At a glance.
- Is TikTok leakware?
- Amazon faces lawsuit for using facial recognition tech in retail stores.
- Automated backseat drivers could make us all safer behind the wheel.
Is TikTok leakware?
The attempts of the US, the EU, Canada, and other countries to ban Chinese-owned video streaming app TikTok have made headlines over the past few weeks. Officials say TikTok is a threat to national security due in large part to its unbridled access to the data of its users. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo stated, "We should not be naive: TikTok is a Chinese company that is now forced to cooperate with Chinese intelligence services. This is the reality.” The researchers at Pradeo examine how TikTok, and many other apps like it, gather tons of user data, much of which is not necessary for the operation of the platform. This fact, researchers say, classifies TikTok as leakware: apps that collect their users' data on a massive scale and transfer it out of the users’ devices. TikTok gathers data ranging from user geolocation to identification data to browsing history and messages, which it stores in servers in the US and Singapore. It is then accessed by employees of its China-based parent company ByteDance located in countries all over the world.
Amazon faces lawsuit for using facial recognition tech in retail stores.
Amazon is being sued for allegedly neglecting to inform customers of its New York City Amazon Go convenience stores that they were being scanned with facial recognition technology. Go stores allow customers to shop and leave with the products they want without any official checkout process, and the stores rely on monitoring visitors’ actions in order to charge their accounts. There are currently ten Go stores in operation, all in Manhattan. New York is the only major American city that requires businesses to post signage if they’re monitoring customers’ biometric information, and the class-action lawsuit claims that the tech giant failed to do so. While Amazon does now have signage alerting customers to the use of facial recognition tech, the lawsuit claims the signs were only recently posted, more than a year after the law went into effect. Plaintiff Alfredo Perez is represented by legal advocacy group the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project. The group’s project director Albert Cahn told NBC News, “It means that even a global tech giant can’t ignore local privacy laws. As we wait for long overdue federal privacy laws, it shows there is so much local governments can do to protect their residents.”
Automated backseat drivers could make us all safer behind the wheel.
Sometimes surveillance tech can be used for good. Wired reports that carmakers are installing sensors and software in vehicles to monitor drivers’ behavior and ensure that they are practicing safe driving protocols. Advanced driver-assistance systems like Tesla Autopilot and GM’s Super Cruise allow users to go hands-free while driving. In order to make sure drivers are not engaging in dangerous behaviors when their hands are not on the steering wheel, they’ve also incorporated driver-monitoring systems to track drivers’ movements. Matt Lum, an automotive technical engineer with the American Automobile Association, says
“Humans are very poor in general at constantly supervising a process where they only have to intervene very periodically.” Regulators and safety groups in the EU and US are pushing for such safety features. In order to receive a five-star safety rating from the European New Car Assessment Programme, new cars sold in Europe with advanced driver-assistance features are required to include driver-monitoring systems. The US’s 2021 infrastructure bill calls for the Department of Transportation to research the effectiveness of driver-monitoring systems, and by 2025 all new car models sold in Europe will be required to have driver-monitoring systems, even if they don’t have automated features. In the future, these systems could serve as digital backseat drivers, motivating all drivers to engage in safer behaviors while on the road. Greg Neiswander, research and testing lead for Android Auto, says “A lot of people don’t know they’re bad drivers, unless maybe they get honked at or get a ticket or get in a car crash,” and he predicts that if these monitoring systems continue to grow in sophistication, “you can theoretically make people more aware drivers, better drivers.”