Fresh Technology Insights

Category: Public Policy (Page 1 of 2)

New bill would establish a US Data Protection Agency

It might startle you to learn how little privacy protection is available to Americans.

Issie Lapowsky, Protocol »

The so-called Data Protection Act of 2020 would create the country’s first data protection agency to oversee how privacy laws in America are enforced and guide Congress on the development of those laws. The agency would be empowered to impose penalties on companies that violate people’s privacy, taken them to court, field consumer complaints, and launch investigations.


The agency would enforce current privacy laws and any future laws Congress passes and have rule-making authority to determine how those laws are carried out. Specifically, the agency would be able to conduct impact assessments on companies deploying “high-risk practices” with regard to data. That includes companies using data to profile people on a large scale. The bill also gives the agency the power to regulate consumer scoring in sensitive areas like housing, employment and education.

The agency would have subpoena power and the ability to take companies to court over violations of federal privacy law. It would also closely monitor large companies — both in terms of revenue and in terms of the amount of data they collect — and ask for reports from these companies, to ensure they’re complying with the law. Meanwhile, the agency would be tasked with guiding Congress on emerging technologies and representing the United States in international deals regarding privacy.

Personal information belonging to 144,000 Canadians breached at federal departments and agencies over the past two years

Catharine Tunney, CBC »

Federal departments or agencies have mishandled personal information belonging to 144,000 Canadians over the past two years, according to new figures tabled in the House of Commons — and not everyone who was swept up in a privacy breach was told about it.

The new figures were included in the federal government’s answer to an order paper question filed by Conservative MP Dean Allison late last month. The nearly 800-page response didn’t offer an explanation for the errors, which range in seriousness from minor hiccups to serious breaches involving sensitive personal information.


The Canada Revenue Agency leads the pack in breaches, with more than 3,005 separate incidents affecting close to 60,000 Canadians between Jan. 1, 2018 and Dec. 10, 2019.

The department blames the breaches on misdirected mail, security incidents and employee misconduct.

Even the keepers of Canada’s official secrets aren’t immune. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Communications Security Establishment and the RCMP all reported missteps as well.

The Department of National Defence said most of its 170 breaches, which affected more than 2,000 people, were due to inappropriate access to, or use or disclosure of, personal information.

U.S. Dept. Homeland Security wants to expand airport face recognition scans to include American citizens

Zack Whittaker, via TechCrunch »

U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents — also known as green card holders — have been exempt from these checks, the existing rules say.

Now, the proposed rule change to include citizens has drawn ire from one of the largest civil liberties groups in the country.

“Time and again, the government told the public and members of Congress that U.S. citizens would not be required to submit to this intrusive surveillance technology as a condition of traveling,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union .

“This new notice suggests that the government is reneging on what was already an insufficient promise,” he said.

Read the whole article on TechCrunch »

More » CNN via The Mercury News

[Updated – 2] Both Apple and Google have complied with Russian demands, changed maps, and show the annexed Crimean peninsula as part of Russia

Update 2 – NY Times quote (below) added November 28, 2019

Update » TechCrunch (below) states both Google and Apple show the Crimean peninsula as part of Russian territory.

Russian-backed armed forces forcibly invaded the Crimean peninsula and seized the territory from Ukraine. They are actively at war in Crimea, killing Ukrainians.

Increasingly, foreign powers have been able to dictate how large American companies operate.


Russian forces annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014, drawing international condemnation.

The region, which has a Russian-speaking majority, is now shown as Russian territory on Apple Maps and its Weather app, when viewed from Russia.

But the apps do not show it as part of any country when viewed elsewhere.

The Mercury News » Ukraine slams Apple for labeling Crimea part of Russia in apps 

Ukraine said on Wednesday Apple did not “give a damn” about its pain, after the U.S. tech giant began referring to the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula as part of Russia in its Maps and Weather apps for Russian users.

Russia and Ukraine have both been highly sensitive to the way global companies identify Crimea, since Russian troops seized the territory and Moscow annexed it after a referendum that Kiev and its Western allies say was illegal.

Devin Coldewey, writing for TechCrunch »

Global politics are difficult to navigate ordinarily, but in times of conflict companies that aim to provide an unbiased service, such as a map or search function, may have to come down on one side or another. Apple just came down at least partly on the side of Russia in its controversial annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, and Google has accommodated Russian interests as well.


While the controversy surrounding these events are ongoing (indeed, the events themselves are too, in a way), companies like Apple and Google don’t have the luxury of waiting for history’s judgment to do things like update their maps.

Both, for instance, until recently labeled locations in Crimea as being part of Ukraine. But Russia has made official complaints to the companies and warned them that it is considered a criminal act to refer to Crimea as other than a Russian territory. Now both companies have made concessions to Russian demands.

Andrew Higgins, writing in the NY Times »

“Our situation with Apple has now been resolved,” Vasily Piskaryov, the chairman of the security and anticorruption committee of the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of Parliament, said on Wednesday. “We see that everything has happened the way we wanted it.”


Leonid Levin, the head of the Duma’s Information Policy Committee, told the news agency that Apple “has demonstrated a wish to preserve and develop its position on the Russia market.” He added that the company’s decision “to bring the state of its cartographic services into compliance with the requirements of the legislation of Russia can only be welcomed.”

Ukraine Foreign Minister, Vadym Prystaiko on Twitter »

More » The Verge, CBC, Engadget, The Mac Observer


Canadian Privacy watchdogs finds that BC’s AggregateIQ broke federal and provincial data privacy laws after collecting personal info from US and British voters

Karin Larsen, writing in the CBC News »

Victoria-based AggregateIQ Data Services broke Canadian and B.C. privacy laws in work it carried out on behalf of the 2016 pro-Brexit Vote Leave campaign, as well as political campaigns in the U.S. and Canada, according to findings by the B.C. and federal privacy commissioners.

According to the reort, AIQ failed to obtain adequate consent for use and disclosure of the personal information of voters, which was used to produce microtargeted political ads.

It also said that AIQ “failed to take reasonable security measures” to protect personal information it collected in a database containing the names and contact information of 35 million people.

At a news conference, B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy and Privacy Commissioner of Canada Daniel Therrien said even though AIQ works globally, it still must follow Canadian and B.C. privacy laws.

More » Canadian Press video, Globe & Mail, Times Colonist

Twitter to stop accepting all political ads across its platform starting on November 22

Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO »

Shoshana Wodinsky, writing in Adweek »

On Wednesday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey took to the platform to let politicians around the world know their money wasn’t good there anymore.

“We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally,” said Dorsey in a tweet thread.  “We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought.”

More » Ars Technica, Washington Post, CNBC, The Guardian, Bloomberg, ZDNet, NPR, BBC, Axios, Financial Times (paywall)

Meanwhile, Mark Zuckerberg defends Facebook’s political ads policy (TechCrunch), which has been heavily criticized.

In my opinion, Zuck is hungry to be a player in deciding who will be the next President of the United States of America.

Facebook to pay maximum UK fine in Cambridge Analytica scandal

Facebook has agreed to pay a £500,000 fine, the maximum allowed by the UK’s data protection watchdog, for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook last year had appealed the penalty.

Reuters » 

Facebook has agreed to pay a 500,000 pound ($644,000) fine for breaches of data protection law related to the harvesting of data by consultancy Cambridge Analytica, Britain’s information rights regulator said on Wednesday.


The fine may be small for a company worth $540 billion, but it is the maximum the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) could issue and represents the first move by a regulator to punish Facebook over the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The ICO issued the fine last year after it said data from at least 1 million British users had been among the information harvested by the researcher and used for political purposes.

Read more »

ICO Statement

More » The Register, BBC, The Mac Observer, The Inquirer, The Guardian, NPR, TechCrunch, CNET, ZDNet, Security Affairs


Apple bans, a Hong Kong maps app, a second time, caving into pressure from the Chinese [Updated]

Apple sells out pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong by removing the app from the App Store for a second time. helped Hong Kong protestors find the location of other protestors and also locate police. This comes after pressure from China.

Vlad Savov and Mark Gurman, writing for Bloomberg (paywall) »

Apple Inc. has pulled the plug on an app that shows police activity in Hong Kong, reversing course yet again as violent pro-democracy protests wrack the city.

The U.S. company said Thursday it’s now decided to remove from its App Store after consulting with local authorities, because it could endanger law enforcement and city residents. That marks a return to its original position, where it initially rejected the app. After an outcry, the iPhone maker allowed it to run for a few days before Thursday’s decision. The see-sawing is unusual for Apple, which exercises rigid control over its app store, the foundation of its global iPhone ecosystem.

Apple joins other foreign companies struggling to navigate the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong as protests that began in June show no sign of abating. The issue has become a red line for those doing business in China, most recently drawing the National Basketball Association into a firestorm over a tweet that’s caused partners to stop doing business with the league and state television to halt airing its games. A growing number of American giants, including Activision Blizzard Inc., find themselves embroiled in controversies over the extent to which their actions are influenced by economic considerations in a vast Chinese market.

Read more at Bloomberg »

More » China Is Forcing Tech Companies to Choose Between Profits and Free Speech » Will Oremus, OneZero

… there is no longer such a thing as neutrality when it comes to Chinese politics. Either they quash speech that offends the Chinese government, or they risk offending the Chinese government themselves.

More » The China Cultural Clash » Ben Thompson, Stratechery »

“It” refers to the current imbroglio surrounding Daryl Morey, the General Manager for the Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the latter’s dealings with China. The tweet, a reference to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people” (a rather frequent occurrence). The Global Times, a Chinese government-run English-language newspaper, stated in an editorial:

Daryl Morey, general manager of the NBA team the Houston Rockets, has obviously gotten himself into trouble. He tweeted a photo saying “fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong” on Saturday while accompanying his team in Tokyo. The tweet soon set the team’s Chinese fans ablaze. It can be imagined how Morey’s tweet made them disappointed and furious. Shortly afterward, CCTV sports channel and Tencent sports channel both announced they would suspend broadcasting Rockets’ games. Some of the team’s Chinese sponsors and business partners also started to suspend cooperation with the Rockets.

There’s one rather glaring hole in this story of immediate outrage from Chinese fans over Morey’s tweet: Twitter is banned in China.

More » NY Times, The Verge, TechCrunch, Axios, Reuters, ZDNet, Variety, The Mercury News, AFP, ABC News, The Mac Observer, CNET, Reuters (again), NPR, Gizmodo, Daring Fireball, BoingBoing

Update » Bipartisan Group Of Lawmakers Blasts Tim Cook For Caving To China – HuffPost

China and Taiwan clash over Wikipedia edits

Ask Google or Siri: “What is Taiwan?”

“A state”, they will answer, “in East Asia”.

But earlier in September, it would have been a “province in the People’s Republic of China”.

For questions of fact, many search engines, digital assistants and phones all point to one place: Wikipedia. And Wikipedia had suddenly changed.

The edit was reversed, but soon made again. And again. It became an editorial tug of war that – as far as the encyclopedia was concerned – caused the state of Taiwan to constantly blink in and out of existence over the course of a single day.

“This year is a very crazy year,” sighed Jamie Lin, a board member of Wikimedia Taiwan.

“A lot of Taiwanese Wikipedians have been attacked.”

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