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Antitrust reforms, biometic data collection, and DHS malware warnings - catch up on all the week's news with the Friday Five!
1. House panel proposes largest antitrust reforms in decades to rein in Big Tech by Ben Brody and David Mclaughlin
After a 16-month congressional investigation, a House panel proposed far-reaching anti-trust reforms to curb the power of the big four in tech: Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple. If passed, the reforms would be the largest overhaul of competition law in decades. The report finds that the four companies have used their positions of power within the market to snuff out competitive threats and have in turn hurt fair competition, consumers, and democracy. The most consequential recommendation asks Congress to pass legislation that would prevent tech companies from owning different lines of businesses, thus forcing the big tech companies to break up. For example, Facebook’s acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram would be reversed. Republicans on the committee, along with natural pushback from the tech companies named, will likely prevent the recommendations from becoming legislation, but the report exemplifies the significant shift in Congress’s view on big tech over the last few years.
2. Biometric Data Collection Demands Scrutiny of Privacy Law by Kelly Sheridan
Part of the larger societal debate of convenience vs. privacy, the article explores how security is growing more reliant on biometric data for authentication and national security processes. Despite the increase in the use of biometric data, consumers might not be aware of the potential consequences of giving that information. One consequence of using biometric data for authentication is that if someone steals your password, you can change it without it being a problem. But, if someone steals your fingerprint, and you’re using it for authentication, there’s no way to change your fingerprint. As well, because companies are just starting to use biometric data in these new ways, biometric data is often not protected in the same way that more typical sensitive data, like passwords, are protected. Consumers need to think about who they are giving biometric data to and what they are using it for when considering what info to give to a company.
3. UK 'mass surveillance' regime is illegal, EU court declares by Keumars Afifi-Sabet
The European Court of Justice has ruled that legislation, such as the Investigatory Powers Act, cannot require service providers to track traffic and location data for national security purposes. The court deemed the data retention practices incompatible with the fundamental rights of privacy, freedom of expression, as well as data protection as outlined by the e-Privacy directive and legislation, such as GDPR. The kind of communications data collected under laws such as the Investigatory Powers Act includes traffic, location, subscriber data - and any other data including metadata - surrounding communications, although the content of a communication is exempt. This data makes it possible to find out the identity of people with whom a user has communicated and by what means, to identify the time of these communications and the places from which those communications originated. The court ruled that such collection, and the resulting knowledge, can be used to help with national security directives if such powers are used in a specifically targeted way. The court argued that there must be safeguards in place and that specific instances should be reviewed by the courts to make sure the request balances privacy and security.
4. Twitter Will Turn Off Some Features to Fight Election Misinformation By Kate Conger
In an attempt to fight election misinformation on its platform, Twitter announced several temporary changes beginning Oct. 20. Before retweeting a story, users will now be prompted to add their own comment or context before sharing. As well, if users try to share information that has been flagged as false by Twitter, they will be warned that they are about to share inaccurate information. The hope is that users will take a moment to pause and consider the veracity of the story before sharing. A subtler change, but a likely bigger deal, is that users will now only see content from ads or accounts they follow. While Twitter’s algorithm is a black box, it is generally acknowledged that the platform pushes users towards more polarizing content. If users only see the content of accounts they follow, it might help mitigate some of the polarization that social media platforms like Twitter encourage. Hopefully, the changes reduce the amount of misinformation spread this election season.
5. DHS warns that Emotet malware is one of the most prevalent threats today by Dan Goodin
The DHS warned this week that the malware known as Emotet has emerged as one of the most prevalent ongoing threats. Emotet was first identified in 2014 as a trojan whose purpose was stealing bank account credentials. A year or two later, it evolved into a dropper that would install other malware after infecting a PC. Since its return in July, Emotet has successfully infected Quebec’s Department of Justice and attacked the governments of France, Japan, and New Zealand. It has also targeted the Democratic National Committee. The DHS warning highlights the malware's threat; cybersecurity professionals should take the warning seriously.