Welcome to our fortnightly newsletter, where our Editors put together handpicked stories from the world of tech law! You can find other issues here.
Facebook approaches SC in ‘Social Media-Aadhaar linking case’
In 2018, Anthony Clement Rubin and Janani Krishnamurthy filed PILs before the Madras High Court, seeking a writ of Mandamus to “declare the linking of Aadhaar of any one of the Government authorized identity proof as mandatory for the purpose of authentication while obtaining any email or user account.” The main concern of the petitioners was traceability of social media users, which would be facilitated by linking their social media accounts with a government identity proof; this in turn could help combat cybercrime. The case was heard by a division bench of the Madras HC, and the scope was expanded to include curbing of cybercrime with the help of online intermediaries. In June 2019, the Internet Freedom Foundation became an intervener in the case to provide expertise in the areas of technology, policy, law and privacy. Notably, Madras HC dismissed the prayer asking for linkage of social media and Aadhaar, stating that it violated the SC judgement on Aadhaar which held that Aadhaar is to be used only for social welfare schemes.
Facebook later filed a petition before the SC to transfer the case to the Supreme Court. Currently, the hearing before the SC has been deferred to 13 September 2019 and the proceedings at the Madras HC will continue. Multiple news sources reported that the TN government, represented by the Attorney General of India K.K. Venugopal, argued for linking social media accounts and Aadhaar before the SC. However, Medianama has reported that the same is not being considered at the moment and the Madras HC has categorically denied it.
- Aditi Agrawal, SC on Facebook transfer petition: Madras HC hearing to go on, next hearing on September 13, Medianama (21 August 2019).
- Nikhil Pahwa, Against Facebook-Aadhaar Linking, Medianama (23 August 2019).
- Aditi Agrawal, Madras HC: Internet Freedom Foundation to act as an intervener in Whatsapp traceability case, Medianama (28 June 2019).
- Aditi Agrawal, Kamakoti’s proposals will erode user privacy, says IIT Bombay expert in IFF submission, Medianama (27 August 2019).
- Prabhati Nayak Mishra, TN Government Bats for Aadhaar-Social Media Linking; SC Issues Notice in Facebook Transfer Petition, LiveLaw (20 August 2019).
- Asheeta Regidi, Aadhaar-social media account linking could result in creation of a surveillance state, deprive fundamental right to privacy, Firstpost (21 August 2019).
Bangladesh bans Mobile Phones in Rohingya camps
Adding to the chaos and despair for the Rohingyas, the Bangladeshi government banned the use of mobile phones and also restricted mobile phone companies from providing service in the region. The companies have been given a week to comply with these new rules. The reason cited for this ban was that refugees were misusing their cell phones for criminal activities. The situation in the region has worsened over the past two years and the extreme violation of Human Rights is termed to be reaching the point of Genocide according to UN officials. This ban on mobile phones, would further worsen the situation in Rohingya by increasing their detachment with the rest of the world, thus making their lives at the refugee camp even more arduous.
- Nishta Vishwakarma, Bangladesh bans mobile phones services in Rohingya camps, Medianama (4 September 2019).
- Karen McVeigh, Bangladesh imposes mobile phone blackout in Rohingya refugee camp, The Guardian (5 September 2019).
- News agencies, Bangladesh bans mobile phone access in Rohingya camps, Aljazeera (3 September 2019).
- Ivy Kaplan, How Smartphones and Social Media have Revolutionised Refugee Migration, The Globe Post (19 October 2018).
- Abdul Aziz, What is behind the rising chaos in Rohingya camps, Dhakka Tribune (24 March 2019).
YouTube to pay 170 million penalty for collecting the data of children without their consent
Alphabet Inc.’s Google and YouTube will be paying a $170 million penalty to the Federal Trade Commission. It will be paid to settle allegations that YouTube collected the personal information of children by tracking their cookies and earning millions through targeted advertisements without parental consent. The FTC Chairman, Joe Simons, condemned the company for publicizing its popularity with children to potential advertisers, while blatantly violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. The company has claimed to advertisers, that it does not comply with any child privacy laws since it doesn’t have any users under the age of 13. Additionally, the settlement mandates that YouTube will have to create policies to identify content that is aimed at children and notify creators and channel owners of their obligations to collect consent from their parents. In addition, YouTube has already announced that it will be launching YouTube Kids soon which will not have targeted advertising and will have only child-friendly content. Several prominent Democrats in the FTC have criticized the settlement, despite it being the largest fine on a child privacy case so far, since the penalty is seen as a pittance in contrast to Google’s overall revenue.
- Avie Schenider, Google, YouTube To Pay $170 Million Penalty Over Collecting Kids’ Personal Info, NPR (4 September 2019).
- Diane Bartz, Google’s YouTube To Pay $170 Million Penalty for Collecting Data on Kids, Reuters (4 September 2019).
- Natasha Singer and Kate Conger, Google Is Fined $170 Million for Violating Children’s Privacy on YouTube, New York Times (4 September 2019).
- Peter Kafka, The US Government Isn’t Ready to Regulate The Internet. Today’s Google Fine Shows Why, Vox (4 September 2019).
Facebook Data Leak of Over 419 Million Users
Recently, researcher Sanyam Jain located online unsecured servers that contained phone numbers for over 419 million Facebook users, including users from US, UK and Vietnam. In some cases, they were able to identify the user’s real name, gender and country. The database was completely unsecured and could be accessed by anybody. The leak increases the possibility of sim-swapping or spam call attacks for the users whose data has been leaked. The leak has happened despite Facebook’s statement in April that it would be more dedicated towards the privacy of its users and restrict access to data to prevent data scraping. Facebook has attempted to downplay the effects of the leak by claiming that the actual leak is only 210 million, since there are multiple duplicates in the data that was leaked, however Zack Whittaker, Security Editor at TechCrunch has highlighted that there is little evidence of such duplication. The data appears to be old since recently the company has changed its policy such that it users can no longer search for phone numbers. Facebook has claimed that there appears to be no actual evidence that there was a serious breach of user privacy.
- Zack Whittaker, A huge database of Facebook users’ phone numbers found online, TechCrunch (5 September 2019).
- Davey Winder, Unsecured Facebook Server Leaks Data Of 419 Million Users, Forbes (5 September 2019).
- Napier Lopez, Facebook leak contained phone numbers for 419 million users, The Next Web (5 September 2019).
- Kris Holt, Facebook’s latest leak includes data on millions of users, The End Gadget (5 September 2019).
Mozilla Firefox 69 is here to protect your data
Addressing the growing data protection concerns Mozilla Firefox will now block third party tracking cookies and crypto miners by its Enhanced Tracking Protection feature. To avail this feature users will have to update to Firefox 69, which enforces stronger security and privacy options by default. Browser’s ‘Enhanced Tracking Protection’ will now remain turned on by default as part of the standard setting, however users will have the option to turn off the feature for particular websites. Mozilla claims that this update will not only restrict companies from forming a user profile by tracking browsing behaviour but will also enhance the performance, User Interface and battery life of the systems running on Windows 10/mac OS.
- Jessica Davies, What Firefox’s anti-tracking update signals about wider pivot to privacy trend, Digiday (5 September 2019).
- Jim Salter, Firefox is stepping up its blocking game, ArsTechnica (9 June 2019).
- Ankush Das, Great News! Firefox 69 Blocks Third Party Cookies, Autoplay Videos & Cryptominers by Default, It’s Foss (5 September 2019).
- Sean Hollister, Firefox’s latest version blocks third-party trackers by default for everyone, The Verge (3 September 2019).
- Shreya Ganguly, Firefox will now block third-party tracking cookies and cryptomining by default for all users, Medianama (4 September 2019).
Delhi Airport T3 terminal to use ‘Facial Recognition’ technology on a trial basis
Delhi airport would be starting a three-month trial of the facial recognition system in its T3 terminal. This system is called the Biometric Enabled Seamless Travel experience (BEST). With this technology, passenger’s entry would be automatically registered at various points such as check-in, security etc. Portuguese company- toolbox has provided the technical and software support for this technology. Even though this system is voluntary in the trial run the pertinent question of whether it will remain voluntary after it is officially incorporated is still to be answered. If the trial run is successful, it will be officially incorporated.
- Soumyarendra Barik, Facial Recognition tech to debut at Delhi airport’s T3 terminal; on ‘trial basis’ for next three months, Medianama (6 September 2019).
- PTI, Delhi airport to start trial run of facial recognition system at T3 from Friday, livemint (5 September 2019).
- Times Travel Editor, Delhi International Airport installs facial recognition system for a 3 month trial, times travel (6 September 2019).
- Renée Lynn Midrack, What is Facial Recognition, lifewire (10 July 2019).
- Geoffrey A. Fowler, Don’t smile for surveillance: Why airport face scans are a privacy trap, The Washington Post (10 June 2019).
UK Court approves use of facial recognition systems by South Wales Police
In one of the first cases of its kind a British court ruled that police use of live facial recognition systems is legal and does not violate privacy and human rights. The case, brought by Cardiff resident Ed Bridges, alleged that his right to privacy had been violated by the system which he claimed had recorded him at least twice without permission, and the suit was filed to hold the use of the system as being violative of human rights including the right to privacy. The court arrived at its decision after finding that “sufficient legal controls” were in place to prevent improper use of the technology, including the deletion of data unless it concerned a person identified from the watch list.
- Adam Satariano, Police Use of Facial Recognition Is Accepted by British Court, New York Times (4 September 2019).
- Owen Bowcott, Police use of facial recognition is legal, Cardiff high court rules, The Guardian (4 September 2019).
- Lizzie Dearden, Police used facial recognition technology lawfully, High Court rules in landmark challenge, The Independent (4 September 2019).
- Donna Lu, UK court backs police use of face recognition, but fight isn’t over, New Scientist (4 September 2019).