Khashoggi’s fate shows the flip side of the surveillance state

It’s been over five years since NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden lifted the lid on government mass surveillance programs, revealing, in unprecedented detail, quite how deep the rabbit hole goes thanks to the spread of commercial software and connectivity enabling a bottomless intelligence-gathering philosophy of ‘bag it all’. Yet technology’s onward march has hardly broken its stride. Government spying practices are perhaps more scrutinized, as a result of awkward questions about out-of-date legal oversight regimes. Though whether the resulting legislative updates, putting an official stamp of approval on bulk and/or warrantless collection as a state spying tool, have put Snowden’s ethical concerns to bed seems doubtful — albeit, it depends on who you ask. The UK’s post-Snowden Investigato...