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Data privacy: A right or infringement of freedom?

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We are living in an age of technology where most of our personal information is online. Many of us do not even realise the extent of data security challenges. We see so many privacy notices even when we simply browse through various websites or sign up for a simple day to day app. We are asked to agree to privacy policies of the vendor by a mere click of the mouse while we are in a hurry to complete the download.

Data privacy and protection has always been very important. However, with the increasing reliance on technology for literally everything, the importance of data privacy and protection for all stakeholders and the consumers cannot be overemphasised. 

Data security refers to ensuring that no unauthorised access to the data is made. When unauthorised access is attempted or made, remedies to address this situation are covered under data protection.

Data privacy is needed at every step. How the data is collected, stored, shared with other parties and what are the regulatory requirements to safeguard the data, are important factors to ensure we as consumers are protected. To achieve this, around the world various laws and regulations exist and more have been promulgated over the last many years.  

Data protection policy can use a prescriptive vs outcome based approach. For the Prescriptive approach, a good example is General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) where a set of guidelines are prescribed and their compliance is expected. Outcome based approach refers to overseeing the data protection practices used by a company and then evaluating how good it worked. 

One of the most comprehensive regulations on the subject of data security and protection is the GDPR by the European Union. There are also dedicated bodies like the European Data Protection Board and Data Protection Authorities in EU member states. Although GDPR is very detailed in nature, it primarily emphasises explicit consent before collection of data, allowing an option for the consumer to revoke their consent, and even require their data to be forgotten and can request a copy of the data. The highlight of GDPR is that it is based on the recognition of data privacy as a fundamental human right. It provides a broader umbrella of law for EU member countries. 

Situation is quite different in the US. Instead of approaching privacy as a fundamental right, focus is more on the protection of data once it’s collected. Some even argue that data is more easily available for profit rather than for government and for the uses people would not want it to be used. Although in the US Constitution there is no specific mention of data privacy, the courts have interpreted that constitution along with the Bill of Rights to ensure protection of everyone’s rights. However, in many cases it’s considered limited to protections related to data collected by the government.  

The Privacy Act of 1974 offers protection to the information collected by federal agencies.  Since in the US there is not a single comprehensive data privacy law for everyone, there are different regulations based on the State or sector. HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) is one of them that protects patient’s data and health information shared with health professionals. 

Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act 1999 is another such example through which consumers’ non-public privacy information is collected for its use in the financial industry. To safeguard interest of minors, Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act 2000 was the first step at regulating the collection of personal information from them.

The Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914 is a law which keeps a check on companies from engaging in “unfair or deceptive acts or practices”. This law has been used for enforcement actions where companies are found violating their privacy policy announcements or collecting information through unfair practices and where they do not protect unauthorised access to the collected data. However, it does not authorise the regulatory body to make policies and practices and require companies to comply. If a company has no clearly defined and announced policy on data privacy and protection, they cannot be held responsible under this law as there is no deception practiced. 

Despite these laws and regulations, there are gaps, grey areas and absence of a comprehensive law leads to loopholes. There is added financial and operational cost of compliance when companies have to ensure compliance with so many different requirements.  

In the US, data privacy is not recognised as a fundamental right given free speech rights. Some states have enacted comprehensive consumer data privacy laws in the US. More and more states are bringing laws about data protection. More than 120 countries around the world have data primacy laws.  

The Californian Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the Massachusetts Data Protection Act are two strong examples. There are some common points between CCPA and GDPR as both provide consumers the right to access, the right to delete, and the right to opt-out of processing at any time. However, there are some points of difference. CCPA does not allow consumers a right to correct or rectify incorrect personal data while the GDPR does. CCPA does not require explicit consent; rather only a privacy notice is made available on the website informing consumers they have a right to opt-out of certain data collection whereas GDPR provides this right. 

Source: Complete Guide to Privacy Laws in the US

In the US a need is felt to harmonise the state and federal laws to remove redundancies. There should be institutional protection and layers of protection so the loopholes can be avoided. 

It is more important that individuals around the world are provided more information, better choices and control to explicitly allow companies if they can collect, store, and use their personal data. 

There should be incentives for data privacy and protection compliant companies. 

International economic organisations have introduced data privacy guidelines to regulate the transfer of personal data across borders. Such examples include Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum. However it is important to remember that companies should ensure they have their own stringent policies which ensure compliance with laws in the home country as well as the foreign markets where they operate. More and more countries have adopted their own data protection laws and free heavens are disappearing. China has recently issued a very comprehensive data protection law which is geared towards enhancing protection for its citizens. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Politics

Digital Authoritarianism – A Growing Challenge to The World Press Freedom

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Press and electronic media have been an active source of propagation of the discourse be it political, social, or religious. They make it easier for a piece of information to reach the common masses and thus it is crucial for the governments to control them to keep insuring the creation of “us” and “them” division in the society.  But this control has become a challenge for a free and independent press. Digital authoritarianism, cyber surveillance, and monitoring of political and social activities of people through media have made it difficult for the people of the present age and time to have freely expressed their opinion and easier for the governments to control the information.

While China has been controlling the influx of information and the regulation of ideologies in the country through a great fire, Other countries are joining in too with their measure to increase cyber-surveillance. Internet shutdowns are one of the tools for asserting digital authoritarianism and according to a survey conducted by a non-profit digital rights organization Access now, the year 2021 experienced 182 events of Internet shutdowns around the world.

The shutdowns measures were taken to contribute to the growing political tensions in the respective regions for example, during the coup in Maynmar, and to influence the geopolitical situation in Eastern Europe, specifically Russia. Similarly, while Africa experienced an epidemic of coups in the year 2021, the number of internet shutdowns reached 19.

 India which claims to be the “world’s largest democracy” imposed an internet shutdown more than a hundred times in the year 2021 and more than half of them were on the already repressed people of Jammu and Kashmir.

While Russia became the only country in Europe to impose an internet shutdown in 2021, in the year 2022, the Russia and Ukraine war has forced other EU countries to ban the access to Russia Today, Sputnik other information sites regulated by Russia calling it a measure against “the war propaganda.” Similarly, since the beginning of the conflict, Russia has imposed new internet laws in the country to monitor the spread of news restricting the use of global applications like Instagram and Facebook.  

The more recent rerouting of the internet traffic of occupied Ukrainian regions to be redirected through Russian cyber routes. Netblocks, an internet observatory, noted that: “Connectivity on the network has been routed via Russia’s internet instead of Ukrainian telecoms infrastructure and is hence likely now subject to Russian internet regulations, surveillance, and censorship.”

However, while countries around the world are being exposed to exerting digital dominance, and being accused to collect user data for their own benefit, it is becoming a challenge for them to create “democracy-affirming technologies” to combat the digital authoritarianism that has been challenging the world’s press freedom around the world.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Society

Sexualized Child Images “Meet Community Guidelines” on Instagram

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Instagram has come under a lot of heat, and rightly so, for not removing accounts that showed pictures of children in swimwear or partial clothing attracting loads of sexualized comments even after such accounts were reported via the in-app reporting tool. 

The above-mentioned tool allows users to flag accounts that have suspicious activity which is then reviewed by the system’s automated moderation technology, which in this case ruled such concerning accounts as “acceptable” and conforming to “community guidelines” resulting in such accounts remaining live.

An independent researcher challenged this and reported one such concerning account to Instagram using the in-app reporting tool, only to be met with a response tagged with a phrase many of us a too familiar with i.e., “due to the high volume of reports” submitted it can not view the report but the “(automated) technology has found that this account probably doesn’t go against our community guidelines”. The said account, with more than 33,000 followers remained live the whole day.

All this while Instagram’s parent company, Meta, as do other social media companies claims an approach that has zero tolerance towards child exploitation – claims that remain unsubstantiated by their actions/policies.

Instagram is not alone in failing to effectively handle this issue. Twitter has many similar accounts often known as “tribute pages”. This is evident from the example of this one account which was ruled not to be breaking twitter’s rules after being reported through the in-app reporting tool despite posting pictures of a man performing sexual acts with images of a 14-year-old TikTok underage influencer. Other tweets from the same account reading “looking to trade some younger stuff” were also seemingly not concerning enough, until it was publicly called out by a campaign group ‘Collective Shout’ at which point the account was taken down.

Should such accounts suspicious of illegal activity and clearly harmful be allowed to remain live only because they do not meet a criminal threshold, yet?

Are “Zero tolerance” claims consistent with companies allowing the content that is a threat to children to remain live despite being reported, let alone proactively moderate content?

Should the social media companies be relying on automated detections for preventing the serious risk of sexualization, harassment and exploitation of our children when such technologies have been known to have failed miserably for even keeping up with simple hate speech?

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Health

Tired of Carrying a Wallet? Have Your Credit Card Microchipped Under Your Skin

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Walletmor, a British-Polish startup, claims to have created the first implantable microchip that can be used at any contactless payment machine around the world. Walletmor has sold over 500 microchips that are slightly bigger than a grain of rice and weigh less than one gram. Each microchip goes for £199 and can be sewn in by professionals at any aesthetics clinic. 

Walletmor claims that the microchip is entirely safe and has received regulatory approval. Once implanted, the microchip is ready to use and will not shift from its place. The microchip requires no batteries or an external power source to function. The implantable capsule is made of biocompatible material and consists of a microprocessor for storing encrypted payment data and a proximity antenna to connect to nearby payment terminals. 

The founder of Walletmor, Wojciech Paprota claims that the microchips are impossible to hack stating, “our payment implant cannot be forgotten or lost. This means that, unlike a standard payment card, it cannot end up in the wrong hands. It will not fall out of our wallet, and no one will take it from there. The implant cannot be scanned, photographed or hacked.” 

At the moment, the microchip connects to a mobile app called ICard, where a user can refill funds for contactless payments. 

Paprota believes that credit card implants will one day be as popular as regular payment cards and that Walletmor’s long-term goal is to provide more functionalities to their chip such as identification and key card access capabilities. 

But before microchip implants can be widely accepted, Paprota and other emerging microchip-based companies must first assure citizens of their safety. Though implanted microchips are convenient for day-to-day tasks, many fear that as technology continues to advance, a person’s data and specific location can potentially be hacked causing safety concerns. 

Nada Kakabadse, a Professor of Ethics at Reading University questioned the ethics behind getting microchips implanted. Kakabadse stated, “there is a dark side to the technology that has a potential for abuse…to those with no love of individual freedom, it opens up seductive new vistas for control, manipulation and oppression.. And who owns the data? Who has access to the data? And, is it ethical to chip people like we do pets?”

So the question arises, how much are we willing to risk for the sake of convenience?

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Faiza Shah
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Born and raised in the Bay Area, California, Faiza is a mother of two with a degree in Psychology and Paralegal Studies. She is passionate about lending her voice to those who are disadvantaged.

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Society

Elon Musk is now the largest shareholder in Twitter

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Heisenberg Media via Wikimedia Commons

Tesla founder Elon Musk has become the largest shareholder in Twitter. His shares are four times greater than that of Twitter founder Jack Dorsey.

Elon Musk has purchased 9.2% shares equating 73.5 million shares in the social network. His shares are a passive stake but news that he has become the largest shareholder in the company caused a surge in Twitter share price. His stake is now worth more than $3bn.

Parag Agrawal, CEO of Twitter, tweeted on Tuesday “I’m excited to share that we’re appointing @elonmusk to our board! Through conversations with Elon in recent weeks, it became clear to us that he would bring great value to our Board.”

Elon is running a poll on twitter about the edit button, which will be helpful for twitter users to edit mistakes but some, including Jack Dorsey, have rejected the idea because people can change the meaning of what they have said, after they have shared it. 

Dan Ives, from analyst firm Wedbush said that Elon will soon go for an active role in company management. 

He said, “We would expect this passive stake as just the start of broader conversations with the Twitter board/management that could ultimately lead to an active stake and a potential more aggressive ownership role of Twitter,”.

This is supported by the reports of the Wall Street Journal that his application to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which should have a line saying he doesn’t intend to influence the company, had a ‘Not Applicable’ mark.

There is an issue reported about his investment in twitter. He filed his investment on 14th of March and after filing and before it became public knowledge, he asked users whether they believed that free speech was essential to a functioning democracy and whether Twitter adheres to this principle.

Cornell University’s assistant professor Alexandra Cirone considers this as an evidence he may “try to influence Twitter practices” and have a “more active play in the social media eco-system”.

On the other hand, Howard Fischer, partner at law firm Moses & Singer, said that considering he had bought the share already, “I do suspect the SEC is going to look long and hard into whether they can bring manipulation charges”. 

Elon Musk is a regular user of twitter, whether he uses his influence to establish free speech or market manipulation, twitter users will find out soon. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Education

Is Technology Making Children Grow Up Faster?

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  • Research has found that children’s exposure to technology may allow for them to be more intellectually savvy at a younger age, however it is seen to also push ‘maturity’ milestones to an older age.
  • Despite this supposed maturity, the younger generations seem to delay many adult milestones such as dating, drinking, engaging in intimate relations, and driving unlike previous generations.
  • With all things kept in mind, studies find that children are not growing up faster in terms of society, culture, or biology. 

Research has found that children’s exposure to technology may allow for them to be more intellectually savvy at a younger age, however it is seen to also push ‘maturity’ milestones to an older age. The advent of smartphones, tablets, and other such electronics has put the world’s knowledge into the palms of children at a younger age than ever seen before. With most parents buying their child a smartphone at age 10, it is no question that the newer generation has practically unlimited access to news, social media, games, and the like.

Marketing geared towards kids is not new and the concept of “kids getting older younger” (KGOY) is one used by companies constantly to raise revenues. Games such as Roblox have capitalized on such ideas and the effects are clear. Speaking to strangers and having open access to the internet is pulling children towards emotional maturity. 

Despite this supposed maturity, the younger generation seems to delay in many adult milestones such as dating, drinking, engaging in intimate relations, and driving, unlike previous generations. any experts argue that this view is skewed, including senior Vice President and Director of the Center for Children and Technology, Shelley Pasnik. Pasnik stated “The basic stages of children’s development aren’t changing…what has changed is [kids’] exposure to information.” 

Experts in sociology also warn that technology alone is not shaping children and their maturity. Confounding variables found in much more intensive parenting styles will also reflect on the youth. With all things kept in mind studies find that children are not growing up faster in terms of society, culture, or biology. Rather a view of what constitutes a ‘grown-up’ may be skewed in society. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

Okta Hack Hits Hundred of Companies Putting Them at Risk

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  • Okta, one of the world’s leading providers of digital identity verification, said that a January data breach revealed by hackers this week may have affected hundreds of customers, such as Fedex and Moody’s corp., that rely on its software. Shares have fallen 10.74%.
  • This has been the “worst case” affecting 366 of its clients. The breach is compared to “walking away from your computer at a coffee shop” leaving private information to strangers’ access according to Okta
  • Cyber-gang Lapsus$, a South American threat actor, is behind the attack. They have been linked to other cyberlink attacks on some high-profile targets according to Ekram Ahmed of a cybersecurity company called Checkpoint. Lapsus$ has said in online posts that it has not stolen any databases from OKTA and focused only on its customers.
  • Even though sources are confident that there is no longer a security risk, it would “continue to investigate and assess potential security threats.”
  • Many companies such as CloudFare, FedEx, and Thanet have been notified and do not believe that they have been compromised. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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