Privacy Blog

"Friends don’t let friends get spied on.' – Richard Stallman, President of the Free Software Foundation and longtime advocate of privacy in technology.

Legal Affairs

GEDmatch Implements Required Opt-In for Law Enforcement Matching and Privacy Issues

GEDmatch is an open data personal genomics database and genealogy website founded in 2010 by Curtis Rogers and John Olson. Its main purpose is to help “amateur and professional researchers and genealogists,” including adoptees searching for birth parents. However, it recently has also become “the de facto DNA and genealogy database for all of law enforcement,” according to The Atlantic’s Sarah Zhang. GEDmatch recently gained a lot of publicity after […]

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Federal Agencies are Spending Millions to Hack into Locked Cell Phones

Your tax dollars at work: hacking into everyone’s private information stored in cell phones in order to spy on you and on everyone else. “A $1.2 million tab for iPhone hacking technology at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement underscores how pervasively law enforcement is cracking into passcodes and other security features Americans use to keep their information private.” Details may be found in an article by Joseph Marks in the […]

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Political Pressure Builds for FTC to Punish Facebook with more than a ‘Bargain’ Fine

From the Washington Post: “Two top Senate lawmakers on Monday expressed frustration with a federal probe into Facebook’s privacy practices, urging the government to move more swiftly and consider imposing tough punishments that target the company’s top executives. “The message — delivered by Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Republican Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.) — reflects the mounting political pressure on the Federal Trade Commission to deliver a strong rebuke […]

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Ancestry.com Sued for ‘Misleading’ Customers About DNA Data

Genealogy information provider Ancestry.com has a “longstanding practice” of failing to get sufficient informed consent agreements from customers who submit medical and DNA information, a new lawsuit alleges. Lori Collett sued the Utah-based company’s subsidiaries—Ancestry.com DNA LLC and Ancestry.com Inc.—for allegedly “misleading and deceiving patients in California and across the country about what Ancestry was actually doing with their DNA.” Bloomberg news has a brief radio report about the lawsuit […]

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The $5 Billion Fine Facebook Expects to Pay the FTC is a Joke — On All Of Us

Facebook has been caught yet again illegally harvesting the email contacts of 1.5 million users without users’ consent. The company is facing a $5 billion fine assessed by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Obviously, $5 billion is a lot of money for most everyone except Facebook. Facebook has $45 billion in cash and securities on hand and generates $5 billion in cash each quarter, even after investments in property and […]

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Fairfax County, Virginia Police can No Longer Maintain a Database of Photos of Vehicle License Plates because of Privacy Laws

A Fairfax County judge on Monday ordered the Fairfax County police to stop maintaining a database of photos of vehicle license plates, with the time and location where they were snapped, ruling that “passive use” of data from automated license plate readers on the back of patrol cars violates Virginia privacy law. Details may be found in an article by Tom Jackman in the Washington Post at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/crime-law/2019/04/02/judge-orders-fairfax-police-stop-collecting-data-license-plate-readers.

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Facebook has been Charged with Housing Discrimination by the US Government

Is there no end to Facebook’s illegal activities? The Department of Housing and Urban Development has filed charges against Facebook for housing discrimination, escalating the company’s ongoing fight over discrimination in its ad targeting system. The charges build on a complaint filed in August, finding that there is reasonable cause to believe Facebook has served ads that violate the Fair Housing Act.

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