Data Privacy

Technology • Internet & Web
Google competitor DuckDuckGo increased its traffic by 62% in 2020
DuckDuckGo on desktop and mobile
DuckDuckGo on desktop and mobile Credit: DuckDuckGo

The privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo, increased its average number of daily searches by 62% in 2020 as users seek alternatives to impede data tracking.

In an interview with USA TODAY, Kamyl Bazbaz, DuckDuckGo vice president of communications said: "People are coming to us because they want more privacy, and it's generally spreading through word of mouth."

Technology • Internet & Web
WhatsApp delays enforcement of privacy terms by 3 months, following backlash
WhatsApp delays enforcement of privacy terms by 3 months, following backlash

WhatsApp announced Friday a three-month delay of a new privacy policy originally slated to go into effect on February 8th following widespread confusion over whether the new policy would mandate data sharing with Facebook. WhatsApp stated it wouldn’t enforce the planned update to its data-sharing policy until May 15.

"We’re now moving back the date on which people will be asked to review and accept the terms. No one will have their account suspended or deleted on February 8. We’re also going to do a lot more to clear up the misinformation around how privacy and security works on WhatsApp. We’ll then go to people gradually to review the policy at their own pace before new business options are available on May 15," the firm said in a blog post.

"There's been a lot of misinformation causing concern and we want to help everyone understand our principles and the facts," said the company, which earlier this week ran full-page ads on several newspapers in India, where it has amassed over 450 million monthly active users.

Technology • Internet & Web
WhatsApp user data will be automatically shared with Facebook following change of terms

WhatsApp has been informing its approximately two billion users via a pop-up message in the app that there have been changes to the terms of use.

Following an update to the terms of use and privacy policy, WhatsApp users must now agree that all information in the app may be used by the entire company. This includes user-stored data such as phone numbers, address book, profile names, profile pictures, status messages, and more.

Technology • Internet & Web
To avoid EU privacy rules, Facebook will move UK users to US terms
To avoid EU privacy rules, Facebook will move UK users to US terms
Credit: Illustration for Pendect by Ashley Winkler, Logo Facebook

In an effort to avoid the EU's privacy laws, Facebook will move all of its users in the United Kingdom into user agreements with the corporate headquarters in California. Google has done a similar move in February. 

"Like other companies, Facebook has had to make changes to respond to Brexit and will be transferring legal responsibilities and obligations for UK users from Facebook Ireland to Facebook Inc. There will be no change to the privacy controls or the services Facebook offers to people in the UK," so Facebook's UK arm.

Technology • Internet & Web
Twitter fined €450k for breaking the EU's Data Privacy Law by Irish data regulator
Twitter fined €450k for breaking the EU's Data Privacy Law by Irish data regulator
Credit: Twitter

Twitter has been fined €450,000 by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) for breaching Europe's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

"The DPC’s investigation commenced in January, 2019 following receipt of a breach notification from Twitter and the DPC has found that Twitter infringed Article 33(1) and 33(5) of the GDPR in terms of a failure to notify the breach on time to the DPC and a failure to adequately document the breach," so the DPC in a statement on its website.

Law
French watchdog fines Google €100m and Amazon €35m for breach of cookies rules
French watchdog fines Google €100m and Amazon €35m for breach of cookies rules
Credit: unsplash.com / Christian Wiediger

The French data protection authority Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL) is imposing a record fine on Google - for the second time. This time the dispute is over web cookies. Amazon is also expected to pay 35 million euros.

According to the CNIL, Google is being accused of "placing advertising cookies on the computers of users of the google.fr search engine without prior consent and without adequate information." A total of three violations of Article 82 of the so-called French Data Protection Act have been identified, the authority reports.

Technology • Smartphones, Hardware & Gadgets
Gionee convicted of installing malware on over 20 million smartphones
Gionee convicted of installing malware on over 20 million smartphones
Credit: Maurizio Pesce from Milan, Italia, / via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

Gionee, a Chinese manufacturer of low-cost smartphones, has been found guilty by the Chinese courts of installing malware on more than 20 million devices it sold between December 2018 and October 2019.

According to the report, the company used a subsidiary to plant a "Trojan horse" to carry ads without the users' permission.

Technology • Internet & Web
German court forces mail provider Tutanota to perform a surveillance function, enabling a backdoor
Tutanota email client
Tutanota email client Credit: Tutanota

Tutanota is one of the few email providers that encrypt all incoming emails by default. However, a ruling by the Cologne Regional Court is now forcing the Hanover-based company to install a function with which investigators can monitor individual mailboxes and read emails in plain text.

Regional News • Americas • Brazil
Brazil: Another Ministry of Health leak exposes personal data of over 200 million people
Brazil: Another Ministry of Health leak exposes personal data of over 200 million people
Credit: Christiaan Colen (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

A new security breach in the Ministry of Health's covid-19 notification system left personal data of over 200 million Brazilians exposed on the internet for at least six months. It was not only patients diagnosed with Covid-19 who had their privacy violated, as occurred in another exposure case reported last week. This time, the personal information of any Brazilian registered with SUS or beneficiary of a health plan was open for consultation.

"Each time you stop and go through the Ministry of Health's information security and data management policy, you find a more serious vulnerability. At the time of our complaint, we asked for an audit and received no response. Clearly, they have not taken and are not yet taking the treatment of data from millions of Brazilians seriously," says Fernanda Campagnucci, executive director of the NGO Open Knowledge Brasil (OKBR).

Technology • Internet & Web
Private energy supplier wants to carry out urban video surveillance
Police officers in Karlsruhe
Police officers in Karlsruhe Credit: Heiko S.

The Karlsruhe energy supplier EnBW wants to carry out video surveillance on Europaplatz due to a lack of police authority. According to their own statements, no personal data is collected and stored with artificial intelligence that is supposed to recognize behaviour patterns, the number of people and movements.

The aim is to implement a monitoring infrastructure in which the EnBW employee is in close contact with the police.

Regional News • Americas • Brazil
Leak exposes data from 16 million suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Brazil
Leak exposes data from 16 million suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Brazil
Credit: Christiaan Colen (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

A leak of a file containing access information to internal systems of the Brazilian Ministry of Health exposed data on 16 million people for almost a month.

The data includes taxpayers id and telephone numbers, address, medications and even a history of pre-existing diseases. It is noteworthy that, among the names on the leaked list, are President Jair Bolsonaro; the Minister of Health, Eduardo Pazuello; the governor of the state of São Paulo, João Dória; the Mayor, Rodrigo Maia; and the president of the Senate, Davi Alcolumbre. They have all been diagnosed with Covid-19.

Technology • Smartphones, Hardware & Gadgets
Canada: Guelph police can unlock and copy iPhone contents even if encrypted but has no usage policy on the device
Canada: Guelph police can unlock and copy iPhone contents even if encrypted but has no usage policy on the device
Credit: Courtesy of Grayshift

According to a request under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act filed by the Mercury Tribune, the Guelph Police Service (GPS) has confirmed that a device called GrayKey has been acquired from the Atlanta-based technology company Grayshift.

The device enables low enforcement to unlock and copy data on iPhones. GPS stated in the letter that the GrayKey device "is used only by our technological crimes detectives" but that the agency has no internal policy or procedural documents and that no usage guidelines have been issued.

Technology • Internet & Web
Report: The U.S. Military is buying user location data harvested from a Muslim prayer app that has been downloaded by 98 million people around the world
Report: The U.S. Military is buying user location data harvested from a Muslim prayer app that has been downloaded by 98 million people around the world
Credit: unsplash.com / Lianhao Qu

According to an article by Motherboard (Vice) the magazine has observed both the Android and iOS versions of the Muslim Pro app sending granular location data to the X-Mode endpoint multiple times.

X-Mode is a company that obtains location data directly from apps, then sells that data to contractors, and by extension, the military. Motherboard has used public records, interviews with developers, and technical analysis to discover the connection that the military uses data from X-Mode.

Technology • Internet & Web
Lawsuit against Google: Idle Android eats mobile data to send telemetry and preload ads
Lawsuit against Google: Idle Android eats mobile data to send telemetry and preload ads
Credit: unsplash.com / Greg Bulla

Google on Thursday was sued for allegedly stealing Android users' cellular data allowances though unapproved, undisclosed transmissions to the web giant's servers.

The complaint contends that Google is using Android users' limited cellular data allowances without permission to transmit information about those individuals that's unrelated to their use of Google services.

Regional News • Europe • European Union
EU to restrict spyware exports
EU to restrict spyware exports
Credit: unsplash.com / Rob Sarmiento

The European Union wants to introduce restrictions on the sale abroad of technologies used for espionage and surveillance. This is reported by "Politico" with reference to informed persons. In the future, facial recognition systems and hacking programs will require a license to be sold outside of the Union. Governments would also have to publish details of the exact nature of the licenses granted to individual companies.

Regional News • Europe • European Union
European Court of Justice prohibits bulk data retention
European Court of Justice prohibits bulk data retention
Credit: unsplash.com / ev

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has decided that a comprehensive and flat-rate storage of Internet and telephone connection data is not permissible. Exceptions are only possible when it is a matter of combating serious crime or the specific case of a threat to national security, the ECJ announced in a ruling on Tuesday.

Business • Consumer & Service
H&M fined €35.3 million in Germany for spying on employees
H&M fined €35.3 million in Germany for spying on employees
Credit: unsplash.com / Fernand De Canne

Hamburg’s data protection commissioner has stated that H&M in Nuremberg had collected private information about employees including family issues and religious beliefs. The data had been collected on a network drive and had been accessible for up to 50 managers. The incident got public when the data had been briefly visible for all people on the network.

H&M has been fined €35.3 million and the company stated that the practices uncovered in Nuremberg did not align with the guidelines of the company.

Health
Covid-19 database illegally used by Ontario police, civil rights groups finds

Police forces across Ontario engaged in broad, illegal searches of a now-defunct Covid-19 database, two civil rights groups alleged Wednesday, claiming the use of the portal violated individual privacy rights for months.

Technology • Internet & Web
Facebook states that withdrawal from EU is possible if data sharing with US servers will not be allowed
Facebook states that withdrawal from EU is possible if data sharing with US servers will not be allowed
Credit: unsplash.com / Thought Catalog

Following an announcement of Facebook Ireland's head of data protection Yvonne Cunnane, it is not clear how the company "could continue to provide the Facebook and Instagram services in the EU" following a preliminary order to stop the data transfer of European customers to servers based in the United States.

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) had voiced concerns over possible surveillance of the data by the United States government.

Technology • Internet & Web
Facebook states Apple’s new iOS update will disrupt online advertising
Facebook states Apple’s new iOS update will disrupt online advertising
Credit: Greg Bulla

Facebook wrote, in a blog post towards its developer community, the changes being implemented in iOS 14 that the company "ability to deliver targeted ads on iOS 14 will be limited.".

According to Facebook, the update will probably mean that app developers will receive less advertising revenue due to the fact "some iOS 14 users may not see any ads from Audience Network, while others may still see ads from us, but they'll be less relevant."

The beta version of iOS 14 was released earlier this week, implementing a set of anti-tracking measures that limit the ability of advertisers to track a particular user and deliver highly tailored advertising.