Welcome to our fortnightly newsletter, where our reporters Kruttika Lokesh and Dhananjay Dhonchak put together handpicked stories from the world of tech law! You can find other issues here.
Aarogya Setu raises serious privacy concerns
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India has come under heavy scrutiny for the decisions they have taken to tackle the worsening situation of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a bid to monitor the movement of the Indian citizenry, the government has undertaken a high-profile media campaign to promote the Aarogya Setu app. However, the app has raised serious issues with respect to the kind of data it purports to collect. A user cannot access the application without revealing their location at least once. The application allegedly allots an anonymous identity to the device and reveals the details of infected persons so as to enable healthy citizens to steer clear of places which the affected persons had visited.
- HT Correspondent, NITI Aayog defends Aarogya Setu against criticism from privacy groups, The Hindustan Times, (16 April 2020).
- Manavi Kapur, The coronavirus app Narendra Modi endorsed is a privacy disaster, Quartz India, (15 April 2020).
- Venkat Ananth, Aarogya Setu’s not all that healthy for a person’s privacy, The Economic Times, (15 April 2020).
- Is Aarogya Setu privacy-first? Nope, but it could be– If the government wanted., Internet Freedom Foundation, (14 April 2020).
Social media monitoring proves its utility in the fight against COVID-19
While platforms like YouTube and Facebook are aware of the conversations taking place in civil society, the data about the same is not available to all business in a uniform manner. As a result, keeping tabs on social media has become the norm for business looking to attract consumers to their products. Companies like Synthesio provide such services through which users can determine the conversations taking place about the business and its products. Synthesio also tracks how the same information is perceived across different platforms and demographics. Companies can track mentions on multiple services and respond quickly. This service has been immensely useful in the current fight against the novel coronavirus, as National Institutes of Health in the USA are employing these tools to find people discussing symptoms like shortness of breath, cough and fever.
- John Scott Lewinski, Synthesio Brings COVID-19 Social Media Monitoring Into Graphic Focus, Forbes, (21 April 2020).
- Theodore F. Claypoole, Data Privacy Risks and COVID-19 Defense, The National Law Review, (24 March 2020).
- Ronn Torrosian, Why you should invest in social media monitoring, PR Daily, (23 March 2020).
Court rules that photographer gave up copyright in photo by posting on Instagram
- Adi Robertson, Photographer can’t sue a website for embedding her Instagram post, says court, The Verge, (April 14, 2020).
- Venkat Balasubramani, Instagram’s TOS Authorizes Third-Party Embedding of Photos–Sinclair v. Mashable, Eric Goldman Blog, (April 15, 2020).
- Thomas Maddrey, Does Posting To Instagram Create an Unlimited Sublicense? Sinclair v. Ziff Davis and What To Do Now, American Society of Media Photographers Blog, (April 15, 2020).
Apple and Google launch joint COVID-19 tracing tool for iOS and Android
Apple and Google’s engineering teams have banded together to create a decentralized contact tracing tool that will help individuals determine whether they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Contact tracing is a useful tool that helps public health authorities track the spread of the disease and inform the potentially exposed so that they can get tested. It does this by identifying and “following up with” people who have come into contact with a COVID-19-affected person. The first phase of the project is an application program interface (‘API’) that public health agencies can integrate into their own apps. The next phase involves a system-level contact tracing system that will work across iOS and Android devices on an opt-in basis. The system uses on-board radios on your device to transmit an anonymous ID over short ranges — using Bluetooth beaconing. Servers relay your last 14 days of rotating IDs to other devices which then look for a match. A match is determined based on a threshold of time spent and distance maintained between two devices. If a match is found with another user that has told the system that they have tested positive, you are notified and can take steps to be tested and self-quarantine. Both Apple and Google say that privacy and transparency are paramount in public health efforts and say they are committed to shipping a system that does not compromise personal privacy in any way. This is a factor that has been raised by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has cautioned that any use of cell phone tracking to track the spread of COVID-19 would need aggressive privacy controls.
- Sara Morrison, Apple and Google look like problematic heroes in the pandemic, Recode, (April 16, 2020).
- Andy Greenberg, Does Covid-19 Contact Tracing Pose a Privacy Risk? Your Questions, Answered, The Wired, (April 17, 2020).
- Julia Angwin, Will Google’s and Apple’s COVID Tracking Plan ProtectPrivacy?, The Markup, (April 14, 2020).
Facebook to steer users who interact with coronavirus misinformation to WHO ‘mythbusters’ page
Facebook will begin displaying notifications to users who have interacted with posts that contain “harmful” coronavirus misinformation, the company announced on 16th April in a bid to stem the of false information about Covid-19. The new policy applies only to misinformation that Facebook considers likely to contribute to “imminent physical harm” such as false claims about “cures” or statements that physical distancing is not effective. So far, Facebook’s policy has been to remove those posts from the platform. Under the new policy which will be rolled out in the coming weeks, users who liked, shared, commented or reacted with an emoji to such posts before they were deleted will see a message in their news feed directing them to a “myth busters” page maintained by the World Health Organization (WHO). The changes have been prompted by a major study of misinformation on the platform across six languages by Avaaz, a crowdfunded activist group whose researchers say that millions of users continue to be exposed to coronavirus misinformation without any warning regarding the same. The group found that some of the most dangerous falsehoods had received hundreds of thousands of views, including claims like “black people are resistant to coronavirus” and “Coronavirus is destroyed by chlorine dioxide”.
- Shirin Ghaffary, Facebook will start nudging users who have “liked” coronavirus hoaxes, Recode, (April 16, 2020).
- Casey Newton, Coronavirus misinformation is putting Facebook to the test, The Verge, (April 17, 2020).
- Billy Perrigo, Facebook Is Notifying Users Who Have Shared Coronavirus Misinformation. Could It Do the Same for Politics?, Time, (April 16, 2020).