Facebook is about to pay the largest privacy-related fine in US history: $3-5B (the company made $3.3B in Q1/2019).
The FTC's fines are a nice start, but fines are just part of the cost of doing business. To change Facebook's conduct, the FTC should impose structural changes on the company, and EFF's Bennett Cyphers has some suggestions: ban third-party tracking; prohibit the combining of data from Whatsapp, Instagram and Facebook; and ban the company from targeting ads with information from data brokers.
That's for starters.
Read the rest
Stop Third-Party Tracking
Facebook uses “Like” buttons, invisible Pixel conversion trackers, and ad code in mobile apps to track its users nearly any time they use the Internet—even when they’re off Facebook products. This program allows Facebook to build nauseatingly detailed profiles of users’—and non-users’—personal activity. Facebook’s unique ability to match third-party website activity to real-world identities also gives it a competitive advantage in both the social media and third-party ad markets. The FTC should order Facebook to stop linking data it collects outside of Facebook with user profiles inside the social network.
Don’t Merge WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Data
Facebook has announced plans to build a unified chat platform so that users can send messages between WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram accounts seamlessly. Letting users of different services talk to each other is reasonable, and Facebook’s commitment to end-to-end encryption for the unified service is great (if it’s for real). But in order to link the services together, Facebook will likely need to merge account data from its disparate properties.
Torrentfreak published an article disclosing the fact that screeners of American Gods had leaked online ahead of their air date (they did not make the screeners available, nor did they link to any of the places where the screeners could be downloaded from) and they tweeted about the story. Read the rest
[[Editor's note: I was the Electronic Frontier Foundation's first-ever European Director, which was a crazy and amazing job at a time when the organization was much smaller; now EFF is much bigger, and international issues are a much bigger deal for us, with bad policy ideas ricocheting around the globe and needing a coordinated response; the below is from my colleague Rainey Reitman, EFF's Chief Program Officer; you can find the formal listing here -Cory ]]
Last year the US Congress passed SESTA/FOSTA, an "anti-sex-trafficking bill" that has resulted in the shuttering of all the services formerly used by sex workers to vet their johns, massively increasing the personal physical risk borne by sex-workers and reinvigorating the dying pimping industry, as sex workers seek out protectors. Read the rest
Eva Galperin is one of my colleagues at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, running our Threat Lab project, where she has made it her personal mission to eradicate stalkerware: malicious software marketed to abusive spouses, overbearing parents, and creepy employers, which runs hidden on mobile devices and allows its owner to spy on everything his target is doing ("Full access to someone’s phone is essentially full access to someone’s mind" -Eva). Read the rest
I've got a couple of hometown appearances coming up, including a rare west-side event: on Sunday, April 7 at 4PM, I'll be at Burbank's Dark Delicacies for a final signing in their old store before they occupy their new digs around the corner, and then I'm taking off my writer hat and putting on my activist hat to do two more events in the area. Read the rest
TikTok is an app that makes it easy for people to make short lip-synching videos, which unsurprisingly makes it a goldmine of creativity and memes. TikTok recently got in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission because it failed to comply with Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). COPPA requires online services that are either “directed at” children under the age of 13 or have knowledge that they have users who are under 13 to arrange for parental permission before they start collecting personal information about those users. Read the rest
The first salvo drawing attention to the damage the directive will cause has come from the European Wikipedias. German Wikipedia has gone completely dark for today, along with the Czech, Slovak and Danish Wikipedias, German OpenStreetMap, and many more.
With confusing rhetoric, the Directive’s advocates have always claimed that they mean no harm to popular, user-driven sites like Wikipedia and OpenStreetMap. They’ve said that the law is aimed only at big American tech giants, even as drafters have scrambled to address the criticism that it affects all of the Internet. Late in the process, the drafters tried to carve out exceptions for “online encyclopedias,” and the German government and European Parliamentarians fought hard – though ultimately failed – to put in effective exceptions for European start-ups and other competitors.
Very few of the organizations and communities for whom these exceptions are meant to protect are happy with the end result. The Wikimedia Foundation, which worked valiantly to improve the Directive over its history, came out last week and declared that it could not support its final version. Even though copyright reform is badly needed online, and Wikipedians fought hard to include positive fixes in the rest of the Directive, Article 13 and Article 11 have effectively undermined all of those positive results. Read the rest
The EU's Copyright Directive will be voted on in the week of March 25 (our sources suggest the vote will take place on March 27th, but that could change); the Directive has been controversial all along, but it took a turn for the catastrophic during the late stages of the negotiation, which yielded a final text that is alarming in its potential consequences for all internet activity in Europe and around the world. Read the rest
During the week of March 25, the European Parliament will hold the final vote on the Copyright Directive, the first update to EU copyright rules since 2001; normally this would be a technical affair watched only by a handful of copyright wonks and industry figures, but the Directive has become the most controversial issue in EU history, literally, with the petition opposing it attracting more signatures than any other petition in change.org’s history. Read the rest
I'm heading back to Austin for the SXSW Interactive festival and you can catch me three times this weekend: first on the Untold AI panel with Malka Older, Rashida Richardson and Christopher Noessel (5-6PM, Fairmont Manchester AB); then at the EFF Austin Party with Cindy Cohn and Bruce Sterling (7PM, 1309 Bonham Terrace); and on Sunday, I'm giving a keynote for Berlin's Re:Publica conference, which has its own track at SXSW; I'm speaking about Europe's new Copyright Directive and its dread Article 13 at 1PM at Buffalo Billiards, 201 East 6th Street. Read the rest
Android should let users deny and revoke permissions; Apple should let people encrypt Icloud backups, Twitter should end-to-end encrypt DMs; all these and more appear on the Electronic Frontier Foundation's #FixItAlready page, which calls out Big Tech's biggest players for their biggest security and privacy fumbles, and explains in clear terms why these changes are needed. Read the rest
40+ years ago, extremists from the Chicago School of Economics destroyed antitrust law, pushing a bizarre theory that the antitrust laws on America's books existed solely to prevent "consumer harm" in the form of higher prices; decades later, we live in a world dominated by monopolists who use their power to crush or swallow competitors, suppress wages, reduce choice, increase inequality and distort policy outcomes by making lawmakers and regulators dependent on their lobbyists for funding and future employment. Read the rest