Welcome To Episode Two
👋 Welcome! This is the second round up of privacy and technology related news. We have news about Apple sending web browsing data to Tencent (and Google), Bitcoin transactions used to catch a criminal, Facebook's privacy program, Startpage getting an investment from an advertising company and the use of facial recognition systems in schoools.
Apple Sends Web Browsing And IP Address Data Of Some Users To China Based Tencent
Apple markets itself as a privacy centric company looking out for its users. Now it seems that it may have been sending web browsing data, including users' IP address to China based Tencent, which has close ties with the Chinese state.
Apples does this as part of a 'safe browsing' security feature. This feature works by warning users if they visit websites that are known to be malicious. The list of malicious sites is maintained by Tencent for Chinese users and websites, and by Google for international users and websites.
It's unclear why Apple would need to send data to Tencent (or to Google for that matter) in order to check whether a website a user is visiting is considered unsafe.
Why it matters: Many companies have been under pressure in the way that they work with China and Chinese companies because of China's stance on politics, human rights and privacy. Apple promotes itself as a company that protects it users' privacy, although at the same time they have to protect their relationship with China because it's such an important market.
Bitcoin Transactions Were Used To Track Down A South Korean Operating Child Exploitation Darknet Website
CNN reveals that the US Department of Justice tracked a South Korean operating a child exploitation darknet website called 'Welcome to Video'. Interestingly, they did this by analysing bitcoin transactions.
337 people who used and operated the website have been arrested.
Why it matters: Obviously it's a good thing that these people have been caught. The world is a little bit safer as a result. Bitcoin is often used as a means by criminals to hide monetary transactions, this goes to show Bitcoin isn't fully anonymous or untraceable as people seem to think it is.
Setting Up An FTC Mandated Privacy Program Is Facebook's Top Priority
Facebook has been mandated to setup a privacy program as part of a $5 billion dollar settlement with the FTC (as a result of the Cambridge Analytica scandal). Mark Zuckerburg has indicated that this is Facebook's top priority.
Zuckberburg once again reiterated that Facebook understands it made mistakes and promises to do better in future. In fact, it will have 1,000 people working on the privacy program.
The bigger picture: Facebook has had a lot of privacy issues in the past. As a result it has to implement a privacy program by the FTC, which could cost the company a lot of money. Facebook is keen to move into other areas like its Libra cryptocurrency, but will need government support to do so.
Startpage Gets Investment From Advertising Company
Startpage is a European (Netherlands based) privacy centric search engine. It recently received an investment from Privacy One Group Ltd., which is owned by System1, an advertising company. This casts doubt on the future of Startpage and whether it can be trusted to keep user data private. Reddit users had a great discussion on the topic.
Why it matters: Google, the worlds biggest search engine, has been controversial in the privacy space. New privacy centric search engines such as DuckDuckGo and Startpage have become more popular with privacy focused users. This investment shows that money may trump privacy for Startpage.
Use Of Facial Recognition Systems In US Schools
Wired posted an interesting piece on the use of facial recognition systems in US schools. These facial recognition systems monitor US school children, with the aim of spotting undesirable or banned people within schools. It cites cases whereby banned people (in some cases expelled school children) are caught and told to leave the premises.
The use of this technology raises a lot of questions. Is it OK to monitor school children? Who will be doing the monitoring? What can these systems monitor for? Who will check that those doing the monitoring are sticking to the rules? And so on.
Would you want your children to be monitored by facial recognition systems? What if it keeps your children safer?