People warning about the potentially chilling collision of big data sets and emerging technologies can now point to Clearview, the secretive facial recognition startup that scraped images from some of the largest public internet sites to create a database now used by hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the country.
Why it matters: Facial recognition tools have already raised privacy concerns in the U.S. and abroad, particularly when they're used by government, but the controversy over Clearview has shown that both industry and law enforcement are moving faster than the debate.
The Trump administration is using private data to monitor immigration and the border, thanks to a massive database of cellphone records it purchased from private vendors.
Why it matters: Experts are concerned about the scale and use of the data, even if it appears to be on firm legal footing, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Ancestry.com refused to comply with a search warrant pushed by a Pennsylvania court for police to gain access to its database of about 16 million DNA profiles, the company confirmed to Axios via email Monday night.
Why it matters: Per Axios' Kim Hart, firms that trace customers' ancestry have amassed huge DNA databases. Some have agreed to share access with law enforcement. The privacy questions this raises could become a "Supreme Court issue," retired investigator Paul Holes, who led the 2018 Golden State Killer case that used genetic data to identify the suspect, earlier told BuzzFeed, which first reported Ancestry's stand.
Grindr, OkCupid, Tinder, Qibla Finder and MyDays X are among 10 apps feeding user data — such as ethnicity, location, gender and age — to digital ad companies, nonprofit Norwegian Consumer Council found in a report released on Tuesday.
Why it matters: These dating, prayer guidance and menstrual cycle or fertility tracking apps collect information from some of the most intimate parts of users' lives. The council argues that sharing this data violates a European data protection law that went into effect last year.
House lawmakers are introducing a bipartisan bill Thursday to update a long-standing children's online privacy law so that parents could force companies to delete personal information collected about their kids.
Starting today, Californians can find out what data certain companies have collected about them, and even ask for it to be deleted, under the new California Consumer Privacy Act.
Why it matters: The law covers residents of the most populous state, but it also has national repercussions. Some companies like Microsoft have already said they'll be extending the practices required under the law to all their customers and users. And other states tend to follow California when it introduces firm rules that don't exist on the federal level.
An exposé for New York Times Opinion out in December called "One Nation, Tracked," by Stuart A. Thompson and Charlie Warzel, walks readers through how they mined a data file of 50 billion location pings from the cellphones of 12 million Americans as they moved through several major cities, including D.C., New York, San Francisco and L.A.
Why it matters: Supposedly anonymous data isn't always all that anonymous.
The supposedly secure messaging app ToTok is actually a spying tool being used by the government of the United Arab Emirates to mass surveil its users, the New York Times reports, citing its own internal investigation and U.S. officials familiar with a classified intelligence assessment.
Why it matters: The app has been downloaded by millions of users in the Middle East, North America, Europe, Asia and Africa, and it was one of the most downloaded social apps in the U.S. last week. Its exploitation by the Emiratis is an illustration of how authoritarian governments are increasingly finding novel and more effective ways to expand their surveillance networks and crack down on perceived enemies or dissenters.
Tech companies appear to be bowing to new privacy rules springing up in Europe, California and elsewhere, putting in place processes to show they're complying.
Yes, but: Some of these moves are smokescreens that allow the companies to avoid making big, painful changes, some legal experts argue — enabled by a legal system that offloads enforcement onto the very companies being regulated.