WELCOME to Connected Rights, your foot in the sock of digital rights news and analysis.
Enjoy this newsletter? Forward it to a friend or get them to sign up. I’m David Meyer, aka @superglaze on Twitter and @davidmeyerwrites on Facebook. Don’t forget to check out the Connected Rights website and download a copy of my book, Control Shift: How Technology Affects You and Your Rights. Zoo siab txais tos!
FACEBOOK’S TERMS AND CONDITIONS are changing, thanks to a consumer protection crackdown by the European Commission. The headline change is that the terms – which you all read, right? – will now explain to users what Facebook’s business model is, i.e. exploiting user data for targeted advertising. Yes, everyone in the industry knows this, but a lot of regular people don’t. So good.
But there’s more. Facebook “now acknowledges its responsibility in case of negligence, for instance in case data has been mishandled by third parties”, the Commission said. Cambridge Analytica, anyone? Also, the social network will amend – vague language alert – “its power to unilaterally change terms and conditions by limiting it to cases where the changes are reasonable also taking into account the interest of the consumer”.
Crucially, Facebook is also changing its rules around the retention of data that consumers have deleted. It will only be possible for it to retain that data for up to 90 days “in case of technical reasons”, and it can only keep it in specific cases such as due to an official request.
It’s not yet clear if the T&Cs will change everywhere, or just in the EU.
NEW ZEALAND’S PRIVACY COMMISSIONER HAS DUBBED FACEBOOK “morally bankrupt pathological liars who enable genocide (Myanmar)”. That was in a now-deleted tweet from John Edwards, who also said in a radio interview that Facebook refuses to “accept any responsibility for any content or harm.” Speaking of which…
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT HAS UNVEILED PROPOSALS for protecting people, particularly kids, from “online harms”. The solution that’s being proposed would make Facebook et al liable for stamping out those online harms, which range from the distribution of child sexual abuse material to disinformation and intimidation.
The issue here is that some of those harms are plainly illegal, while others are not. In the words of the EFF’s Jillian York: “The UK’s desire to hold companies accountable for, and I quote, ‘behaviours which are harmful but not necessarily illegal,’ is a perfect illustration of how dangerous it is that we’ve ceded so much power to corporations. Instead of creating laws, we just look to private power.”
Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group is also deeply skeptical, arguing that “the government is using Internet regulation as a blunt tool to try and fix complex societal problems. Its proposals lack an assessment of the risk to free expression and omit any explanation as to how it would be protected.”
These proposals are open for public consultation until the start of July – here’s where you’ll find the white paper and ways to respond to the consultation. After that… well, let’s just say the British government is not in the most secure of positions right now, and Brexit-related politics could see this initiative derailed, but Labour is pretty much on the same page. Indeed, the opposition party’s only concern appears to be that the white paper doesn’t talk enough about online election interference.
AMERICANS FEEL SOCIAL MEDIA IS MORE DIVISIVE than unifying, and also a force for disinformation. That’s according to a WSJ/NBC News poll that also found Americans feel positively about tech firms in general, but less so about social media companies. Also worth reading, though, is a piece from my Fortune colleague Don Reisinger in which he recounts that, after his father’s recent death, he logged into his account and realised how much his dad used Facebook in a positive way.
Don writes: “As I skimmed through his posts, I realised that what I thought I knew about Facebook and social media was at least partially wrong. To me, social media was a tool — part business, part personal — that was all too often used to sow discord. But for my dad, it was an opportunity to connect, to share.”
FRANCE’S “FAKE NEWS” LAWS PROMPTED TWITTER to stop allowing political advertising in the country altogether. So when the French government tried to run a campaign to encourage people to vote in the upcoming European Parliament elections, Twitter blocked it. Ministers got in touch to complain, and Twitter amended its policy to “allow ads encouraging electoral participation”.
GERMANY’S FEDERAL PRIVACY COMMISSIONER, Ulrich Kelber, is not keen on German cops storing data in Amazon’s cloud. Why? The U.S. CLOUD Act, which theoretically allows American authorities to request the data that is stored in Amazon’s facilities, even if those facilities are in the EU.
“For the storage of such sensitive data, we need a cloud provider that is exclusively subject to European data protection law — not a provider that is also subject to the U.S. CLOUD Act,” Kelber told Politico, referring to data being uploaded from police recording devices.
THE EU WILL TEST A SERIES OF ETHICAL PRINCIPLES for “artificial intelligence” systems, to see if they work in practice. The bloc is a laggard in the global AI race, and it seems to hope an ethical approach will help it find a niche. That’s up for debate, but it’s nice to see the attempt being made.
Google’s AI ethics board dissolved, by the way, a week after it was assembled. Guess bringing in a drone exec and an anti-gay-rights thinktanker wasn’t so smart after all.
I WROTE AN ARTICLE FOR THE BERLIN POLICY JOURNAL about the Copyright Directive and Article 13/17 in particular. Next week Monday is the crunch day there, incidentally – that’s when the Council of the EU is expected to rubberstamp the law… at an agriculture ministers’ meeting, naturally. Sweden is apparently changing its vote to oppose the Directive, but without Germany or some other big player, there will be no blocking minority.
By the way, check out this video from guitar YouTube star Paul Davids, about how the platform’s crazy copyright policies affect his work. Well worth watching.
WHY IS THERE A CAMERA INSIDE TESLA’S MODEL 3? According to Elon Musk, it’s there in case the owner ends up using the car as an autonomous taxi – the camera would make it possible to keep an eye on passengers.
That’s… strange, but perhaps we should get used to cameras in cars. The EU is close to passing car-safety legislation that will, among other things, require manufacturers to install drowsiness and distraction recognition systems, so the car can tell if the driver is falling asleep or staring at their phone.