Category: USA

USA: Is the government able to require users to unlock smartphones via fingerprints?

25. May 2016

Most of the market leaders in smartphone manufacturing have been developing fingerprint sensors as a security measure in order to protect the smartphone against unauthorized access. However, legal complications might force them to reconsider this security measure.

As NBC reported, a woman in California was compelled by a search warrant to unlock her iPhone via fingerprint in February. Some experts say, that this falls in a legal gray area.

Although it has not been clarified why the FBI wanted the iPhone of the woman in California, as the search warrant did not specify the reason the FBI wanted access to the phone, only that it was granted. The smartphone, however, was found in the home of the boyfriend, who is a suspected gang member, as the Los Angeles Times reported in April.

Is there a difference in opening the smartphone via passcode and via fingerprint?

Neil Richards, a privacy law professor at Washington University, said that opening the smartphone with a passcode violates the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, whereas the use of a fingerprint provides law enforcement some legal cover. He went on “Most people don’t draw a distinction between a fingerprint and a password, but the law does”.  The problem is due to the fact that the laws have been made before smartphones were invented. According to the respected law, it is allowed to collect physical evidence during the course of an arrest, such as DNA evidence or fingerprints. Therefore, typing a passcode, for example 1-2-3-4, in order to access a smartphone counts as testimonial whereas the fingerprint sensor that also opens the smartphone, only with biometric data instead of a password, can be seen as physical evidence.

Due to the fact that eight people are killed and 1,161 are injured every day in the USA as a result of distracted driving, there is the discussion to implement a test for texting while driving. As the New York times reported that the state legislature considers roadside tests called the Textalyzer. Police officers would be able to plug a cellphone into a laptop and determine if it was used while driving. However, in case a police officer looks at the content of a phone the Textalyzer could cause a number of privacy problems.

Richards concluded “They’re going to start thinking twice about nudging people toward just using fingerprints. It is secure against private parties, but under current law, it’s not as secure against the government.”

 

Category: USA
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Update EU-U.S. Privacy Shield: Article 31 needs more time to consider the implications of the proposal

23. May 2016

On the 19th May, the Article 31 Committee, made up of representatives of the EU Member States, met in order to discuss the implications of the proposed draft of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield. The Article 31 was created in order to reach decisions that require the approval of the EU Member States according to the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC. This is the case, for example of the adoption of adequacy decisions, such as Safe Harbor in the past or the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield currently.

Article 31 concluded that it needed more time to reach a decision about the proposal. Moreover, a source of the Commission affirmed that further meetings in May and early June will take place. Also, the recommendations of the Article 29 WP are being taken into consideration before reaching a decision.

The decision of the Article 31 is expected by the end of June. The EU-U.S. Privacy Shield can be only adopted if a qualified majority of 16 Member States representing 65 percent of the EU population votes for the adoption of the Privacy Shield.

Until a decision is reached, Standard Contractual Clauses and Binding Corporate Rules can still be used to carry out international data transfers on a legal basis.

Twitter blocks U.S. Intelligence Agencies from Dataminr service

10. May 2016

Dataminr is used as a tool that analyzes and traces social media posts and notifies users about breaking news in real time, such as the terror attack in Brussel´s airport in March. This analysis is carried out by using key words, patterns, or geotags.

Twitter, that owns 5% of Dataminr, has now blocked U.S. intelligence services from its Dataminr service, in order not to appear to support the surveillance activities of the U.S. Intelligence services.

Dataminr services where used by the American Government in 2013 to detect any risks on the inauguration of U.S. President Obama´s second term. However, it is not clear how Dataminr provided this service to the U.S. Intelligence services, as Twitter´s privacy policy prohibits selling its data to governmental agencies.

Category: General · USA
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U.S. House of Representatives passes Email Privacy Bill

29. April 2016

The U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously on Wednesday about the Email Privacy Bill. The bill aims at updating the current Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) from 1986. Under the ECPA, U.S. Authorities can access email communications directly from service providers with just a subpoena, if data is more than 180 old. However, under the new Email Privacy Act, they will need furthermore a warrant to access emails or other electronic communications no matter how old they are.

Currently, access to electronic communications from U.S. authorities is being subject to debate at an international level. Specially, after some weeks ago the FBI requested Apple to develop a software that allows to extract data from an iPhone device that belonged to the San Bernardino terrorist.

The Email Privacy Bill will have to be voted by the Senate, but the position of the upper chamber towards the bill is still not clear.

Category: USA
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Data from dating website stolen and sold

28. April 2016

As BBC just reported the data of more than a million members of the dating website www.beauftifulpeole.com has been sold online. The traded data not only included the weight, height, job, and phone numbers of members but further more income, sexual preferences, smoking and drinking habits and relationship status. The firm stated that the data belonged to members, who joined before July 2015 and that no passwords or financial information were included.

The data has now been sold on the online black market, said security expert Troy Hunt, an Australian security expert, who runs the website HaveIBeenPwned.com, where people can verify whether their data has been leaked. Although he does not know exactly where or for how much money the data was sold, he stated that by selling data tens of thousands of dollars can be earned, bearing in mind that the data originally can cost as little as $300.

Chris Vickery, security researcher, told the BBC that the affected company acted quickly after notifying them that he had discovered it. However, the data had then already been sold. He went on by saying that “they published it openly to the world with no protection whatsoever”. This is a contradiction to the company’s statement that the content was from a test server. Therefore, Vickery added that “whether or not it’s in the test database makes no difference if it’s real data”. His analysis is further supported as a second researcher had identified the same weakness on the same day.

However in a statement BeautifulPeople said that “the breach involves data that was provided by members prior to mid-July 2015. No more recent user data or any data relating to users who joined from mid-July 2015 onward is affected”.

David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab commented on the stolen and sold data by summarizing “now it’s public, cybercriminals have the opportunity to use this information to steal personal identities or more” and added “unfortunately, once a breach of this nature has been made, there is not much that can be done.”

Emm went by giving the advise that “organisations need to take action and use more data, analytical insights and triangulation of multiple-identity proofing techniques to minimise the potential effects of identity theft for both the user and the businesses serving them”.

 

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FBI paid probably more than 1 Million for cracking San Bernardino iPhone

26. April 2016

NBC News reports that FBI Director James Comey might have disclosed how much the agency spent for cracking the iPhone of the San Bernardino attackers.

Comey commented on the case so that the organization paid “a lot, more than I will make in the remainder of this job, which is seven years and four months, for sure” at a security conference in London. He went on that it “was in my view worth it” and that the FBI will now be able to crack any other iPhone 5s with IOS 9 by using the developed software.

Based on this given timeframe and by multiplying his salary of $180,000 per year, NBC News comes to a figure of $1.3 million. However, there was no official comment on part of the FBI.

Category: USA
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Tech coalitions write open letter over US bill banning encryption

21. April 2016

A Tech group just wrote an open letter to US Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein, concerning their bill requiring all encryption to be breakable on command.

The mentioned letter starts by saying “We write to express our deep concerns about well-intentioned but ultimately unworkable policies around encryption that would weaken the very defenses we need to protect us from people who want to cause economic and physical harm.” and goes on by pointing out “unintended consequences”.

Reform Government Surveillance, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, the Internet Infrastructure Coalition, and the Entertainment Software Association have signed the letter. Those four represent most of the major internet and tech companies such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Netflix and Verisign.

At the same time an US survey from ACT concludes that 93 percent of peole being asked answered it is important that their data is secured and that 92 percent of people being asked support strong encryption on their devices.

 

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Criticism at Google’s ‘right to be forgotten’ position

20. April 2016

The New York Times reports that crisicism is raised among European data protection regulators and politicians on Google’s secretive process for deciding whose “right to be forgotten” cases end with a stricken link and whose do not. The lack of the company’s transparency is not the only concern regarding how a private organization has autonomy in these cases instead of the government. Furthermore, Google has ruled on double the amount of national authorities’ privacy judgments. “If Europe really wanted to regain control over personal data, giving Google this type of power is an odd outcome,” concluded Oxford University’s Luciano Floridi.

The criticism is also raised as a result of a general growing discontent from both European regulators and politicians due to the fact that national data protection agencies sometimes lack the financial, technical and human resources to handle the substantial increase of “right to be forgotten” requests, according to regulatory officials and legal experts.

Category: EU · USA
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Article 29 WP releases its opinion on the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield

14. April 2016

The Article 29 WP, represented by the DPAs from the EU Member States, issued yesterday its opinion on the proposed draft of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield.

Background

Under the Safe Harbor framework, personal data transfers from the EU to the U.S. have been carried out since the year 2000. In October 6th, 2015, the ECJ declared this framework invalid, as it considered that it did not ensure enough safeguards regarding the protection of personal data from EU citizens. In February 2016, the EU Commission and several American Authorities drafted the new framework that shall replace the Safe Harbor Agreement. The draft has been now analyzed by the EU DPAs, who remark the necessity to clear and define some concepts.

Critical aspects of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield identified by the Article 29 WP

The Article 29 WP does not believe that, in general terms, the current draft of the Privacy Shield ensures a level of data protection equivalent to that in the EU. The most relevant aspects of the published document could be summarized as follows:

  • Data retention periods are not defined in any of the principles of the framework. This means that companies could keep personal data even if they do not renew their Privacy Shield membership. This contravenes the principle of data retention limitation according to EU data protection legislation.
  • The scope and definition of the purpose limitation concept is described under the notice, the choice and the data integrity and purpose limitation principles. However, in each of these principles is the purpose limitation principle differently defined, what leads to an inconsistent definition of this concept.
  • Also the concept of onward transfers has been critically analyzed by the Article 29 WP. Under this principle, Privacy Shield members may legitimately carry out data transfers to third parties. This involves the risk that the recipient of the data does not ensure the same level of data protection as stipulated according to the EU data protection legislation.
  • The redress mechanism available for EU data subjects may be too complex for the data subjects themselves. The Article WP29 recommends that the local DPAs represent the data subjects or act as intermediaries so that they can exercise their rights in Europe.
  • Finally, the Privacy Shield includes certain guarantees regarding the surveillance activities by U.S. authorities. However, the massive collection of personal data from EU citizens is not fully excluded. Regarding this, the institution of the Ombudsman has been created. According to the Article 29 WP, its functions and legitimation are not sufficiently defined.

The Working Party has requested the EU Commission to clarify these aspects and adopt the corresponding solutions, so that the Privacy Shield ensures an equivalent level of data protection to that in the EU. Particularly, it has recommended to introduce a glossary of terms in the “Privacy Shield FAQ” and a review of the Privacy Shield draft after the GDPR becomes effective, in order to ensure that the Privacy Shield reflects the level of protection reached by the GDPR.

What next?

Since the opinion of the Article 29 WP is not binding, the EU Commission could proceed further with the approval of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield. However, it will consult a Committee of representatives of the EU Member States before issuing its final decision. Until a final decision is reached, the mechanisms to carry out international data transfers are limited to Binding Corporate Rules and Standard Contractual Clauses.

Opinion of the Article 29WP on the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield “leaked” by the German DPAs

12. April 2016

After the details of the draft of the new adequacy decision to carry out international data transfers between the EU and the U.S. have been released (“EU-U.S. Privacy Shield”), the Article 29 WP is expected to express its opinion on the proposed text within this week.

On the 6th and 7th April the German DPAs meet to discuss current privacy topics, among others about the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield. A link to the resolution related to this topic was uploaded in the webpages of each federal DPA. The link to the resolution was deleted afterwards. However, a permanent link to the resolution (in German) can be found under https://www.delegedata.de/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Beschluss_Mandat_Privacy_Shield.pdf.

The resolution of the German DPAs seems to refer to the current draft of the Article 29WP on the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield:

“Therefore, the WP29 is not yet in a position to confirm that the current draft adequacy decision does, indeed, ensure a level of protection that is essentially equivalent to that in the EU.”

This paragraph suggests that the European DPAs may not release a positive opinion on the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield.

Although the opinion of the Article 29 WP is not binding for the EU Commission, the Article 29 WP may initiate legal actions through the local DPAs against the adequacy decision if it is approved, as stated in paragraph 4 of the above mentioned resolution.

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