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'Your tone of voice is “overbearing” or “irritated' | The Cat Herder, Volume 3, Issue 48

December 13 · Issue #112 · View online
The Cat Herder
Amazon would like to give out to you about your tone of voice, the antitrust lawsuit finally lands on Facebook, and what might the Office of the Government CIO be planning for the management of the Covid vaccine and more importantly who will they be buying it from?
Next weekend’s Cat Herder will be the last of this accursed year and will probably be a roundup of some of the best / worst stories from 2020. The long-awaited first DPC fine of a multinational is due out during the week, and Facebook’s judicial review of a draft DPC decision is in court so if anything out of the ordinary happens we’ll include those too.

Take a bow, Amazon. An intrusive pointless digital scold.
Amazon’s new health band is the most invasive tech we've ever tested - The Washington Post
In response to a crescendo of complaints about proctoring software that surveils students while they take tests in their homes, the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center today formally asked the District of Columbia’s attorney general to investigate the “unfair and deceptive” business practices of five exam proctoring companies.
Privacy Group Asks for Investigation Into Software That Spies on Students
This should be taken with the usual grain of salt as we’ve yet to meet a public sector body which didn’t claim it had had positive discussions with the DPC before revealing some kind of appallingly wrong-headed data processing plan.
“Discussions also took place this week between the chair of the taskforce and members of the Office of the Government CIO [Chief Information Officer] and HSE with the office of the Data Protection Commissioner,” he said. “Discussions proved to be quite positive and quite productive”.
Taskforce had 'positive' discussions with Data Protection Commission about vaccine tracking system
Oh yes we did
Oh yes we did
Who could possibly have predicted that allowing the online advertising space become an unregulated morass of totally unjustified and purposeless tracking and surveillance would lead to this?
Two said that Bsightful is hoovering up app location data by running what’s known as a Demand Side Platform (DSP). In the automated world of mobile advertising, apps looking for advertisers will go to a DSP to show off what kind of advertising space they can offer: what devices they’re installed on and where they’re based. Advertisers and their agencies will then choose where to place ads.
Exclusive: Israeli Surveillance Companies Are Siphoning Masses Of Location Data From Smartphone Apps
It has become so bad, and the black market for location data so lucrative that even Gapple aren’t prepared to turn a blind eye to it any more.
Apple and Google are pushing location data broker X-Mode out of their respective app stores, throwing the future of the large location company into question. The news comes after Motherboard revealed that X-Mode’s code was implanted in a number of highly popular apps, including Muslim Pro, a Quran and prayer app downloaded over 98 million times, and how X-Mode sells data to U.S. defense contractors and ultimately the U.S. military.
Apple and Google Push Location Tracker X-Mode Out of App Stores
The FTC and most of the Attorneys General in the United States sued Facebook in separate suits over alleged anti-competitive practices.
This week we also discovered that Facebook Ireland has put aside €302 million for data protection fines, which as the article highlights is considerably more than Facebook pays in tax in this country.
Since the DPC has at least 10 separate investigations into Facebook running at the moment, and Facebook has declared revenues of €34.3 billion for 2019, and the FTC fined Facebook $5 billion last year which resulted in Facebook’s share price going up it’s not likely that financial penalties on this scale will be remotely dissuasive. As always it’s the other sanctions which accompany the fines which will be of far more interest.
Also, since Facebook has consistently operated an aggressively scorched earth litigation policy and since our own Sideshow Bob Rake Department has set a precedent of appealing every decision of the DPC - including ones which found in its favour, we shouldn’t forget - it’s hard not to see Facebook using every avenue of appeal available to it.
The Swedish DPA fined seven healthcare providers amounts ranging from 2.5 to 30 million kroner (~€250,000 to €3 million) for failing to carry out appropriate needs and risk analyses which resulted in them being unable to demonstrate compliance with the GDPR.
The CNIL fined Google €100 million and Amazon €35 million over dropping cookies without consent and not providing adequate transparency information and cookie control mechanisms to site visitors.
  • “But tax-payer funded public services need different affordances to Amazon and Google; they should not feel magical, they should be data light, they should meet social needs not just user needs; they should work in context, not simply fulfil a job to be done. Sometimes they should be compassionate. Philip Alston, the UN Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty, published his report just last week into the worst excesses of digital public services, a world of automation, surveillance and targetting. I will not dwell on it here – you should read his report – but Alston warns of the risk of “stumbling zombie-like into a digital welfare dystopia”. His signal recommendation is to avoid technology for its own sake and to double-down on purpose.” Rachel Coldicutt on ‘Just enough Internet: why public service Internet should be a model of restraint’.
  • “Together, the state and these companies have built a one-way mirror around Xinjiang, giving the government an unprecedented ability to monitor and control the population, while preventing information from leaking out. Artificial intelligence scours social media and messaging apps in search of sensitive conversations. Simply speaking with a relative overseas is likely to draw the eye of the police and could lead to incarceration in one of the euphemistically named “vocational education and training centers” — internment facilities that, according to estimates by the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, held upwards of a million people by 2018.” From ‘Returning The Gaze’ by Peter Guest for Rest of World.
  • “To push the industry in a better direction and incentivise the uptake of privacy-friendly alternatives, the right regulations are not just useful – they are indispensable. If EU policymakers really care about the situation of European publishers, they should not aim towards more competition on the data market (because it will remain a losing battle for publishers) but towards shifting the power balance in the digital sphere and creating room for the development of privacy-friendly and sustainable ad models. This is why a coherent regulatory framework should entail both a prohibition on cross-site tracking and targeting in the ePrivacy regulation, and an effective restriction of the online platforms’ power to gather and exploit data in the Digital Markets Act.” Karolina Iwańska in Euractiv on ‘The ePrivacy saga: the false choice between privacy and funding online publishing’.
  • “A member of the European parliament’s civil liberties committee and one of four MEPs for the Pirate party, Breyer realised that iBorderCtrl’s ethical and privacy implications were immense. He feared that if such technology – or as he now calls it, “pseudo-scientific security hocus pocus” – was available to those in charge of policing borders, then people of colour, women, elderly people, children and people with disabilities could be more likely than others to be falsely reported as liars. Using EU transparency laws, he requested more information from the European commission on the ethics and legality of the project. Its response was jarring: access denied, in the name of protecting trade secrets.” From ‘Sci-fi surveillance: Europe’s secretive push into biometric technology’ by Zach Campbell, Caitlin L Chandler and Chris Jones for The Guardian.

Endnotes & Credits
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