At a glance.
- Apple under fire for privacy issues.
- Regulating user privacy in digital advertising.
- Can data privacy personnel protect schools from cyber threats?
Apple under fire for privacy issues.
Apple likes to think of itself as a leader when it comes to user privacy, but the tech giant is currently facing claims that it’s anything but. Bloomberg reports that yesterday Apple was hit with a lawsuit connected to its popular AirTag devices. The devices are intended to help owners keep tabs on valuable personal possessions like keys or wallets, but the plaintiffs say the tags were used to track them without their consent. The ex-boyfriend of one of the plaintiffs hid an AirTag in her car in order to monitor her location, and the estranged husband of the other plaintiff planted an AirTag in her child’s backpack. Privacy advocates have warned that the devices could be used for nefarious purposes, and recent events have proven them right. A man in Ohio used the device to hunt down and shoot an ex-girlfriend, and in Indiana a woman followed an ex-boyfriend to a bar where she ran him over with a car. Apple claims AirTags are embedded with special “stalker-proofing” features, like a chimed notification to inform users if there is an AirTag within Bluetooth range, but users say these measures are ineffective when it comes to preventing abuse of the devices. Monday’s lawsuit claims, “While Apple has built safeguards into the AirTag product, they are woefully inadequate, and do little, if anything, to promptly warn individuals if they are being tracked.”
Meanwhile, a class-action lawsuit has been filed against Apple after two Californian developers stated that the company has been tracking users’ activity in the App Store with no way for users to disable the function. As Security Week explains, although Apple has made several moves supposedly in the interest of user privacy – for instance, making it easy for users to block apps from collecting their data – some rivals say such seemingly altruistic actions are really an attempt to push out the competition. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said last week, "It's problematic for one company to be able to control what app experiences end up on a device. (The) vast majority of profits in mobile ecosystem go towards Apple."
Regulating user privacy in digital advertising.
Remaining on the topic of digital advertising, the Brookings Institution takes a look at how this practice has been impacted by data privacy regulation. Up until now, for the most part companies have had free reign to determine what user data they collect and how they use it, and in the realm of digital advertising, where such user data is a hot commodity, a complex industry of data collection has arisen. Social psychologist Shoshana Zuboff, who coined the term “surveillance capitalism,” has stated that the current digital advertising model is “founded on the premise that privacy must fall.” The American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA), a House bill reported out of committee by a 53-2 vote, is an attempt to better regulate the collection, use, and dissemination of personal data, and the measure could reshape the digital advertising industry. However, such legislation will likely create a ripple effect, hindering access to free services enabled by ad sales and creating roadblocks for smaller companies looking to reach new customers, all while potentially strengthening tech giants’ competitive edge. Brookings recommends that the Federal Trade Commission be authorized to create rules that could counter the bill’s limitations, allowing Congress to more clearly define digital advertising regulations and expedite the lawmaking process for this industry.
Can data privacy personnel protect schools from cyber threats?
With copious data and few resources to protect it, the US education sector has become a sitting duck for threat actors looking for an easy kill. While educational institutions no doubt see the benefit of employing dedicated leadership focused on data privacy, limited budgets have made this an impossible task for most school districts. And in some cases, like the 2020 attack on Baltimore County Public Schools in the state of Maryland, having a director of innovation and digital safety did not prevent the district from peril. While a number of states have poured funds into school data privacy and have mandated data privacy officers, data privacy experts say little has actually changed. As EdSurge News explains, this is often because the data privacy role isn’t clearly defined, and often understaffed schools pile such duties on already overworked employees with little to no training in this field. “In practice, it tends to fall apart,” says Linnette Attai, a data privacy expert and the president of the consulting firm PlayWell, LLC.