Protego Press Weekly Roundup- September 25th, 2019

It’s the first week of Fall, and while that may bring cooler temperatures to most of the country, tech policy continues to stay red hot. This week’s tech policy news covers vaccine misinformation, election security, Facebook’s suspension of tens of thousands of apps, deep fakes, and consumer privacy across the globe… all of this and more in this week’s Protego Press Weekly Round Up.

In Case You Missed It: At a time when vaccine-preventable diseases are on the rise, vaccine misinformation has become a cause of concern to public health officials. And a 2018 study showed that a lot of anti-vaccine information is generated by malicious automated programs – known as bots – and online trolls. Now, Ana Santos Rutschman, Assistant Professor of Law at Saint Louis University, writes platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest are developing strategies to address anti-vaccine bots and to try to reduce their reach in the United States.

In Case You Missed It II: Maurice Turner with the Center for Democracy and Technology writes that late last week came a break in the logjam that has been the status of election security legislation in the U.S. Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in a pivot from his previous stance, voiced support for $250 million to be disbursed to states for election security improvements.However, Congress shouldn’t raise the “Mission Accomplished” banner on election security just yet. This money is just a down payment on the investment necessary to defend our elections beyond 2020. 

Facebook Deletes Apps: Facebook said Friday it has suspended “tens of thousands” of apps that may have mishandled users’ personal data, sparking fresh concerns about the tech giant’s privacy practices and exposing it to another potential standoff with U.S. regulators. The suspended apps vastly outnumber the hundreds that Facebook previously said it had taken action against in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. But the tech company gave little detail about what the apps had done wrong, or even the names of the apps, saying only that they were associated with about 400 developers and had been targeted for a “variety of reasons.” “Our review helps us to better understand patterns of abuse in order to root out bad actors among developers,” the company’s vice-president for product partnerships, Ime Archibong, said in a statement on Friday.

Indistinguishable Deep Fakes: A deepfake pioneer said in an interview with CNBC on Friday that “perfectly real” digitally manipulated videos are just six to 12 months away from being accessible to everyday people. Manipulated images and videos that appear “perfectly real” will be accessible to everyday people in “half-a-year to a year,” deepfake pioneer Hao Li said on CNBC on Friday.“It’s still very easy, you can tell from the naked eye most of the deepfakes,” Li, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Southern California, said on “Power Lunch.” “But there also are examples that are really, really convincing,” Li said, adding those require “sufficient effort” to create. He continued: “Soon, it’s going to get to the point where there is no way that we can actually detect [deepfakes] anymore, so we have to look at other types of solutions.”

Global Privacy Updates: Google won a landmark right to be forgotten case when the EU’s top court ruled that Google does not have to apply the right to be forgotten globally. It means the firm only needs to remove links from its search results in Europe – and not elsewhere – after receiving an appropriate request.  “Currently, there is no obligation under EU law, for a search engine operator who grants a request for de-referencing made by a data subject… to carry out such a de-referencing on all the versions of its search engine,” the European Court of Justice ruling said.

Meanwhile, a NYT article reported that The F.B.I. has used secret subpoenas to obtain personal data from far more companies than previously disclosed, newly released documents show. The requests, which the F.B.I. says are critical to its counterterrorism efforts, have raised privacy concerns for years but have been associated mainly with tech companies. Now, records show how far beyond Silicon Valley the practice extends — encompassing scores of banks, credit agencies, cellphone carriers and even universities.

And, in Kenya, a proposed law on the protection of personal data is a step towards promoting security of the country’s citizens, although they have to be correctly sensitized on its provisions to avoid negating its purpose, an expert said on Friday. Liz Orembo, a tech policy analyst at Kenya Information, Communication and Technology Action Network, said while the proposed data protection law gives authority to Kenyans to control use of their personal information, it is important they are aware of the freedoms and limits of invoking the law.

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