The #BigTech antitrust hearing & the path ahead for privacy

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Photo by Bogdan Kupriets on Unsplash

Last week’s Big Tech hearing was like a six-hour national therapy session — a collective moment of airing our grievances against the CEOs of four of the world’s largest companies — Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple. In a world where this small group of rich and powerful men are used to calling the shots, being in control, and operating without permission, members of Congress had the chance to frame the conversation, ask directed questions, and even cut the CEOs short before they could finish their sentences. …


Are we really going to let a few men destroy democracy?

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Photo by Hasan Almasi on Unsplash

The stakes going into this year’s presidential election have arguably never been higher. Hard hit by a series of overlapping and intertwined crises, including the COVID-19 public health emergency and ensuing economic devastation and despair, people across America are suffering. At the same time, our country is facing a deep reckoning with the demons of its past, no longer able to outrun its legacy of slavery and long history of systemic racism and social injustice. Multitudes of protestors have taken to the streets to demand change. …


By Elizabeth M. Renieris in collaboration with Omidyar Network

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Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

In line with Omidyar Network’s pathways and pitfalls themed series, this piece focuses on the impact of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on the global data protection landscape since taking effect in May of 2018. It is undeniable that the GDPR has dramatically influenced the global landscape for data protection by creating pathways for other jurisdictions in the evolution of their own laws, while simultaneously elevating the public consciousness with respect to data governance and privacy.

At the same time, the GDPR’s global reach, both directly through its extraterritorial scope and indirectly through its influence on other laws, has amplified its pitfalls and limitations, with the result that GDPR-inspired laws also suffer from GDPR-style limitations. At the two-year mark, some of those key limitations include simultaneously under- and over-leveraged provisions, undeniably weak enforcement, and ongoing tensions between law and innovation, including challenges in applying the law to emerging technologies. Below, we explore the nature and scope of the GDPR’s influence and some of its core limitations, and consider whether the law represents a global floor or a global ceiling for global data protection. …


A Legal, Public Health, and Technical Perspective

By Elizabeth M. Renieris, Dr. Sherri Bucher, and Christian Smith

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Image via CDC.gov

Despite limited backing from civil society or public health experts, as well as warnings from historians and bioethicists, technologists are racing ahead to build and deploy digital certificates that would allegedly let individuals “prove” whether they have recovered from the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), have tested positive for antibodies, or have received a vaccination, should one become available. One such initiative is based on a combination of an emerging W3C standard for Verifiable Credentials (VCs), non-standard decentralized identifiers (DIDs), and distributed ledger technology (DLT) or “blockchain.”¹

In this article, we examine why such proposed technological interventions lack sufficient supporting scientific and public health evidence or legitimacy. As a result, we believe such interventions, if adopted or implemented by public authorities, would pose an unjustified interference with, and serious threat to, our fundamental human rights and civil liberties, in violation of the principles of legality, necessity, and proportionality. In this article, we outline our concerns from a legal, public health-based, and technical perspective. …


It’s time to move beyond individualistic approaches to data governance

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Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

The coronavirus pandemic should make us reflect on the future of data governance and the limitations of our existing approaches. No one questions the prominence of data in our society and its increasingly prominent role in all of its systems, including public health. But a “data-driven” approach takes on an entirely new meaning in an unparalleled global crisis of the nature of COVID-19. Many of us believe that data and data analytics will be the answer to this crisis — our way out — or that an app or sophisticated technological response will save us. …


Applying core international human rights principles to coronavirus-related privacy interferences

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Photo: Paul Faith/Getty Images

In the face of the devastating coronavirus pandemic, governments around the world are deploying an array of public- and private-sector technologies, causing great concern and alarm among privacy advocates worldwide. Many privacy experts are calling on the need to favor more privacy-preserving technologies, take measures to mitigate the risks to individual privacy posed by specific technologies, and impose purpose and storage limitations (among other restrictions) on the use of any personal data collected by the technologies that are ultimately deployed.

One example of a specific measure causing alarm is known as contact tracing, or the process of identifying individuals who may have come into contact with an infected person (in this case, someone who has tested positive for Covid-19). While many public health experts agree that contact tracing and identifying a “patient zero” as the source of an outbreak, where possible, can be important measures to control the spread of a virus, there is also countervailing research and reports that question the efficacy of this tactic. …


The future of “ownership” in a connected world

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

In 2018, The Great Hack star and former Cambridge Analytica operative Brittany Kaiser launched a Change.org petition with the hashtag #ownyourdata, equating personal data with ownable property. Interestingly, worldwide Google searches for the term “own your data” peaked last August, after the film was released by Netflix in late July.¹


What BIPA and SyRI-related developments tell us about the future of privacy

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Despite an otherwise dystopian start to 2020, there have also been a few glimmers of hope in the early weeks of the new decade. These recent developments light a path forward in an otherwise dark digital future and remind us that the solution to our present woes may be hiding in plain sight.

Much of this hope stems from a small (< 1500 words) but mighty piece of legislation — the Illinois Biometric Protection Act or BIPA. …


A theory of digital ID premised on Helen Nissenbaum’s theory of privacy

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Photo by Marcus Castro on Unsplash

Digital identity systems are rapidly rolling out across countries and localities around the world. Digital ID credentials are quickly replacing legacy ones, with experts predicting that nearly half of all identity credentials in circulation will be smart credentials by 2023. These systems are also increasingly integrating biometric data, including fingerprints and facial recognition technologies, with some estimating that 3.6 billion people worldwide will carry digital IDs with embedded biometrics by 2021.

These trends are in part motivated by the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Viewed as a critical tool for furthering inclusion and access, providing “legal identity for all” by 2030 is one of the core SDGs.¹ Although some form of legal identity is no doubt essential for participation in, and access to, a wide array of services in modern society, it is worth stopping to critically examine these trends. While most of the criticism levied to date has focused on conventional privacy and security concerns (particularly where biometrics are employed), there is a deeper shortcoming facing many of these digital ID schemes. …

About

Elizabeth M. Renieris

Founder @ hackylawyer | Fellow @ Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society | Fellow @ Carr Center at Harvard |CIPP/E, CIPP/US | Privacy, Identity, Blockchain

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