All Data privacy stories

Joe Uchill
Sep 16, 2019 - Technology

"Grant for the Web" to front $100 million to fund online privacy research

Grant for the Web, a group funded by the Mozilla Foundation, Coil and Creative Commons, announced on Monday $100 million in funding to innovate new ways to monetize online content without using user behavior for advertising.

Why it matters: At present, the most sustainable way for a website to draw revenue from its content involves promoting advertisements based on detailed assessments of user behavior. Though that's a strategy many find to be a violation of privacy, there aren't other options available.

More than 50 CEOs urge Congress to pass consumer privacy law

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

51 Business Roundtable CEOs, including those from Amazon, AT&T and IBM, sent a letter to congressional leaders on Tuesday asking that consumer privacy legislation be fast-tracked into law.

Why it matters: Now more than ever politicians and government agencies are trying to outline how to hold companies accountable when it comes to keeping consumers' data safe. Both Facebook and YouTube settled with FTC regulators over privacy violations recently, setting off a broader reckoning around data privacy in the era of Big Tech.

Deep Dive: The end of anonymity

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Until now, the vast majority of information collected about us has remained untouched — there was just too much to make sense of it all.

What's happening: Artificial intelligence allows data that might once have gone unnoticed to now be detected, analyzed and logged in real time. It's already started supercharging surveillance at work, in schools and in cities.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Aug 26, 2019 - Technology

Consumer groups seek to defend California data privacy law

A collection of consumer groups has written a letter to California lawmakers urging them to keep the strong protections in a state law due to take effect next year.

Why it matters: The California law, if left largely as is, could usher in a range of new consumer protections. However, direct marketers and tech companies, working through various entities, have been seeking to water down the law.

Government wants access to personal data while it pushes privacy

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Over the past two years, the U.S. government has tried to rein in how major tech companies use the personal data they've gathered on their customers. At the same time, government agencies are themselves seeking to harness those troves of data.

Why it matters: Tech platforms use personal information to target ads, whereas the government can use it to prevent and solve crimes, deliver benefits to citizens — or (illegally) target political dissent.

Study: Porn sites secretly track users

Photo: Thomas Jackson/Getty Images

A new study analyzed over 22,000 pornography sites, finding that 93% were sharing user data with at least 1 third party tracker.

Why it matters: Researchers said there needs to be "affirmative consent in all types of sexual activity." Sharing this type of private information can be invasive for users, with some sites' URLs indicating "specific gender and/or sexual preference, identity, or interest."

Facebook's privacy-scandal Groundhog Day


Photo: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Tuesday's news (via Bloomberg) that Facebook had contractors listen to users' private recorded messages to provide transcription quality control was hardly surprising.

The big picture: Google and Apple had been doing the same thing until a couple of weeks ago, when they stopped after reports surfaced in public. In fact, Facebook says it stopped the practice when its rivals did, as well. What's surprising is how little Facebook's playbook around privacy violations has changed, even after 18 months of controversy and a recent $5 billion settlement over the issue with the Federal Trade Commission.

Facebook contractors transcribed voice messages

Facebook has paid outside contractors to transcribe some users' voice messages, Bloomberg's Sarah Frier reported.

Why it matters: Earlier this month both Apple and Google suspended similar programs aimed at providing quality control for automated voice transcription services, and Facebook says it has done the same. But Facebook's long record of privacy problems, culminating in a recent $5 billion settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, means that every misstep it makes in this area further frays public trust.

Face-aging app rejuvenates old privacy questions

Screenshot of FaceApp on the Google Play store

A viral photo-filter app that lets people see older versions of themselves is highlighting concerns about handing personal information to overseas-developed apps, as well as any app that has vague privacy policies.

What's new: FaceApp, which has gone viral before, has re-emerged as the most popular iPhone app as people flock to post their digitally aged selves on social media. The app, owned by Russia's Wireless Lab, has risen to the top of Apple's App Store and #FaceAppChallenge has exploded on social media.

Jul 11, 2019 - Technology

Hacking the vulnerabilities in privacy laws

Photo: Valery Brozhinsky/Getty Images

A researcher has demonstrated how to exploit Europe's privacy protection laws to violate other people's privacy — and new privacy rules on the way in the U.S. could be vulnerable in the same way.

The state of play: Privacy laws, including Europe's mammoth General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California's recently passed regulations, often include provisions to allow people to request the personal information that companies have compiled on them.