WASHINGTON, January 28, 2020 – Proponents of the high tech industry and law enforcement officials from several countries squared off, with fundamental disagreements about whether catching thousands of pedophiles or securing billions of people’s data represented the greater good.
Researcher at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab Daniel Weitzner asserted that for any of these goals to be accomplished, there must be trust in the cyberworld.
That only arises when things are continuously transparent, as “security is not a steady state phenomenon.” He also challenged the example that Associate Deputy Attorney General Sujit Raman used as the model balance between consumer privacy and government access.
In rebuttal, Raman used the example of catching pedophiles through accessing Facebook. That represented a higher moral imperative, he said, than a hypothetical leak of private data.
Amie Stepanovich, executive director of Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado, countered that these leaks are not trivial. They implicate billions of lives. Furthermore, Stepanovich argued, pedophiles will simply move from higher-profile platforms like Facebook to those that are more hidden from the Justice Department’s field of view.
Tom Rutherford, head of encryption and online safety in the United Kingdom, defended Raman by offering these statistics: The lack of governmental access to encrypted online crime results in 2,500 pedophile crimes in the U.K. alone. In light of this, he was disturbed by Facebook’s most recent announcement on not changing anything about its encryption policy.
After the tense exchange over encryption, the panel shifted to how other countries have approached the issue.
Regional Director of the Australian Embassy Brendan Dowling said that the relationship between the Australian government and the tech industry in his country is cooperative, not draconian. He reiterated the importance of transparency in the governments’ operations.
The moderator then asked Stepanovich whether Australia’s law allowing law enforcement access to encrypted data would ever be accepted in the U.S. She replied “no.”
The law would “probably violate the First Amendment,” Stepanovich said. She also took issue with the government’s ability to compel a company to change its source code.
National Plan Required For Consumer Privacy, Congresswoman says
April 1, 2021 — A Congresswoman from Washington State, who introduced federal legislation that would be the first national consumer privacy law if adopted, says the federal government is being outpaced by some states that are implementing their own consumer privacy legislation.
“There is a significant problem with consumer privacy in the US,” said Representative Suzan Delbene on Tuesday during a New Democratic Network event. Delbene introduced her Information Transparency, and Personal Data Control Act, a wide ranging federal privacy legislation, on March 10. Delbene is the vice chair of the Ways and Means Committee, and is the chair of the House New Democrat Coalition caucus.
There is no federal data privacy law, which has forced some states to pursue their own consumer data policies. That includes California and, recently, Virginia. Some have said the concern is that there will be a patchwork of different privacy legislation that may end up just confusing Americans.
“We need a uniform set of rights for consumers and businesses standards to follow in the digital world,” DelBene said.
The bill states that companies must provide privacy polies in plain language, must allow users to opt-in for personal information gathering, must disclose who personal information is being shared with, and must submit to privacy audits every two years. The federal law would also give the government the ability to preempt existing state laws.
Simon Rosenberg, president of New Democrat Network, said about the bill that, “together, we have a lot of work to do in the coming years to restore the promise of the Internet. One of the areas of greatest need is creating a single working privacy standard for the United States.
“In her bill, the approach Representative DelBene takes to protecting Americans’ privacy is smart, measured, and will undoubtedly be highly influential in shaping the approach Congress takes in the days ahead. It is a very welcome addition to the vital debate underway about our digital future,” Rosenberg added.
The purpose of this bill is to ensure that privacy policies are transparent and clear. “Many consumers are given lots of information with lots of legal terms, that leads them to click the accept button without knowing what they have signed up for,” DelBene said.
“There is an urgent need for consumers to understand what data is being shared,” she added. “We want to make sure there is enforcement. The law says that this will be the responsibility of the Federal Trade Commission, so the FTC must have the resources to do this.
“I think my bill is focused on privacy specifically because I think it is foundational. We build on important things, such as AI, facial recognition, and all the other issues we need to address. If we don’t start addressing the issues of data privacy, it will be hard to imagine how it will the expansion of laws to address a broader set of issues that need to get ahead of.”
Congresswoman DelBene believes the bill can be bipartisan, but she wants to make sure Congress understands its importance. “I’m not sure Congress understands these issues, so it takes a collective effort to push it forward.”
DelBene says she’s confident that Congress will follow the bill, despite many congresspeople who she said are hesitant to take that first step.
Attach Strings To Data Collection To Combat Surveillance Capitalism, Experts Suggest
March 29, 2021 – Laws addressing how much data can be collected should be among new regulations that must ensure data collection from big technology companies doesn’t harm Americans, according to a March 17 panel of academics at the South by Southwest conference.
The era of corporate self-regulation is now up, said Marietje Schaake of the Standford University Cyber Policy Center and panelist at SXSW conference discussing the “techno-democratic” approach to Big Tech, including what to do about surveillance capitalism.
Surveillance capitalism is an economic system centered on commodifying personal data with the core purpose of profit-making.
“We have heard many pledges, many promises, and good intention offers for solutions for self-regulatory initiatives. And the time is out for those,” she said.
Schaake said it is time the government attach consequences to data collection to the detriment of the public and to set clear limits on collection practices.
“We have tried for too long, and it has led to several distractions and lost time to make sure that the rule of law is leading and that there are enforceable accountable, transparent expectations placed on these companies,” she said.
Joan Donovan, a social scientist at the Harvard Kennedy School, said what’s critical is how much data tech companies should be allowed to collect and under what conditions should they sell it to ensure rights aren’t violated.
“The tech sector as it is built now, relies on harvesting so much data about an individual that their products and the entire economy they are built on could not exist” if there were robust rights and privacy protections in place, Donovan said.
She said the discussion about regulating these businesses should include moving from a focus on protecting enterprise to protecting human rights.
House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone Calls for Update to Children’s Privacy Legislation
March 11, 2021 – House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., on Thursday called for an update to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act at subcommittee hearing on “Kids Online During COVID: Child Safety in an Increasingly Digital Age.”
“The challenges children face online existed before the pandemic, but it’s only gotten worse,” he said.
Visiting in person with extended family and friends have so far become a thing of the past as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Many other in-person activities have been replaced with video games, social media, and other video services.
Kids’ screen time has doubled during the pandemic, said Pallone. The effects of too much screen time can increase instances of anxiety, sleep deprivation, obesity, and cyber bullying, he said.
The increased screen time due to the pandemic has turned consumers into victims of what he called harassment and dark pattern manipulation led by advertisers. Children cannot defend themselves like adults in managing these predatory practices, he said.
“Despite laws to protect children’s privacy, data collection and tracking of children is disturbingly prevalent.” He went on to criticize many apps targeting children on mobile devices are notorious for collecting personal information, which is then bought and sold, resulting in advertising meant to manipulate children.
He said that digital ad spending specifically targeting children was expected to reach $1.7 billion this year. COPPA, which hasn’t been updated since 2013, needs to be updated because, he said, internet companies have since continued to target children.
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