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Issue

Consumer Protection

Corporations are collecting unprecedented levels of personal information on consumers – companies now know more about their customers than governments could ever dream of knowing about their citizens.

Companies that collect and sell personal information make up one of the most lucrative industries in the world, and marketplace dynamics pose serious threats to consumer privacy. There have been several recent cases of 'races to the bottom', in which companies compete with each other to collect more and more valuable data on their users and customers. Certain companies are leading the charge with abusive and invasive profiling of data and innovative new methods of grabbing information from seemingly innocuous interactions. These practices tend to create short-term competitive disadvantages for the privacy-friendly companies, although in the long-term customer loyalty and goodwill may prove more valuable.

It is crucial to raise awareness amongst consumers about the commercial surveillance to which they are subjected on a daily basis, in order to all them to make better-informed decisions about whether or not to share personal information with certain companies. Equally, companies need to be more open about why they collect information and how it is processed.

We monitor industry practices and advocate for change when we see a downward spiral beginning. We often seek regulatory action against new business models and practices that pose significant risks to privacy principles or that risk setting dangerous precedents. We also work with companies to help them understand the risks of their products and services.

Consumer Protection

In the media
Publisher: 
PC Pro
Publication date: 
27-Mar-2014
Author(s): 
Stewart Mitchell
Original story link: 

"The reason tagging services like this are problematic is that by default companies switch on these functions for their users when it should be the other way around," Mike Rispoli, communications manager at Privacy International told PC Pro.

"Anyone who's using Twitter, you shouldn't be automatically opted in, you should be able to choose to participate in it, not the other way around."
 

In the media
Publisher: 
Muktware
Publication date: 
26-Mar-2014
Author(s): 
Sahil Kalloli
Original story link: 

According to Dr. Richard Tynan, technologist with Privacy International, “…without the ability of the security community to examine the baseband software of the new Ubuntu Phone, the open-source nature of the remaining element may provide no more assurances than other open-source phone operating systems such as Android.”

In the media
Publisher: 
Channel 4 News
Publication date: 
25-Mar-2014
Author(s): 
Geoff White
Original story link: 

Privacy International's Mike Rispoli speaks with Channel 4 News about how shopping centres can track where shoppers go and what shops they visit, through their phones.

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
Network World
Publication date: 
24-Mar-2014
Author(s): 
Bryan Lunduke
Original story link: 

Richard Tynan, writing for PrivacyInternational.org, recently pointed out that the baseband – the firmware in a cellphone that does the actual "communicate with the cellular network" side of things – in Ubuntu-powered phones will remain closed source (and highly proprietary). ... This is, to say the least, a bummer. And Richard Tynan makes the point that this is a missed opportunity for Canonical to have required an Open Source baseband on the phones that ship with Ubuntu.

In the media
Publisher: 
Firedog Lake
Publication date: 
21-Mar-2014
Author(s): 
Jane Hamsher
Original story link: 

According to Dr. Richard Tynan, Technologist with Privacy International, “without the ability of the security community to examine the baseband software of the new Ubuntu Phone, the open-source nature of the remaining element may provide no more assurances than other open-source phone operating systems such as Android.”

Blog
Alexandrine Pirlot's picture

Big data consists mainly of data that is openly available, created and stored. It includes public sector data such as national health statistics, procurement and budgetary information, and transport and infrastructure data. While big data may carry benefits for development initiatives, it also carries serious risks, which are often ignored. In pursuit of the promised social benefits that big data may bring, it is critical that fundamental human rights and ethical values are not cast aside.

Expanding beyond publicly accessible data

Along with other humanitarian organisations and UN agencies, one key advocate and user of big data is the UN Global Pulse, launched in 2009 in recognition of the need for more timely information to track and monitor the impacts of global and local socio-economic crises. This innovative initiative explores how digital data sources and real-time analytics technologies can help policymakers understand human well-being and emerging vulnerabilities in real-time, in order to better protect populations from shocks.

In the media
Publisher: 
Pink News
Publication date: 
09-Jan-2014
Original story link: 

Mike Rispoli, Communications Manager of Privacy International told PinkNews: ”Just because it is information that can be accessed, it is unjustifiable for this company to collect and share information without my consent. People make choices every day about what they share, to whom, and on what platforms. On one site, I may share my sexual orientation, but not my political beliefs. On another, maybe I’ll share the school I attended but not my home address. In the end, its about our choice and agency over what information we give out. Companies like NameTag that want to aggregate all this information and combine it with deeply-invasive technology like facial recognition software without our permission completely expose all of us to any stranger on the street.”

Blog
Alexandrine Pirlot's picture

Just a few weeks ago, thousands of Argentinians had their privacy rights violated when the country’s electoral registration roll, which had been made available online, experienced a major leak of personal data following the presidential election.

Despite some early warnings on the weaknesses of the system, the government did nothing to fix the situation, allowing serious technical flaws in an online system to persist and refusing to respond to the crisis, further jeopardising public trust in the system.

Opinion piece
Carly Nyst's picture

The following was a speech given by Carly Nyst, Head International Adovacy, at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, Geneva on 3 December

The internet and innovations in technologies have opened up previously unimagined possibilities for communication, expression, and empowerment. New technologies have become essential enablers of the enjoyment of human rights, from the right to education, to participation, to access to information. Today, the internet is not only a place where rights are exercised, it is in itself a guarantor of human rights.

At the same time, changes in technologies have given rise to increased opportunities for State interferences with human rights, particularly the rights to privacy and free expression. Even the world’s most longstanding democratic States have obtained the technical capacity to conduct country-wide internet monitoring, tracking and surveillance. Today, as the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression observed in his report presented to the Human Rights Council in June 2013, “the State now has a greater capability to conduct simultaneous, invasive, targeted and broad-scale surveillance than ever before.”

Blog
Anna Fielder's picture

We, and other privacy advocates, have criticised the poor provisions of the so-called Safe Harbour agreement, which allows free transfers of personal information from European countries to companies in the United States that have signed up and promise to abide by its Principles. Now the European Commission, prompted by the recent mass surveillance scandals, has published an investigation into this agreement which provides overwhelming evidence that it is not fit for purpose. It urges the US authorities, with a number of concrete recommendations, to get their act together by next summer.

We welcome the recommendations but believe they just stick a plaster on an open wound. The only longterm solution is for US companies to respect EU privacy laws when handling EU citizen data or, better still, for the US to implement strong data protection laws for the benefit of all.

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