New Facebook Preventive-Health Tool Vows Strict Privacy Safeguards; Mis-handling of Data Leads to iPhone Update, Users can Now Delete Siri Recordings; Facebook to Pay Fine USD 644k for Role in the Cambridge Analytica Scandal; Facebook Sues Israeli Company for WhatsApp Hack; Dating Sites Under Scrutiny to Comply with Dutch Privacy Laws; Increase in Antitrust Scrutiny has Ramped Up Tech Firm Lobbying; Female UK Politicians Support Meghan Against Press Coverage; Google’s Acquisition of Fitbit Requested to be Halted; Zuckerberg Defends Controversial Purchase of Instagram; LADOT’s Request for Bike Rider Data Denied by Uber; ACCC Accuses Google of Misleading Users; Apple had Pre-suit Knowledge of Patents and Infringement; Allergan Shells out USD 750 Million in an Antitrust Class Action Suit; MGA Seeking to Revive USD 1 Billion Trade Secret Suit Against Mattel; SVP Sues Juul for 1 Million Contaminated Pods and more.
New Facebook Preventive-Health Tool Vows Strict Privacy Safeguards
The social media giant, Facebook, with the help of several high profile partners such as the American Cancer Society, the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has taken a step into preventive medicine by creating a tool that encourages users to get flu shots as well as appropriate cancer screenings and heart health tests. The goal of the tool is to save lives and this is an attempt to bring awareness and encourage preventive care. The users can access the tool by typing “preventive health” into their search bar.
The biggest hurdle for the success of this new product is the scrutiny the tech giant has been facing over its privacy practices and regain its consumers’ trust. Facebook has put up strict safeguards to protect the privacy of people who use that new tool. The tool requires its users to make and record decisions about their health care and accordingly be prompted with recommendations for preventive care.
The company has vowed not to share the data generated through the tool with third parties. Other Facebook users will not be able to see when people use this feature nor does it allow advertisers to target ads to users based on the information they share using the tool but the users might see targeted ads if they click through to another website or navigate away to like the page of a health care organization. The data from the tool will be accessible only to a subset of employees focused on keeping the feature functional.
The company plans on releasing the English language tool in Spanish as well.
Mis-handling of Data Leads to iPhone Update, Users can Now Delete Siri Recordings
Apple had earlier this year hired contractors to listen to a small percentage of Siri commands, some of which included personal details, drug deals and more under the pretext of running a Siri grading program.
The new iOS 13.2 features two major privacy related changes – Firstly, if users want their voice commands to be stored and saved, which enables Apple to “grade” the voice recognition to help improve the software, and Secondly, if users want to delete all Siri voice recordings that it has stored on its servers in the Siri section of the Settings app. Previously all users were opted in for the “grading program” by default. The “grading program” has been resumed and shall be performed by only Apple employees and not contractors.
Amazon and Google also use humans to improve reliability and accuracy in their voce assistants of which Google suspended its practice earlier this year.
Facebook to Pay Fine USD 644k for Role in the Cambridge Analytica Scandal
Facebook has agreed to pay a fine of USD 644k for failing to protect Facebook user’s data from being misused by Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy. As part of the agreement, Facebook had made no admission of liability.
The Cambridge Analytica controversy occurred when a third-party researcher used a ‘personality quiz’ to gather data about Facebook users, of which some of the data was shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytics, which was used to influence the 2016 US presidential elections. The data that was collected was not limited to those who took the quiz, it also included some data belonging to their Facebook friends. The scandal provoked widespread concern about Facebook’s approach to privacy.
Facebook Sues Israeli Company for WhatsApp Hack
Facebook filed a lawsuit in the Federal Court of San Francisco accusing an Israeli surveillance firm, NSO Group, for a WhatsApp hack that facilitated the governments to spy on more than 1,000 users across four continents and the targets included diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and senior government officials. In a statement WhatsApp stated that 100 civil society members had been targeted and that this is an unmistakable pattern of abuse.
The attack was made possible by a security vulnerability in the application which was later fixed.
NSO denies all allegations.
Dating Sites Under Scrutiny to Comply with Dutch Privacy Laws
Dating platforms such as Tinder, Happn, 50plusmatch, Parship and Paiq are in violation of Dutch privacy law according to the consumers association, Consumentenbond.
These dating platforms place tracking cookies without user permission that show other sites your browsing history and additionally, the privacy statements of the platforms are intentionally vague and these platforms don’t specify what data they collect, what they do with this data and who they share this information with except for e-Matching. Out of the ten dating platforms Consumentenbond investigated, five violate the General Data Protection Regulation.
The ten dating platforms Consumentenbond investigated were Badoo, e-Matching, Happn, Lexa, Paiq, Parship, Pepper, Relatie Planet, Tinder, 50plusmatch.
Happn, 50plusmatch and Paiq after this investigation by the consumers association have adjusted their cookies policy. Tinder and Parship have not.
Increase in Antitrust Scrutiny has Ramped Up Tech Firm Lobbying
Tech giants such as Facebook, Amazon and Apple are increasingly spending record high amounts this year on lobbying. Facebook has increased its expenditure by nearly 25% making it the second highest spender and Amazon has jumped up 16% making it the top lobbying outlay spender in 2019 among all companies. Apple boosted its expenditure by 8% and Microsoft 9%.
This rise in lobbying expenses is due to the rise in Antitrust investigations against Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google from the Federal Trade Commission, the Justice Department and state attorney general.
Female UK Politicians Support Meghan Against Press Coverage
72 female Members of Parliament in an open letter offered support to American actress and now Duchess of Sussex, Megan Markle. In this open letter the politicians wanted to express their solidarity with the Duchess by taking a stand against the distasteful, outdated, misleading, abusive, harassing, racist and sexist ways of the press. There have been claims made by Prince Harry that the owners of The Sun and The Daily Mirror have hacked his and his wife’s phones.
Earlier this month the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced that they filed a claim against Associated Newspapers and The Mail for unlawfully publishing a private letter. You can read more on it here.
Google’s Acquisition of Fitbit Requested to be Halted
Tom Whatson, the shadow digital, culture, media and sport secretary has written to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) requesting the halt of the acquisition of Fitbit by Google in the fear of data monopoly. He writes that these tech companies hold and gather an unprecedented amount of data on users which is then monetized through micro-targeting and advertising to amass huge profits and power while they are unaccountable and unregulated.
Google has made an offer to purchase the fitness tracking company for an undisclosed price.
Watson states that Fitbit stores physical health data for users, who track their activity. If this is acquisitioned by Google then Google will have information on how people sleep, when they move, what they eat and this sensitive data could be used for micro-targeting, advertising and in studies of behaviour modification. The risks to consumers are significant so such proposals should be subjected to the most rigorous possible scrutiny by the CMA.
The CMA has already announced a market study into whether or not Facebook and Google dominate online platforms and digital advertising.
Google has provided fitness tracking service, GoogleFit, since 2014 but has not offered its own hardware.
Zuckerberg Defends Controversial Purchase of Instagram
Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has publicly commented for the first time on Facebook’s decision to buy Instagram as the intensity of scrutiny over Facebook’s power and market dominance rises. Facebook is facing antitrust investigation from the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice and a coalition of 47 state attorney generals.
Zuckerberg stated that he believes the antitrust investigations that have been launched against Facebook is about acquisition of Instagram. Zuckerberg spoke about how at the time of purchase Instagram was not a competing platform but was seen as a complementary service to Facebook. While the critics accuse Facebook for quashing an up-and-coming competitor with its decision to buy Instagram that is popular with the younger generations.
The government investigations are likely to also look into Facebook’s acquisition of popular messaging app, WhatsApp.
LADOT’s Request for Bike Rider Data Denied by Uber
The Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) had sought the real time location data of the Uber electric bike riders and has threatened to suspend the company’s license to operate electric bike service, jump, unless it complies with its request.
Uber is filing a lawsuit in the Los Angeles Superior Court seeking a temporary restraining order against the suspension of its license as complying with the request will violate the expectation of data privacy and security of its customers.
ACCC Accuses Google of Misleading Users
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has filed a lawsuit against Google accusing it of misleading smartphone users about how personal location data is being collected and used. The matter is scheduled for a case management hearing on November 14th, 2019.
The ACCC said that Google did not inform its users of the Android Operating System’s option that allows users to switch off their information being shared with the company for two (2) years, Location History and Web and App Activity. The misleading information provided by Google, that personal data was not being obtained but in fact it was, caused users to make ill informed choices.
A Google spokeswoman said the company will defend the matter. This lawsuit is the first of many the ACCC is said to be pursuing to protect privacy and content sharing.
The Australian lawsuit against Google is seeking unspecified penalties and orders requiring the publication of corrective notices by Google.
Apple had Pre-suit Knowledge of Patents and Infringement
A patent infringement claim was filed by Maxell Ltd. against Apple Inc. based on its Maps and Find My Friends iPhone apps in the US District Court for Eastern District of Texas, Texarkana Division. Judge Robert W. Schroeder III in an Order held Apple to have knowledge of the ten (10) patents related to mobile device and their infringement. This Order granted in part and denied in part the Defendant’s motion to dismiss.
Apple’s argument that it wasn’t on notice of the alleged infringement failed. It was also held that advertising the benefits of the accused functionalities gives rise to reasonable inference that Apple intended to induce its customers to infringe that patent. Apple must defend the induced infringement claim even though it beat Maxell’s pre-suit claims for one of the patents.
Allergan Shells out USD 750 Million in an Antitrust Class Action Suit
Allergan, an Irish pharmaceutical company, has agreed to pay USD 750 million to direct and indirect purchasers of its Alzheimer’s disease medication Namenda to resolve a class action suit that alleged Allergan tried to prevent or delay entry of generic competitors. This class action was filed after the New York attorney general won a USD 172k settlement against Forest Laboratories.
The trail was scheduled to begin by the end of October, 2019.
AbbVie, an American publicly traded biopharmaceutical company, is in the process of acquiring Allergan. This settlement is beneficial to AbbVie as the acquisition transaction is in itself facing antitrust scrutiny.
MGA Seeking to Revive USD 1 Billion Trade Secret Suit Against Mattel
MGA Entertainment (Micro-Games America Entertainment), a children’s toys and entertainment manufacturer well known for its popular Bratz dolls, has asked a California state court of appeals to reinstate a recently filed trade secret lawsuit that a district court dismissed against Mattel Inc, an American multinational toy manufacturing company well known for its popular Barbie dolls, for having barred the three (3) year statute of limitations on bringing claims under Uniform Trade Secrets Act.
This is the latest development on the long-running legal battle between MGA and Mattel that began in 2004 with Mattel seeking damages from Carter Bryant who was a former employee of Mattel and who came up with the initial design for the Bratz doll.
SVP Sues Juul for 1 Million Contaminated Pods
Siddharth Breja, former global senior vice president of finance at Juul has filed a suit against the company at the US District Court for the Northern District of California. Breja has asked for a jury trial and is seeking injunctive relief with damages for violation of Fair Credit Reporting Act and California Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act, Wrongful termination in Violation of Public Policy, breach of Good Faith and Fair Dealing, Violation of California Business and Professional Code and Intentional infliction of Emotional Distress.
In said lawsuit Breja alleged that the company’s former CEO, Kevin Burns, knowing released into the market one (1) million mint-flavored e-cigarette nicotine pods that were contaminated and when he raised concerns about public safety he was unlawfully terminated from work.
Burns denies all allegations.
Authored and compiled by Snehaja Rana and Ashwini Arun (Associates, BananaIP Counsels)
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