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CDT Withdraws from the NTIA Facial Recognition Process

CDT and several other consumer advocacy organizations have participated in the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) multistakeholder process to design a code of conduct for the use of facial recognition technology. Today, those consumer groups have announced that we are withdrawing from this process because we do not believe that it is likely to lead to sufficient consumer safeguards for facial recognition technology.

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House Oversight Committee Questions FTC’s Enforcement Practices

The FTC’s case seemed straightforward enough: it’s not a good idea to install file-sharing software on computers that hold unencrypted medical records. That’s what LabMD, a Georgia-based medical testing facility, was accused of doing in a 2013 FTC complaint. Most companies typically settle with the Federal Trade Commission to avoid the costs of protracted litigation (and because they typically don’t have to pay any fines given the FTC’s lack of penalty authority). However, LabMD thought they were being unfairly picked on — they argue the FTC should be suing the file-sharing software maker, LimeWire, instead — so they made the FTC take them to court.

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Facebook Responds to User Demands for Control

Earlier today Facebook announced Anonymous Login — a way to use Facebook to log into third-party apps and services without sharing your personal Facebook information with those apps and services. It’s no secret that people are increasingly worried about their online privacy, so it’s heartening to see companies respond with new tools to limit the dissemination of their personal information.

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Some Progress on Do Not Track

Today, the Tracking Protection Working Group — the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) group standardizing the “Do Not Track” privacy setting — hit a huge milestone. After three and a half years of effort, the Working Group has agreed to advance the Tracking Preference Expression (TPE) specification to Last Call status. Moving to Last Call is a big deal — it means that the Working Group thinks that the specification is complete and ready for review by the larger community. We’re seeking feedback from the outside world to see if there are technical problems we’ve missed.

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State Attorneys General: Evading Privacy Settings is Illegal

Earlier this week, 37 state attorneys general announced a $17 million settlement with Google for placing third-party cookies on Safari browsers in violation of Safari’s privacy settings. These allegations aren’t new — privacy researcher Jonathan Mayer uncovered this practice over two years ago, and the Federal Trade Commission has already reached its own $22.5 million settlement with the company for the same behavior. Usually, I don’t like seeing states expend time and effort to replicate cases that the FTC has already prosecuted (and vice versa). There’s no shortage of potential privacy investigations out there; why retread the same ground?

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Progress Made Revising EU Data Privacy Laws

For the past few years, European policymaking institutions have been working to revise the European Union’s data privacy laws. Last month that effort took a significant step forward as the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee of the European Parliament voted on and passed new legislative text on a General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Developing consensus text was by itself a Herculean task, as various and diverse members and committees had proposed thousands of amendments. The bill still has a number of hurdles to clear before it becomes law, but this vote was an important (and positive) step.

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Facebook’s Going to Let Teens Share With the World. Should They?

Earlier this week, Facebook announced that they were going to allow teenagers on the site to share photos, status updates, and the like publicly instead of just with friends (or friends of friends). My initial reaction was mostly indifference given that teens (and really, kids too) already have the ability to share with the world on dozens of other sites. However, Facebook, despite increasing competition is still the world’s leading social network, and it was initially premised on sharing exclusively within narrow social circles. Over the past couple of days, I’ve wondered if there’s an argument for Facebook exceptionalism, such that they should continue to prohibit teens from publishing their thoughts and experiences to the world? Or should other services do more to limit what teenagers can do online?

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Helping to Finalize Do Not Track

Earlier today, during the W3C’s weekly Do Not Track call, it was announced that I’m going to be one of the new co-chairs of the Tracking Protection Working Group, along with Carl Cargill from Adobe. Having discussed this at length with the two previous chairs — Aleecia McDonald and Peter Swire — I harbor no illusions that this is going to be an easy job. However, I strongly believe that users deserve tools to control how their personal information is collected and used, and that Do Not Track can ultimately be configured to protect privacy while preserving the third-party advertising ecosystem.

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Mozilla Says Enough is Enough

This weekend, the online advertising industry woke up to a bombshell that will fundamentally change their business: Mozilla’s Firefox web browser will no longer let ad networks set cookies on user devices. As a result, ad networks will have a much harder time tracking…

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