WELCOME to Connected Rights, your tickle under the chin of digital rights news and analysis.
SPECIAL NOTE: This will be the last Connected Rights newsletter this year, because I’m going on vacation. Normal service will resume on January 17th. In the meantime, why not buy my book, Control Shift? It’s full of Christmas cheer (I’m lying).
FACEBOOK’S INNATE ADDICTIVENESS AND DIVISIVENESS is “ripping apart” society, a former executive has warned: http://for.tn/2BVVLgq
Echoing former Facebook president Sean Parker, former user growth chief Chamath Palihapitiya says he feels “tremendous guilt” for his role in getting people hooked on the service, with its “short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops” that are “destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation. Misinformation, mistruth.”
Facebook, meanwhile, responded by saying that it has changed in the six years since Palihapitiya left, and is trying to be more responsible these days. Oh yeah, and Facebook also just released a special messaging app to get kids using its services early: http://bit.ly/2iXbX9w. Just saying.
PS – Somehow I missed the news earlier this year that Facebook was telling advertisers they could target teen users who are feeling “insecure” and “worthless”: http://bit.ly/2pBaiv6
AMERICANS OF ALL POLITICAL PERSUASIONS ARE IN FAVOUR OF NET NEUTRALITY, a new survey, conducted by a team at the University of Maryland, has found: http://for.tn/2Aylpvn
While the FCC will probably vote to repeal the US’s net neutrality rules tomorrow, 83 percent of those surveyed opposed the rollback. And this is a truly bipartisan sentiment – 75 percent of Republics, 89 percent of Democrats and 86 of independents agreed that broadband providers should stay classified as common carriers. Will the FCC take note? Probably not, but they sure as heck won’t be able to claim the country’s backing.
IN LAST WEEK’S NEWSLETTER, I MENTIONED a report about a German plan to “install backdoors in the security mechanisms of, well, everything”. I hadn’t looked into that report much, but I did later, and discovered it was not entirely accurate: http://zd.net/2BgaG8c
What the government is actually talking about is situations where investigators with a warrant want to physically plant bugs in people’s cars and homes, but new-fangled connected-car and smart-home systems are automatically notifying their owners of the intrusion. The idea being floated involves getting the manufacturers of the devices to briefly suspend the sending of those notifications, at a pre-agreed time, in order to let the investigators do their job.
There are undoubtedly problems with this idea, the main one being how the investigators will get to open a door that might very well be keyless. But all this is a far cry from wanting to turn computers, smart TVs (and even connected adult toys, as one report suggested) into bugs.
EVERYBODY IN THE GERMAN BUNDESTAG WANTS to get rid of the country’s data retention law – except, that is, the parties that are most likely to form the next government: http://bit.ly/2jzWvUM
As Netzpolitik notes, the liberals hate data retention, the far left hates it, and the so does the far right. All three parties are trying to get rid of it, in varying degrees. However, Angela Merkel’s conservatives and Martin Schulz’s socialists don’t hate it, which is unsurprising as they came up with it. And they’re also the most likely next government (either in coalition or possibly in a kind of confidence-and-supply deal).
So in other words, data retention is probably in Germany to stay for now, but it’s nice that it’s at least being debated again.
THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION IS INTERVENING IN MICROSOFT’S BATTLE to stop the US Justice Department from poking around users’ emails stored in Ireland. It’s going to submit an amicus brief to make sure the court understands the data protection laws that apply in the EU, particularly as they apply to overseas transfers: http://reut.rs/2AXerzB
REGULAR READERS WILL RECALL THAT FRANCE WANTS GOOGLE to apply the EU right to be forgotten around the world, not just in the EU (on the basis that someone in the EU might access a non-European version of Google and see the offending link). Now the Spanish National Court has come up with the opposite opinion, ruling that applying the right outside of immediate jurisdiction deprives other countries’ authorities of their right to apply their own laws: http://bit.ly/2nVIemN
TEXT MESSAGES SHOULD STAY PRIVATE EVEN AFTER BEING sent and received, the Canadian Supreme Court has ruled: http://bit.ly/2Cb9jFN
The case in question involved two people chatting via SMS about illegal firearms transactions. The cops had a warrant to seize and search one individual’s phone, but it turned out to be invalid. They also got the phone of the other individual (the recipient of the texts) and tried to claim they could use the messages on that device as evidence, as the owner had no reasonable expectation of privacy. The case went up to the Supreme Court, which issued its ruling last week, saying yes there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
If you’d like me to write articles for you about digital rights issues, speak at your event or provide privacy advice for your business, drop me an email at email@example.com.
THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT IS ADDING TO ITS SURVEILLANCE STATE ambitions by compiling a database of individuals’ voice samples. This could be used to identify voices in phone conversations, Human Rights Watch warned: http://bit.ly/2yYR7Ox
NETFLIX CAUSED AN OUTCRY BY TWEETING about a few dozen users who had watched the film A Christmas Prince each day for the last 18 days. “Who hurt you?” the platform asked: http://bbc.in/2nT2BkF
Perhaps it wasn’t the brightest idea to laugh at those users, but I do think the reaction of those who find this excessively creepy is somewhat overblown. It’s an amusing/heartless anecdote based on the kind of analytics that any company in Netflix’s position will naturally be doing to judge the popularity of various pieces of content on its platform. It doesn’t amount to spying on individuals. Get over it, people.
PEOPLE USING THE FREE WI-FI IN A BUENOS AIRES STARBUCKS were having their computers hijacked to mine bitcoin. Yet another reason to beware free connections: http://cnb.cx/2APRQ5z
THE WAR BETWEEN ROBOTS AND PEOPLE HAS BEGUN, WEIRDLY, and in a very San Francisco way. The city’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was using a robot to shoo away homeless people from the sidewalks around its property. However, a local resident complained to the city about the robot menacing her and her dog, and the city told the SPCA to stop using it or get a permit to have it operate in the public right-of-way: http://bit.ly/2z4RIiZ
From that San Francisco Business Times story: “The people in the encampments showed their displeasure with the robot’s presence at least once. Within about a week of the robot starting its automated route along the sidewalks, some people setting up a camp ‘put a tarp over it, knocked it over and put barbecue sauce on all the sensors,’ [SF SPCA president Jennifer] Scarlett said.”
And with that, I bid you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. See you in January.