First things first, if you would like to receive my Technology Policy Update, email me. You can find some of these Updates from 2019 and 2020 here.
- Verizon released its annual Data Breach Investigations Report, which “analyzed a record total of 157,525 incidents” of which “32,002 met our quality standards and 3,950 were confirmed data breaches.”
- Health Affairs detailed its thoughts on HIPAA and COVID-19 contact tracing and argued “[d]igital contact tracing can provide enough capacity but comes with serious privacy concerns.” They argued that Congress adding another law on top of HIPAA to address these concerns “would create an unworkable regulatory patchwork in conjunction with HIPAA.”
- The American Civil Liberties Union “is demanding Congress and state and local governments ensure all students have equal access to the technologies that make effective remote learning possible, and that strong and uniform privacy safeguards are in place to protect students in the virtual classroom.” The ACLU “is also calling on Congress to provide billions of dollars in funding as part of the next COVID-19 relief package to meet the broadband access and technology needs of students and other impacted individuals.”
- In a blog posting, Amazon calls for a federal price gouging law after noting it “has zero tolerance for price gouging and longstanding policies and systems in place to combat it.” Amazon called for legislation to “provide the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the authority to go after scammers.” As detailed, platforms such as Amazon would appear not to face liability for price-gouging much like Facebook and the like do not face liability for content posted on their platforms.
- “How Google and Apple outflanked governments in the race to build coronavirus apps” – Politico EU. This is the tale of how Apple and Google caused a number of European Union (EU) governments to change cause, often moving from developing their own COVID-19 to hewing to the two tech giants’ approach. A key fault line has been where an app’s data would be stored: on a person’s phone or at a central location? Google and Apple favored the former, and some governments bowed to that position, notably Germany’s. A number of officials are quoted as saying that public policy cannot be dictated by private companies, but that appears to be exactly what happened in the EU.
- “What Colombia Did With American Spy Tools” – The New York Times. The paper’s editorial board decries the use of U.S. funds and technology used to surveil a range of real and perceived opponents of the regime in Bogota, including U.S. journalists. Much of the surveillance was electronic including wiretaps and other technological means used to vacuum up information.
- “Justice Department signals opposition to Senate’s surveillance bill” – The Hill. A Department of Justice (DOJ) spokesperson said of the amended the “USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act of 2020” (H.R. 6172), it “would unacceptably degrade our ability to conduct surveillance of terrorists, spies and other national security threats.” With the DOJ now opposed and the White House remaining a wild card on Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) reauthorization, the future of the legislation in the House just became murkier. There is also pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and related groups on House Democratic leadership to add the amendment that narrowly failed to be adopted in the Senate that would exclude web browsing and search history from Section 215 surveillance. Doing so may further complicate the road to enactment.
- “China launches new Twitter accounts, 90,000 tweets in COVID-19 info war” – NBC News. A trans-Atlantic thinktank is alleging the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is waging a massive information campaign against the United States, largely in pushing back and turning around accusations COVID-19 came from a Chinese laboratory. Interestingly, much of the campaign is being waged by PRC officials.
- “U.S. Is Using Taiwan as a Pressure Point in Tech Fight With China” – The New York Times. Washington’s latest move against Beijing aimed at a sore sport: Taiwan. The Trump Administration finally convinced the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (T.S.M.C.) to agree to open a plant in the United States, and it has announced plans to do so in Arizona. Not only would this pull the world’s foremost semi-conductor producer closer to the U.S., it may also allow the company to escape the shadow cast by the People’s Republic of China. Moreover, once produced in the U.S., T.M.S.C. semi-conductors may be considered free of potential backdoors and malicious code policymakers have long feared populate the Department of Defense’s (DOD) supply chain.
- “US officials say they’ve cracked Pensacola shooter’s iPhones, blast Apple” – cyberscoop. The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) use the cracking of the iPhone belonging to the person who shot and killed members of the military at Pensacola Air Station as an occasion to reiterate their calls for technology companies to provide backdoors for end-to-end encryption.
- “Four states warn unemployment benefits applicants about data leaks” – NBC News. This article shines a light on poor information security practices at the state level as exposed by glaring weaknesses in a program to get unemployment assistance to those affected by COVID-19.
- “Poor Americans Face Hurdles in Getting Promised Internet” – The New York Times. Even though major American internet providers have made available free and discounted service, there have been many issues, some of which have left populations the offers were supposed to help without service.
- “NSO Group Impersonated Facebook to Help Clients Hack Targets” – Vice. Researchers have turned up domains that may have been used by Israeli security company, the NSO Group, to fool people into thinking they were logging into Facebook. These domains may have been based in the United States, which may be used as proof in WhatsApp’s suit against the company.
- “Coronavirus: Security flaws found in NHS contact-tracing app” – BBC News. The United Kingdom’s National Health Service’s contact tracing app has been flagged with new privacy and security issues by researchers.
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