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As Congress Works Towards Federal Privacy Legislation, There Are Some Protections It Should Not Overlook

October 24, 2019 Data Portability , Data Protection , interoperability , Legislation , Privacy , Private Right of Action , security

Last year, Representative Suzan DelBene (D-WA) introduced a privacy bill, the Information Transparency & Personal Data Control Act (Data Control Act). Public Knowledge provided input to Rep. DelBene’s office on the development of its discussion draft. However, we were disappointed to see that, upon introduction, the substance of the bill had been watered down from […]

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App Store Control Is Less Important Than Human Rights, Actually 

October 11, 2019 Apple , Free Expression , Free Speech , Global , Human Rights , Privacy , security

I have written about app stores at length before but it is worth reiterating a few points given the recent news about Apple removing access to the Hkmap.live app (which helps people track police activity) and Google removing access to The Revolution of Our Times (a protest game).  First, Apple’s (and Google’s) explanations don’t pass […]

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Facebook Shows Why We Need Data Security and Breach Notification Requirements

March 25, 2019 Data Protection , Facebook , Legislation , Privacy , security

Last week, thanks to investigative reporting, we learned that Facebook discovered in January that it was storing millions of users’ passwords in plain text format, making them fully readable for thousands of its employees. Facebook has acknowledged that this was a serious security error and privacy breach on its side, as its systems, ideally, “are designed to mask passwords using techniques that make them unreadable”, and promised that it “will be notifying everyone whose passwords we have found were stored in this way.” There is no evidence that any of the thousand employees with access to these unencrypted passwords actually accessed them, but Facebook’s decision to remain mum reveals an important lesson for the overarching privacy and security policy debate. Importantly, data security incidents are a widespread problem that goes well beyond Facebook.

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We Don’t Have to Sacrifice User Safety and Convenience to Make App Stores Competitive

March 15, 2019 Competition , Platform Competition , Platform Regulation , Privacy , security

App stores, such as Google Play and Apple’s App Store, have been good for consumers and independent developers in a number of ways. When they work well, they provide consumers with a convenient way to find and buy software that is safe and functional. I remember when my non-technical friends would never install software on their PCs, assuming that it was all a scam or malware of some kind. Now these same people can confidently install, use, and uninstall apps without fearing that it will ruin their devices or steal their personal information. Again, this is when things are working right. There are always bad actors to be vigilant against, and different app store curators do their jobs more and less well.

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Our Thoughts on Facebook’s WhatsApp + Messenger + Instagram Integration

January 30, 2019 Competition , Data Protection , Platform Regulation , Privacy , security

Last week, the New York Times reported that Facebook has decided to integrate the back-end infrastructures of its three fully-owned messaging products: Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram. At Public Knowledge, aware of the different nature, features, and conditions of use of these three services, we are carefully following the possible privacy and security and competition implications of this market-changing move.

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