Freezenet’s Official Podcast: February 2020: In Your Face Privacy

In this 16th episode of the Freezenet official podcast, “In Your Face Privacy”, we take a look at the news and reviews we covered for February.

Welcome to the public version of the 16th episode of the Freezenet official podcast for February, 2020. This month’s episode is entitled “In Your Face Privacy” due to the growing controversy surrounding Clearview AI and facial recognition technology.

In addition to this, we talk about efforts by both Canada and the US to clamp down on online free speech. Another story we cover is the GDPR probe into online dating sites after some were caught selling personal information to third parties allegedly without obtaining proper consent. Additionally, we talk about YouTube star MrBeast as well as the importance of cutting eye holes into your pillow case.

Additionally, we cover all the latest in music and video game reviews in addition to the first impression video of Left 4 Dead.

You can check out our official podcast on Soundcloud or Anchor. Alternatively, you can take a listen below:

What follows is a transcript of this month’s episode:

Intro

In Your Face Privacy

Hi, I’m your host, Drew Wilson. Welcome to the 16th episode of the Freezenet official podcast for February, 2020. Here are your top 3 headlines:

The Top 3

Toronto police halt Clearview AI use as privacy commissioners investigate its legalities

GDPR regulators probe dating sites as personal information is allegedly sold without proper consent

Also, both Canada and the US consider regulations some call threats to online free speech

Top Stories

First, we begin with a story that has been dominating privacy headlines this month. It all revolves around controversial facial recognition software Clearview AI. The software itself has already caught major controversy in the US because it scrapes peoples photographs without permission. After that, the software looks at photo’s and surveillance footage of people, then automatically identifies people in those photo’s and video frames.

In the US, plaintiffs in Illinois are suing Clearview AI over privacy violations. The lawsuit cites the same Illinois laws that found Facebook guilty of privacy violations. Facebook had to pay $550 million in fines. Now, those same laws are being applied in the lawsuit against Clearview AI.

While all this is going on, controversy over Clearview AI started blowing up in Canada. This is thanks to Toronto RCMP members using Clearview AI in a so-called “trial” in 2019. When news surfaced that such technology was being used, Canadian RCMP went out to the media to say that they have halted the trials. RCMP also said that they have submitted legal questions to both the Ontario Privacy Commissioner and the Crown’s Attorney office.

Days after the story broke and subsequent controversy, the Ontario privacy commissioner, Brian Beamish, responded to the story by urging the RCMP to immediately halt the use of the software. In a remarkably blunt statement, Beamish says, “We question whether there are any circumstances where it would be acceptable to use Clearview AI”.

Things only grew more controversial when four additional privacy commissioners said that they too are investigating the RCMP’s use of Clearview AI. Representatives from the BC and Alberta privacy commissioner offices said that they are investigating whether Clearview AI complies with the Personal Information Protection Act. The federal Privacy commissioner, meanwhile, is investigating how Clearview AI complies with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. Finally, the Quebec privacy commissioner is investigating how Clearview AI complies with the Act Respecting the Protection of Personal Information in the Private Sector and the Act to Establish a Legal Framework for Information Technology in Québec. So, really, this has become an across the country response to these revelations.

As if things hadn’t blown up enough already about this story, even a European official weighed in indirectly on this story. With so much controversy blowing up in North America, people were questioning whether software like Clearview AI complies with the General Data Protection Regulation. In one report, Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission’s executive vice president for digital affairs, told reporters that “as it stands right now, GDPR would say ‘don’t use it’, because you cannot get consent”. You know a story has gotten big when it reaches Canada, the US, and the entire European continent at roughly the same time.

Speaking of Europe, dating sites are now at the centre of another growing privacy controversy. This time, several high profile dating and hookup web services are finding themselves in the cross-hairs of criticism. The Norweigian Consumer Council published a report on how various services use personal information. The report says that the council alleged that Grindr transmitted personal information on its estimated 3 million daily users worldwide to ad tech partners. This includes Twitter’s MoPub. The report also names other advertising platforms such as OpenX and AppNexus. It’s worth pointing out that OKCupid was also a big name mentioned in the report as well. Twitter responded to the report by saying that it would investigate whether or not these services obtained proper consent to have their personal information sold to third parties like them.

Shortly after the news initially broke, Twitter announced that they suspended Grindr from their ad network pending the outcome of an investigation.

This, of course, wasn’t the end of the controversy either. European GDPR regulators caught wind of the report and announced that they would be initiating a probe into dating service, Tinder. In comments made to media, Ireland’s Data Protection Commission said, “The Inquiry of the DPC will set out to establish whether the company has a legal basis for the ongoing processing of its users’ personal data and whether it meets its obligations as a data controller with regard to transparency and its compliance with data subject right’s requests”. They also comment that the probe comes after public complaints came across Ireland and the European continent.

The fallout of those stories really only magnified another related story. Facebook was quietly trying to launch the European version of its online dating services. Unfortunately, reports suggest that Facebook failed to properly notified authorities about how the service would work with respect to consent and privacy. As a result, the quiet launching of the service in Europe was delayed.

While privacy has been a major theme so far, it isn’t the only one this month. Both Canada and the US are considering regulations that some call a threat to online free speech. The story started in the US thanks to draft legislation known as EARN IT. It is being drafted by both a Democrat and Republican. The legislation does a couple of things. One of those things is to leave encryption rules to the discretion of the Attorney General. Not only would the Attorney General have power to change those rules, but also the ability to overrule other changes in the process. The reason why this is considered a major threat to online free speech is because the Attorney General would have the power to revoke an online platform’s Section 230 protections. In response, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said that the legislation presents “a new and serious threat to both free speech and security online”.

Shortly after the story broke about this draft legislation, commentators immediately began to fear that this could be the much-warned encryption ban. Earlier, US senators threatened platforms to either incorporate backdoors in their encryption or be legislated to do so. Observers fear that services like Telegram will no longer be able to shield users from the prying eyes of the government should this legislation get tabled and pass.

While all that was going on in the US, things really didn’t look that much better in Canada. It started with the proposal by the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel. Among the proposals was heavy regulation of online media and speech. Canadian Heritage Minister, Steven Guilbeault, was asked about this and whether it is a proposal to regulate smaller and foreign media outlets. In response, Guilbeault said that such a proposal was “no big deal”. He has since walked back those comments after fierce backlash.

Sometime after that, it seemed like the controversy was dying down. Unfortunately, a letter sent by media outlets including the CBC caused the story to errupt later on this month. In an initiative led by the CBC, major media outlets are lobbying the federal government over the concept of “trusted news“. The letter suggests that, in response to “fake news”, they demand that foreign media outlets and those not considered “trusted” face stiff regulation to better protect major media outlets. The argument is that because social media platforms are able to get more ad revenue without spending cash on Canadian media production, there should be tougher regulations in place to keep news “trusted”. What would constitute a “trusted” news source remains up in the air.

It’s worth noting that all of this is happening as some people are pushing the idea that websites operating in Canada should be required to carry a certain percentage of Canadian content. How that would even work, let along how a case can be made that this is even necessary, also remains up in the air.

Certainly a number of eye-popping stories being reported on this month.

Other Stories Making News

Now, let’s take a look at some of the other stories making news this month.

It’s always nice to see something positive come up in your reporting. This story certainly takes positivity to another level. Imagine living in a bad rental basement suite. You don’t have the greatest landlord and you are desperately trying to help support your family by delivering pizza. For a lot of people, this is certainly a variation of reality in the post great recession world. For this particular pizza delivery guy, though, one particular delivery changed his life forever.

As it turns out, the person he was delivering pizza to was non other than YouTube star MrBeast. His video’s are focused partly on changing people’s lives for the better through outrageous giveaways. So, he asked the delivery guy if he was interested in moving some furniture into a house for a few thousand dollars. Naturally, he agreed. What he didn’t know was that he was moving free furniture into the very house MrBeast was giving to him for free. When the delivery guy found out, he was clearly in shock that something like this is happening to him. He obviously thanked him and all the people behind the video’s.

What’s particularly amazing is that this is by no means the only video like this on his channel. Literally, there are numerous video’s of MrBeast giving away cars, shopping spree’s, and even a project where he planted 20 million trees through a Team Trees initiative. I have to say it was impressive seeing something like that. It really shows some of the positive things that the Internet can bring to everyday people.

Governments from around the world have been trying to crack down on anything related to Wikileaks. Glenn Greenwald helped expose some of the corruption found in various Wikileaks related data dumps. Now, it seems the Brazilian government is trying to take him down. After failing to get other criminal charges to stick, the Brazilian government is filing a criminal complaint against Greenwald for alleged violations of vague cybersecurity laws. The EFF blasted the move, saying that this is the latest example of how alleged computer crimes can have a chilling effect on journalistic freedom.

Warner is facing controversy after a subsidiary began demonotizing YouTube video’s. The work allegedly being infringed? The numbers 36 and 50. No, these numbers are not tied to anything in particular, just literally the use of those two particular numbers. Observers say that these copyright claims are, at best, highly questionable. Some are arguing that this is the latest example of how copyright is being used to chill freedom of expression on YouTube.

If that weren’t bad enough, YouTube caught additional controversy over another case many are calling copyright fraud. A political YouTuber has received a copyright strike over an alleged video that discusses the Democratic leaders debate. The left-leaning show in question is DOOMED with Matt Binder. Warner Brothers Inc. owns CNN and, therefore, is being named as the party that issued the strike. The problem many point out about the strike is the fact that the video doesn’t even exist. As it turns out, the show planned on doing a live broadcast to comment over top of the debates. Some theorize that they caught the strike over a keyword search. The strike was ultimately removed after Binder threatened to write about the story on Mashable. The story, of course, got out anyway with the events that have unfolded, but it has left the commentator questioning the copyright system employed by YouTube.

Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation is seeing more success. Now that we are in year two of the laws passage, research suggests that regulators behind the enforcement of the law have now seen 160,000 privacy breach complaints. The findings were published by DLA Piper. The findings suggests that the laws are working in bringing these incidences to light.

Shortly after these findings, more information says that the Data Protection Authorities have issued 190 fines so far. Assuming the courts side with regulators, the total amount in fines are expected to reach €315 million so far with, no doubt, more to come. Among the high profile examples shown are British Airways and Marriott (a company which has received coverage from us over previous data breaches).

AT&T in the US is catching some controversy and it could also affect the Trump administrations selling point of repealing network neutrality. The selling point is that with network neutrality repealed, ISPs can start spending big in terms of investments and hiring an untold number of employees with regulatory red tape relaxed so much. As it turns out, the exact opposite happened. After the repeal of network neutrality, AT&T is admitting that capital investment has been cut and that thousands of jobs have been slashed. AT&T expects investment to drop by $3 billion in 2020 and employment across its workforce have been cut by 7.6% as of 2019.

Last month, we brought you word that observers are watching nervously for Canada’s implementation bill for NAFTA 2.0. The big fear is that Canada will give up retaining the international norm of life plus 50 years for copyright terms. This month, observers finally received the terrible news that Canada will get life plus 70 years. There is no legal or economic reason to do so, yet corporate lobbyists have finally got their way in locking out the public domain for another full 20 years. With Conservatives expected to vote for the legislation, it seems that this copyright disaster will sail on through with little viable opposition.

Speaking of copyright, the copyright crises isn’t the only one facing the music industry. Another crises is clouding the industry and it is shrouding the major record labels. This is known as the music distribution crisis and many are blaming extreme consolidation for the cause. In one extreme example, one retailer ordered music to stock his shelves only to receive a pallet of carwash fluid. After he sent it back, he was promised that the situation would get rectified. After that, a shipment arrived and, this time, he received a pallet of cough syrup. Stunningly, these distribution fail’s is by far not unique to retailers who sell physical music these days. A number of managers are blaming a company known as Direct Shot. After a more recent deal, that company now owns 80% of the mainstream physical music distribution chain. Now, problems like this are popping up and a number of companies say they are feeling the pinch as a result.

Brexit, of course, is big an unavoidable story. This podcast is no exception as you are now finding out. One question that did crop up is that now that Brexit is a done deal, what happens with something like GDPR from the UK perspective? European observers have weighed in to say that with the deal UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed, GDPR will continue to operate even in a post-Brexit world. So, many digital rights advocates will no doubt breathe a sigh of relief on that one.

Security incidences and related stories did manage to make headlines this month in spite of so many other things happening.

First up, we saw the story about Microsoft. The tech giant is the latest to suffer from a data leak. In all, 250 million accounts have been exposed. The malconfigured ElasticSearch servers have since been secured.

We also got an update to the high profile Equifax data breach. The US Justice Department have filed 9 charges against 4 Chinese hackers. Additionally, Equifax is setting aside an additional $100 million to help with victims receiving compensation for the damage caused by the breach.

There were certainly other incidences, but with so much happening, this was all we could cover this month.

Video Game Reviews

So, with that, let’s turn our attention to something a bit more upbeat: entertainment.

Before we jump into the video game reviews, we wanted to point out the fact that we have posted yet another first impression video. This month, we tried the first person shooter game Left 4 Dead. You can check out the link in our transcript or check out our website for the video in this creepy instalment.

Now, as for games we’ve reviewed this month, we first turned our attention to James Bond 007 for the Atari 5200. Buggy respawn system and a weird weapons system. So, this game gets a mediocre 60%.

Next up is Quest for Quintana Roo for the Atari 5200. Steep learning curve and a difficulty curve that seems to force you to rely on luck for success. So, this game flops with a 42%.

From there, we tried Gyruss for the Atari 5200. Nice learning curve, but short gameplay and steep difficulty curve. Still, this game gets a solid 70%.

Finally, we tried Megamania for the Atari 5200. Nice novel enemies being thrown at you, but gameplay can get a bit stale from time to time. So, this game ends up with an OK 68%.

Music Reviews

As for music we’ve listened to this month, we’ve got…

Shades of Rhythm – Sweet Sensation (12″)

Rebel MC Featuring Tenor Fly – The Wickedest Sound (Don Gorgon Mix)

Redemptive – Lucid Voyage

The Prodigy – What Evil Lurks

Cosmo & Dibs – Star Eyes

DJ Carl Cox – I Want You (Forever) (Full On Mix)

… and finally, Culture Beat – Mr Vain

Picks of the Month

So, that, leads us to our pick of the month. This month, our pick of the month belongs to Redemptive – Lucid Voyage.

Oddities

And in other news…

If you thought you had a bad day, a woman in Wichita Falls might have you beat. The woman was pulled over by police after she failed to use a turn signal. The woman in question was wanted on 5 outstanding warrants. So, when police spoke to the woman, she gave a fake name to try and avoid trouble. The problem is that the fake name she gave to police was for another woman wanted on an outstanding warrant. She was promptly brought in where her real name was revealed. Maybe your bad day doesn’t sound so bad after all.

While criminals weren’t having the best day, Ontario police weren’t having that much better of a day. A Kingston officer found himself asking if the government consulted the police after seeing the brand new license plates. The officer took a picture of a vehicle at night in a well lit area to prove that the new license plates are virtually unreadable. Clearly, there is an obvious problem on their hands. It’s worth pointing out that, after the controversy first broke, reports are surfacing that the government may actually issue a recall of the plates. Apparently, the ability to see plates at night is important to police! Who knew?

A would-be bank robber clearly didn’t think his cunning plan all the way through. The bank robber attempted to rob the Bank of Scotland with a make-shift mask to cover his face. Unfortunately for the robber, he forgot to cut eye-holes out of the pillow case he used. As a result, he was forced to lift the pillowcase to see where he was going and make demands. CCTV camera’s, of course, caught a glimpse of his face. Someone tailed him after he left with a small sum of cash and was seen patting a dog. Of course, he was arrested. I, for one, was disappointed by the lack of detail in the story, though. I mean, how many things did the guy end up bumping into before making it to the counter anyway?

Outro

Before we close out this month’s episode, we have an announcement to make. We here at Freezenet are proud to announce that we have posted our first content patch for our Wiki. It’s a pretty decently sized one where we were able to document 20 additional episodes of a Trance radio show. Given how little time we had between releasing the functional version of the Wiki and the first patch, I have to say that there is a lot of content that was released. This pretty much amounts to an additional roughly 40 hours worth of listening content. So, a pretty solid extension of documentation for the site. We hope to be able to continue posting more content in the months ahead.

Also, huge shout out to Nolan for providing mixing services for this podcast.

If you’d like to get your hands on some behind the scenes stuff, exclusive content, and early access material, you can check out our Patreon page at Patreon.com/freezenet. Through this, you can help make Freezenet just that much better all the while getting some pretty cool stuff in the process. That’s Patreon.com/freezenet!

…and that’s this months episode for February, 2020, I’m Drew Wilson for Freezenet. Be sure to check out our website at freezenet.ca for all the latest in news and reviews. You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @freezenetca. Thank you for listening and see you next month.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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