How the U.S. and EU Can Find a Path Forward After Snowden

Jeff Gould by Jeff Gould, SafeGov.org
Friday, April 03, 2015

The seemingly endless stream of revelations from Edward Snowden about the surveillance activities of U.S. intelligence agencies have put the EU in a bind. Despite the occasional dark suspicions of American officials and media that the goal of EU policy is to hobble American power and influence, the truth is quite different. But today, the EU needs America’s help in shoring up a strategic relationship that is vital to both sides.

Facebook's web tracking could violate European privacy law

Jon Fingas, Engadget,  Wednesday, April 01, 2015

If Facebook thought it had a lot of privacy-related legal trouble on its plate, it hasn't seen anything yet. Researchers commissioned by Belgium's data protection agency have determined that Facebook's latest web tracking policy violates European Union privacy law. Reportedly, the social network uses cookies to track web visitors without permission, whether or not they log in or take advantage of the EU's proposed opt-out rules. Cookies are only supposed to be used when you're signed in, and only for things you've agreed to. The kicker? The opt-out system that Facebook uses appears to put another tracking cookie on your system if you're in the EU, so you never completely escape.

Public concerned about web snooping, says survey

David Barrett, The Telegraph,  Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Eight out of 10 Britons admit to being concerned about online privacy, according to new research. A poll commissioned by campaign group Big Brother Watch found a sizeable majority – 72 per cent - also want official watchdogs to offer them more protection. It reported that 68 per cent of people interviewed said regulators should have obtained a stricter privacy agreement with Google, the internet giant, in an agreement earlier this year. ComRes polled 1,000 adults about their views and found nearly six out of 10 believe companies should only be allowed to gather personal data if they explain why they are doing so and how they will use the information. In January Google was forced to improve its privacy policy after the Information Commissioner, the privacy watchdog, said the company was "too vague" about the vast amounts of data being gathered about web users.

EU data protection authorities rubber-stamp AWS’ data processing agreement

Business Cloud News,  Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The group of European Union data protection authorities, known as the Article 29 Working Party (WP29), has approved AWS’ Data Processing Agreement, which the company said would help reassure customers it applies high standard of security and privacy in handling their data, whether moved inside or out of the EU.

Law, Policy and IT: Privacy Shorts

Tracy Mitrano, Inside Higher Ed,  Monday, March 30, 2015

Google watchers have had a lot to look at lately. First, the Wall Street Journal reported that Federal Trade Commission staff in 2012 issued a report that found “Google Inc. used anticompetitive tactics and abused its monopoly power in ways that harmed Internet users and competitors.” To quote the report, according to the WSJ, Google’s “conduct has resulted — and will result — in real harm to consumers and to innovation in the online search and advertising markets.” The Commissioners, under the previous commissioner, Jon Leibowitz, nonetheless voted not to investigate, at least as a result of a countervailing report from the economics bureau that advocated against an investigation. This report includes any number of specific issues: taking content from other sites to augment their own; “placing restrictions on websites that syndicate its search results from also working with rivals,” and “by restricting advertisers’ ability to use data garnered from Google ad campaigns in advertising run on rival platforms.” .

Google loses UK appeal court battle over 'clandestine' tracking

The Guardian,  Friday, March 27, 2015

Google has failed in its attempt in the court of appeal to prevent British consumers having the right to sue the internet firm in the UK. A group known as Safari Users Against Google’s Secret Tracking wants to take legal action in the English courts over what it says is Google’s tracking of Apple’s Safari internet browser. It has accused Google of bypassing security settings in order to track users’ online browsing and to target them with personalised advertisements. Three judges have dismissed Google’s appeal over a high court decision against it and ruled that claims for damages can be brought over allegations of misuse of private information.

Microsoft Petitions U.S. Government for Surveillance Reform

Pedro Hernandez , eWeek,  Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Since Edward Snowden lifted the veil on the U.S. National Security Agency's (NSA) extensive spying capabilities, Microsoft has emerged as an outspoken critic of the government's intelligence-gathering tactics. Today, the Redmond, Wash.-based tech titan is once again imploring government leaders to rein in the NSA. "Today, Microsoft and members of the Reform Government Surveillance coalition, along with civil liberties advocates, sent a letter to the White House and Congressional leaders supporting essential reforms to the USA Patriot Act," announced Fred Humphries, vice president of U.S. Government Affairs for Microsoft. "As we've said before, these reforms must include an end to bulk collection and allow for companies to be transparent about the requests they receive for information." In the wake of the NSA spying scandal, Microsoft compared the intelligence agency's actions to those of hackers—and not the white-hat kind. "Indeed, government snooping potentially now constitutes an 'advanced persistent threat,' alongside sophisticated malware and cyber-attacks," Brad Smith, Microsoft executive vice president and general counsel, said in a December 2013 statement.

ECJ Hears Safe Harbor Arguments

Sam Pfeifle, IAPP,  Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) today heard arguments on C-362/14, a case originally brought by Austrian law student Max Schrems against the Irish Data Protection Commissioner in the Irish courts and then referred up the line to the EU's highest adjudicators. At issue is this: Does the Safe Harbor program adequately protect the rights of EU citizens when "compliant" companies are known to share EU citizen data with U.S. intelligence bodies, such as the NSA? Today, a number of voices weighed in on the question, including Schrems, the European Commission, the European Parliament, and a number of individual member states.

Boston parents overwhelmingly agree that schools should demand restrictions on data mining from Internet companies

SafeGov,  Monday, March 23, 2015

A survey of parents with school-age children in Boston shows parents see many benefits from in-school internet access, with more than 80 percent stating that in-school internet access helps students develop the necessary skills to gain employment and participate in the global economy. However, a majority of parents are unaware that technology companies may be tracking their children’s internet use at school. This demonstrates the importance of and need for stronger protections to prevent student data mining and online tracking in Boston schools. The findings are based on a survey conducted for SafeGov.org aimed at understanding Boston parents’ views on technology in the classroom and their awareness of student data mining.

Bipartisan student data privacy bill hits House

Cory Bennett, The Hill,  Monday, March 23, 2015

Lawmakers on Monday will introduce a bill limiting what companies can do with digital data collected on kindergarten through 12th-grade students, The New York Times reported. The bill, called the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act, would ban companies from knowingly using student data to create targeted advertising or individual marketing profiles. The law would apply to third-party companies operating digital school services, like online homework portals, student email programs, or digital teaching aides. The members behind the bill — Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Luke Messer (R-Ind.) — told The Times the measure is intended to ease growing worries that student data is being abused.