Max Schrems, a 24-year-old law student from Austria, has become one of Facebook's fiercest critics.
While most law students are shaking off the winter break and settling back in for the second semester, Max Schrems is busy doing his best to bring Facebook to its knees.
Last year, the 24-year-old University of Vienna law student spent a semester abroad at Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley. His privacy law professor there, Dorothy Glancy, invited a privacy lawyer from Facebook to be eaten alive by speak to the class. Schrems was shocked by the lawyer’s limited grasp of the severity of European data protection laws, and decided to write his final paper for the class on how Facebook was flunking privacy in Europe.
In the course of his research, he discovered that Facebook’s dossiers on individual users are hundreds of pages long, and include information users thought had been deleted. When he returned to Austria last summer, he formed an activist group called Europe v. Facebook (to legitimize his campaign and make it seem like more than just one law student), filed dozens of complaints in Europe about Facebook’s data practices, and publicized his findings online, leading to widespread media attention, a probe by a European privacy regulator, and questions from Congress.
On Monday, Facebook’s European director of policy (and former MP) Richard Allan and another California-based Facebook exec flew to Vienna to meet with Schrems for a whopping six hours to discuss his concerns.
* It’s about time people remembered there’s no such thing as privacy anymore, but in case you forgot, Google is here to remind you. Say hello to the company’s latest plan for internet domination. [Washington Post]
* Two men from West Virginia claim that they were sexually assaulted by Andy Dick in a nightclub. The long and short of this lawsuit: Andy Dick has been accused of allegedly acting like Andy Dick. [Toronto Sun]
It has already been a big week for legal technology. Yesterday, the Supreme Court handed down its opinion in United States v. Jones. The case dealt with emerging fourth amendment and privacy issues now that law enforcement have increasingly advanced technological abilities.
Well, law enforcement in the city of East Orange, New Jersey have also embraced technology in the fight against crime. Unlike law enforcement in Washington D.C., however, East Orange’s brilliant new plan involves shining a remotely controlled red light at would-be criminals.
Below the jump we have video footage of Hal this cool, new, swiveling stoplight….
The Supreme Court just handed down a unanimous opinion ruling in one of the most closely watched cases of the year. All the justices agreed on the result, but diverged significantly in reasoning.
This morning, the court issued its decision in United States v. Jones. Police in Washington, D.C. placed a GPS tracking device on the car of Antoine Jones, a nightclub owner, without obtaining a warrant. The GPS device helped law enforcement link Jones to a house used to store drugs and money. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to life in prison. An appeals court later overturned his conviction.
The central issue in Jones was whether attaching a GPS device to a car (i.e., allowing law enforcement 24/7 access to a person’s movements), without obtaining a warrant first, violated the Fourth Amendment.
The case has been heralded as one of the most important privacy cases in recent memory. Wired’s Threat Level blog said Jones “is arguably the biggest Fourth Amendment case in the computer age.” Editor emerita Kashmir Hill attended oral arguments for the case back in November.
What did the justices say? The ruling might surprise you…
On Monday, my roommate came home griping that his Zappos.com account, which he had not used in a year, had been hacked. Instead of feeling sympathetic, I started wondering how I might write about it. Data breaches are a dime a dozen these days.
It seems almost every company loses control of their customers’ sensitive data at some point. Someone almost always sues after the news breaks. But the lawsuits are rarely successful, unless customers can show real harm caused by the breach.
Most often, companies do not give up full credit card or Social Security numbers. This week, Zappos said it only suffered unauthorized access to somewhat less sensitive information. It’s a bit unnerving, but not the end of the world.
Did that stop some opportunistic consumer from taking action against the online shoe retailer?
Of course not. And we didn’t have to wait very long. A Texas woman filed a class-action lawsuit against Amazon, which owns Zappos, the same day the breach was announced. Is her lawsuit premature, vague, and a bit silly? Probably. Will it go anywhere? Probably not. But c’mon, you gotta love melodramatic, eager-beaver, consumer litigation.
So what, exactly, did Zappos lose? And how many people’s data was compromised? (Hint: it’s a lot.) Let’s mosey on past the jump and find out….
When I was a kid, my father leaned across the dinner table and whispered to me, “Never ask a woman’s age or weight.” He then stole a glance at my mother, who was busy shoveling mashed potatoes into her maw, and sighed. I could never tell whether my dad was trying to offer the wisdom of the ages or making a statement about the tyranny of manners, the clichés they birth, and the way in which politeness can imprison a good man in a loveless relationship that inevitably leads to you watching your 400-pound wife shovel potatoes back like she was auditioning for The Biggest Loser.
And so it was that the Internet Movie Database, aka IMDb, found itself under attack for revealing an actress’s age and “real Asian name.” Kash detailed the charges last October. A few weeks ago, we noted that the woman would have to put up (her name) or shut up (legally speaking).
Well, I don’t want to waste any more of your precious time. The grand reveal is finally here.
After the jump, pictures of an attractive Asian woman….
“Privacy is for paedos,” announced tabloid journalist Paul McMullan, formerly of Rupert Murdoch’s now defunct British tabloid News of the World, while speaking last week at an enquiry set up in response to this summer’s phone hacking scandal. Firmly unapologetic for having harassed celebrities via an impressive range of mediums, McMullan continued: “Fundamentally, no one else needs it. Privacy is evil.” He fast became the villain of what the Financial Times has dubbed as “the best free show in London.”
As for the heroes, well, none of the celebrities who have given evidence so far — including Divine Brown blow jobee Hugh Grant, comedian Steve Coogan, author JK Rowling, and Tony Blair’s former press secretary Alastair Campbell — have shone particularly. Most of the army of lawyers in attendance, meanwhile, have been, well, lawyerly.
Notably, one junior lawyer at the enquiry, Carine Patry Hoskins, did steal the show for a few hours last month, albeit on account of her good looks rather than any show of heroism, when she became one of the world’s most popular topics on Twitter during the Hugh Grant’s testimony. Having caught the attention of Tweeters, the attractive brunette was given the hashtag #womanontheleft — which quickly shot to most read thread in the U.K., before trending prominently worldwide….
Last week, the tech world caught fire with the newest in an increasingly long list of electronic privacy scandals. Carrier IQ, a small Silicon Valley software company with its product installed on millions of cell phones, made headlines when a young programmer posted a video allegedly showing the software’s ability to log keystrokes and collect other, very personal information from phones.
By the end of last week, the controversy had already sparked an angry letter from democratic Senator Al Franken, two class-action lawsuits, and a flurry of denials and explanations from the software company as well as major mobile phone carriers. We briefly mentioned the story in Friday’s Non-Sequiturs, but it deserves a deeper look.
Is Carrier IQ as bad as it sounds? Good question….
Caveat: I did not write the following dialogue. It is from the “comments” section of one of my columns where I mentioned I’d be writing about HIPAA and GLBA. Unfortunately, I cannot attribute the comments to the persons who wrote them, as they are anonymous; however they are quite apropos of today’s subject:
1) “I wish vendors would get it into their heads that indemnity for being sued on a confidentiality basis doesn’t cut it for financial institutions and other customers/clients that have affirmative obligations without being sued in the event of a breach of confidentiality.”
2) “I wish financial institution customers would get it into their heads that the ‘customer information’ they’re obligated to protect is not the sort of thing they would ever disclose to the vast majority of their vendors, and stop using their ‘affirmative obligations’ as a tool to cram unnecessarily restrictive confidentiality terms down the throats of vendors.”
Perfect. Those two comments capture the schism between vendors and customers when dealing with private financial or personal confidential information….
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