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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: 
Wired UK
Publication date: 
14-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Chris Baraniuk
Original story link: 

Sam Smith, a technologist at Privacy International, said the unencrypted data could hypothetically relate to any of Microsoft's cloud services, from Hotmail and Outlook.com email accounts to Xbox Live, Office 365 and SkyDrive cloud storage.

This response seems unlikely to reassure Smith who commented, "Unless Microsoft takes immediate action to rectify this situation, any business or individual using their services to store or transmit sensitive data will have been fundamentally let down by a brand that suggested it was worthy of trust."

Blog
Caroline Wilson Palow's picture

In a move that echoes strong action taken in the past by European officials to protect privacy, the Belgian and Dutch data protection authorities on Wednesday announced that they will begin an investigation into the security of the SWIFT financial system.

In the media
Publisher: 
BBC
Publication date: 
04-Nov-2013
Original story link: 

Privacy International Chair Anna Fielder speaks with BBC Newsnight about Tesco's plans to implement face-scanning technology in their stores.

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In the media
Publisher: 
Marketplace
Publication date: 
25-Oct-2013
Author(s): 
Stephen Beard
Original story link: 

Gus Hosein of the Privacy International campaign group says the revelations about Merkel’s mobile have made tougher restrictions on transatlantic data flows more likely. “Now that the heads of state from across Europe are targets for the National Security Agency, they’re going to start taking this matter a hell of a lot more seriously,” Hosein says.  

Blog
Caroline Wilson Palow's picture

*Update: The European Parliament has voted to recommend suspension of its Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP) agreement with the US. The vote in favour of suspension only highlights how the NSA’s reported activities have undermined the agreement. Negotiations should immediately commence to strengthen the privacy and redress provisions, to ensure that governments cannot spy on individuals and obtain their data in violation of the agreement. The recommended suspension of the agreement, however, does not change our position that Europeans are entitled to seek redress regarding the NSA’s breach since the alleged violations occurred while the agreement was still clearly in effect.


Amongst the recent blockbuster revelations of global government surveillance and espionage has emerged a quieter, less ostentatious story surrounding allegations that the NSA is gaining unauthorized access to the international financial messaging system, SWIFT.

In the media
Publisher: 
The Wired
Publication date: 
11-Oct-2013
Author(s): 
Liat Clark
Original story link: 

Not everyone is convinced though. Facebook has gone to great pains to describe how it will be better for everyone if this function is ousted, and that this announcement is really just for the benefit of "the small percentage of people still using the setting". But Mike Rispoli, spokesperson for Privacy International, suggests it is undermining a large chunk of its userbase with that thinking. "Facebook may try to minimise this change, saying that it will only affect a single-digit of their nearly 1.2 billion users, but that means anywhere from 12 to over a hundred million people now have less control over their own data and privacy."

In the media
Publisher: 
PC World
Publication date: 
05-Oct-2013
Author(s): 
Andreas Udo de Haes
Original story link: 

 Mike Rispoli of the London-based, nonprofit organization Privacy International said that such a complaint could be a good thing, since it would raise awareness of the issue with data protection agencies.

"When Yahoo announced this, experts warned about and predicted serious security and privacy issues. Yahoo downplayed these risks, and ignored these critics, but now we see these concerns were legitimate," Rispoli said.

In the media
Publisher: 
VICE UK
Publication date: 
01-Oct-2013
Author(s): 
Joseph Cox
Original story link: 

 "We have no set of rules for this yet – there is no convention on what happens and what can be done," Sam Smith from privacy-rights organisation Privacy International told me. "Can the police technically force you to unlock your phone if it’s fingerprinted? The police would argue that they can, but they don't get to unilaterally make the rules."

In the media
Publisher: 
Management Today
Publication date: 
25-Sep-2013
Author(s): 
Simon Caulkin
Original story link: 

But others think there's plenty to play for. Anna Fielder, chair of Privacy International, predicts the digital generation will lead a fightback using the net companies' own armoury. Until now, there hasn't been much money in counter-invasive technology, but she points out that 'privacy- enhancing technology' is now the hottest category in Silicon Valley venture capital circles. And some big net companies are cautiously beginning to talk up privacy to differentiate themselves from rivals.

In the media
Publisher: 
British Medial Journal
Publication date: 
11-Sep-2013
Author(s): 
Adrian O'Dowd
Original story link: 

Sam Smith, a technology adviser for campaigning organisation Privacy International, says: “I think patients are happy for their medical data from general patient records to be used by bona fide academic researchers in a university if they are asked.

However, he is concerned about the public’s lack of knowledge about NHS England’s plans for care.data: “It’s down to communication and the opt-out. Patients are entitled to opt out, but it’s being buried. NHS England, in the first place, did not want the opt-out at all.

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