Featured: Privacy News Online – Week of JUNE 12th, 2020
To work together with law enforcement, Zoom won’t provide end-to-end encryption for free users
Video conferencing company Zoom will not offer end-to-end encryption functionality for free users. Earlier this year, Zoom had falsely advertised that they were providing end-to-end encryption on all of their calls – even those with free users. Now that they are going about actually implementing real end-to-end encryption, more caveats have emerged. On their Q1 earnings call, Zoom CEO Eric Yuan commented:
“We want to give [end-to-end encryption] to at least the enterprise customer or business customer. Free users, for sure, we don’t want to give that. Because we also want to work together, say, with FBI, with local law enforcement in case some people that use Zoom for a bad purpose, right?”
In a statement, Zoom clarified that they will still offer end-to-end encryption to organizations such as schools that are technically free users but still count as enterprise customers.
DOJ grants DEA permission to conduct “covert surveillance” on protesters
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has been granted a two week expansion of scope so that they can conduct surveillance on the growing protests across the country. The DOJ approved the request from the DEA last week and the full surveillance force of the DEA will come to bear against protestors in cities around America. This news was revealed by BuzzFeedNews, which released the memorandum that the DOJ used to grant the DEA this power. Protests are protected as First Amendment speech by the US Constitution and the use of an unrelated federal agency to surveill such activities is a gross overstep of federal power that has received pushback even from within the DEA.
Government drones and aircraft are being used to surveil the ongoing protests in American cities
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) flew a Predator Drone over the city of Minneapolis during the ongoing George Floyd protests on May 29th. The use of a surveillance drone normally reserved for active war zones on a domestic target was noticed by journalist Jason Paladino through the use of public aircraft tracking data put out on the ADS-B Exchange. NOther news outlets have used similar aircraft tracking data to verify that military aircraft has been used to conduct surveillance on at least five other protests in the last week. The US House of Representatives Committee on Oversight Reform has opened an inquiry into the matter while the CBP won’t say which federal agency requested the surveillance.
More Privacy News This Week:
New paper warns of Cambridge Analytica type privacy risks in G Suite Marketplace Apps
A research paper by Two Six Labs published at IEEE 41 has analyzed the risks of a Cambridge Analytica type information leak using Google API data. The G Suite Marketplace of apps allows third party apps to request Google API data from users. While apps in this marketplace are supposed to undergo code review by the Google team to make sure data is properly used and maintained, the researchers found that unverified apps were allowed on the marketplace. Google API data includes calendar, contact, and email information that could lead to an even worse data leak than Cambridge Analytica caused using the Facebook API.
Class action lawsuit against Google says internet giant tracks private internet use
Time to embrace federated analytics – it’s no privacy panacea, but probably the closest we will get to one for many situations
Federated analytics is the latest privacy preserving way to do “data science without data collection” which has traditionally led to databases full of supposedly anonymous data that has proven time and time again to be de-anonymize-able. Federated analytics is borne of federated learning, a method for machine learning that uses and keeps the data in question on the user’s device. Google has started using federated analytics in their machine learning and AI efforts. For instance, federated analytics is used in the “Playing Now” functionality that lets a Google user identify what song is playing without having to send an audio recording back to Google servers.
New Hasty Attempt to Tackle Fake News in Brazil Heavily Strikes Privacy and Free Expression
Brazil’s Senate is rushing through a new law called the “Fake News Law” which is supposed to protect the country from fake news but will instead impose requirements on messaging and social media platforms that would do away with privacy and freedom of expression. The laws would mandate platforms and apps to verify user’s identities with identification documents and even to store information on how a chain message is shared. Of course, to be able to track the development of a potentially fake news chain message, apps would have to do away with end-to-end encryption and continuously monitor their users. Apps that don’t comply will be suspended. The EFF is speaking up against this poorly thought out law.
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