Updates

Privacy and data protection

2019

Security analyst Brian Krebs discovered Facebook stored hundreds of millions of user passwords in plain text for years. According to the BBC, Facebook said it had discovered the issue in January 2019 as part of a routine security review. Facebook indicated it would "’notify hundreds of millions of Facebook Lite users, tens of millions of other Facebook users, and tens of thousands of Instagram users’.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) published a new policy brief that pinpoints the opportunities and challenges of digital platforms for development. the report notes that digital platforms can enhance efficiency through reducing transaction costs, decreasing customer prices, improving market access, ameliorating the use of underutilised resources, boosting flexibility for services provision, and promoting competition. Yet, the market power of certain digital platforms represents a challenge, let alone the pertinent ramifications on competition and consumer protection, data protection and privacy, taxation, and employment and working conditions. The report suggests that to capitalise on digital platforms and to address their social, political, and economic knock-on effects, such challenges should be tackled through sound policies and regulations. Further discussion on digital platforms for development is planned to take place during the global eCommerce Week 2019, 1-5 April at Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland.

According to the Sofia Globe, Bulgaria’s Constitutional Court indicated that it received a request from more than fifty MPs to rule on the constitutionality of recent amendments to the country’s personal data protection act, following the entry in application of the GDPR.

Members of the Japanese ruling party, the Liberal Democratic Party, questioned executives from Google over the company’s data protection practices. According to the Japan Times, the party headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is also set to hear from Facebook, on 22 March as the Japanese antitrust watchdog examines whether the market position of dominant tech companies hinders fair competition.

According to the BBC, online tools which track user behaviour for advertisers have been found on a swathe of EU public health websites, including the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and gov.uk websites. The data protection compliance organisation behind this report,  CookieBot, the tracking industry is continuing to systematically monitor the online activity of  EU citizens despite the GDPR, often with the unintentional assistance by the very governments that should be regulating it.

An international coalition of 31 civil society and technology experts asked the Indian Prime Minister’s Office to withdraw the proposed changes to section 79 of the Information Technology Act 2000, which regulates online intermediaries. According to the coalition, requiring intermediaries to ensure traceability of messages would undermine the security of online platforms and create a surveillance regime. Also, the draft requires intermediaries to preserve content requested by law enforcement for 180 days or longer. This data retention violates user privacy. The draft guidelines also oblige intermediaries to proactively monitor and automatically delete unlawful content. The coalition considers this provision an excessive burden for online intermediaries and contrary to regulations of many countries. A proactive monitor can result in censorship. The proposed amendments to the act were released at the end of December 2018.

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