A detective in Florida recently announced the approval of a warrant to search consumer DNA company GEDmatch’s full DNA database in what appears to be the first instance of a judge approving such a warrant. The largest consumer DNA databases, Ancestry.com and 23andMe, have long pledged to keep their users’ genetic information private, resisting requests for access from law enforcement. GEDmatch had previously cooperated with police investigations before severely restricting police access this year. The approval of this warrant could set a precedent with profound implications for genetic privacy.
The United States government has opened a national security review of the Chinese parent company of TikTok, a popular short-form video app. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States is reviewing ByteDance’s $1 billion acquisition of Musical.ly in 2017. While ByteDance initially stated it would keep Musical.ly separate from its preexisting apps, the platform was eventually merged with ByteDance’s TikTok. American lawmakers are concerned with TikTok’s rapidly growing popularity, ability to gather user data, and potential censorship of content critical of the Chinese government.
Facebook has revealed that up to 100 developers may have improperly retained and accessed member data from Groups on the site. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook restricted the type of user information app developers could access via its Group API. While developers could previously access the names and profile pictures of members upon approval of their app by a Group administrator, these developers are now limited to accessing the Group name, the number of users, and the Group’s post content. Facebook vows to conduct audits to confirm all user information has been properly deleted by developers.
Representatives Anna Eschoo and Zoe Lofgren, both of California, have introduced the Online Privacy Act (OPA) which would create a new federal agency to enforce privacy rights. Under the OPA, individuals would have the right to obtain, correct, and delete data collected about them. Individuals would also be able to request a human review of automated decisions, and companies would be required to obtain consent to use individuals’ personal data for training machine learning algorithms. The bill is the latest attempt by lawmakers to create federal privacy protections, which are currently regulated by a patchwork of state and limited federal laws.
The Federal Trade Commission announced that AT&T has agreed to pay customers $60 million in order to settle a long-running lawsuit over the carrier’s throttling of mobile data plans advertised as “unlimited.” The FTC initiated the lawsuit in 2014 after AT&T was found to be suppressing unlimited data plans when customers hit 3GB of usage in a given month. The customers’ usage would continue to be throttled 24 hours a day for the rest of the billing period. FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Andrew Smith noted, “While it seems obvious, it bears repeating that Internet providers must tell people about any restrictions on the speed or amount of data promised.”