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Paul Ohm writes about Netflix's insane new plan to release millions of customers' personal information -- ZIP code, gender, year of birth -- as a sequel to its Netflix Challenge. Latanya Sweeney's famous study on de-anonymizing data has shown that date (not just year) of birth, gender and ZIP are sufficient to personally identify 87% of Americans. In other words, Netflix is about to put the behavioral data about viewing choices for millions of Americans into the public domain, despite its legal duty to keep this information private.
Because of this, if it releases the data, Netflix might be breaking the law. The Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA), 18 USC 2710 prohibits a "video tape service provider" (a broadly defined term) from revealing "personally identifiable information" about its customers. Aggrieved customers can sue providers under the VPPA and courts can order "not less than $2500" in damages for each violation. If somebody brings a class action lawsuit under this statute, Netflix might face millions of dollars in damages.
Netflix's Impending (But Still Avoidable) Multi-Million Dollar Privacy Blunder
In 2013, Lavabit — famous for being the privacy-oriented email service chosen by Edward Snowden to make contact with journalists while he was contracting for the NSA — shut down under mysterious, abrupt circumstances, leaving 410,000 users wondering what had just happened to their email addresses.
Update: Be sure to read the followup discussion, which explains Facebook’s point of view, that this is a deliberate compromise, and not a defect, that makes the app more usable for a wide variety of users, while putting them to little additional risk (namely, that Facebook might change its mind; or be forced to spy […]
The new data-sharing rules enacted by the Obama administration will allow the NSA to lawfully share the unredacted, full take of its surveillance databases with sixteen other US government agencies — meaning that, for example, Trump’s door-to-door deportation squads could use that data to figure out who’s doors to break down, and his Muslim surveillance […]
Traditional folding wallets are designed for paper bills—but these days, carrying cash is rarely a necessity. More often than not, I don’t carry cash at all. This Bogui Clik Wallet is the best answer I’ve found for avoiding the hassle of those tight-fitting credit card pockets.This attractive, minimalist wallet features a protective lip, so my cards don’t […]
Using my iPhone while it’s charging is always a hassle. With tucked-away outlets and the meager length of included lightning cables, comfortable scrolling while plugged in is annoying. These 10-Ft MFi-Certified Lightning Cables are super convenient and probably the best iPhone accessory purchase I’ve made.At over three times the length of normal cables, these reach anywhere you […]
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