Privacy International is condemning Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s party for its hiring of Western data firm Cambridge Analytica to sway his re-election bid. The firm is also tied to the election of Donald Trump and Brexit. Cambridge Analytica occupies an entire floor of a building owned by Kenyatta’s coalition, and it ties data such as income, health status, political opinions, websites visited, and hobbies to individual-level voter registration records. Cambridge Analytica also creates psychometric profiles, essentially a quantification of personality: i.e. how neurotic or extroverted someone is. These data are used to target political advertising to the individual, possibly resulting in psychological manipulation or campaigns of misinformation (fake news?). Privacy International argues that this individual profiling is especially dangerous in Kenya, where ethnicity remains extremely political. Kenya also has no data protection laws, or rules governing how data are collected, stored, and accessed, leaving this voter database, and those in it, vulnerable. Privacy International is asking Cambridge Analytica to provide information on their risk assessment of mass data profiling in Kenya and how it will protect data privacy.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats promised at his confirmation hearing to obtain and reveal the number of Americans affected by NSA surveillance. At a hearing this week before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Coats reversed course on this, claiming that it is infeasible to provide such an estimate. He argued that revealing this statistic would potentially violate privacy by verifying subject identities [I don’t follow…]. Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which is used to justify “upstream” mass collection of email and phone call data, is set to expire this year. The Trump administration is looking to make this surveillance statute permanent. In a strange twist, NSA Director Mike Rogers argued this week that Section 702 surveillance allowed the NSA to generate “insights” on Russian interference with the 2016 election [what are those insights?].
A nice little piece on the surveillance economy appeared in the New York Times Magazine this week. Whereas I’ve usually considered data to be the currency in the big data economy, this piece frames privacy as what we’re trading in when we surf the Internet. Writer Amanda Hess cites many of the jarring privacy news items of this month, year, and decade: the revelation of Unroll.Me’s sale of inbox Lyft receipts to Slice Intelligence and Uber, the attribution of porn-related Reddit comments to a man in a red sweater who asked a question during a presidential debate, and remarks from Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) on internet privacy: “Nobody’s got to use the internet.” [Not true.].
Hess remarks on how privacy wasn’t always viewed so positively, and how in ancient Greece, sticking to the private realm, “idion,” meant that citizens were not adequately engaging in public life. Her main argument about privacy as luxury is that celebrities and other high-profile individuals (see Zuckerberg, Trump, Spicer, and Hannity) request and obtain privacy, while it is denied from those who can’t pay for it. This results in an inversion of the history of privacy, which belonged to the humble lower class, or “common” people.
The “You Betrayed Us” campaign, organized by the activist group Fight for the Future, began rolling out billboards May 3rd, calling attention to political representatives who reversed FCC privacy rules. A recent congressional vote gave ISPs wide latitude to sell your internet browsing data without your knowledge or consent, throwing aside protective FCC regulations. It is widely argued by privacy advocates that vague claims to “free market interests” by legislators supported by large telecom company payments come only to the advantage of these companies and to the detriment of most Americans.
The Verge has a nice list of the 265 lawmakers who “sold you out to internet ISPs.”
Source: The Verge
Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed a joint resolution under the Congressional Review Act to block FCC rules issued last year which would have required opt-in consent from consumers before selling web browsing history. The legislation states that the rules shall have no force or effect and bars the FCC from issuing similar regulations. All Democrats voted in favor of the privacy rules in a 215:205 House vote, while most Republicans voted against them. Republicans advocate that jurisdiction in these matters go to the Federal Trade Commission.