Freezenet’s Official Podcast: March 2020: Flattening the Accountability

In the 17th episode of the Freezenet official podcast, “Flattening to the Accountability”, we take a look at the news and reviews we covered for March.

Welcome to the public version of the 17th episode of the Freezenet official podcast for March, 2020. This month’s episode is entitled “Flattening the Accountability” for, really, a host of different reasons. This includes the fraudulent copyright takedowns flying around and the Canadian government reaction to the privacy implications of NAFTA 2.0 among other things.

In addition to the Canadian government reaction to NAFTA 2.0, we also talk about the ongoing privacy controversy surrounding facial recognition and Clearview AI. In addition to this, we discuss the controversial lawsuit filed by Lifelabs against the privacy commissioner in an effort to block an investigation into a data breach.

Also this month, we cover all the usual music and video game reviews. We even mention our first impression video of Left 4 Dead 2. Just for fun, we also got the usual oddities including what happens when you use your Footlocker rewards card in conjunction with credit card fraud. Spoiler alert: it didn’t end well for the criminal. All this and more on this month’s episode of the Freezenet official podcast!

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

Flattening the Accountability

Hi, I’m your host, Drew Wilson. Welcome to the 17th episode of the Freezenet official podcast for March, 2020. Here are your top 3 headlines:

The Top 3

Clearview AI Revelations Surface As Efforts to Ban Facial Recognition Continues

Canadian Government Admits They Haven’t Studied the Privacy Implications of NAFTA 2.0

… and LifeLabs Files a Lawsuit to Block the Privacy Commissioner from Investigating a Data Breach

Top Stories

We begin this podcast with the ongoing controversy surrounding facial recognition software and Clearview AI. This month, the debate began with questions about who knew what when RCMP began using the software. Some of those questions were answered when a high ranking official admitted that the police board knew about the ongoing trials of Clearview AI. This latest revelation all but erases the idea of a few officers acting on their own accord with this. Instead, it puts the focus on how higher ups actively monitored the trials in the first place. So, the blame easily shifts to higher ups in the police force.

Shortly after, the story took an explosive turn when Clearview AI suffered from a major data breach. Reports seen by Freezenet say that Clearview AI’s entire client list was stolen. The news shakes the image that ClearView AI is a company that keeps information secure. This is not good given how much controversy the company faces over personal privacy in the first place.

In the US, a petition was signed by hundreds of people and delivered to the New York City council. In it, the petitioners demand an outright ban of the software. Police, for their part, are fiercely lobbying to avoid the ban. They are also trying to put the brakes on new proposed regulations of the software. If anything, this shows how the controversy is spilling all the way down to the municipal level.

The next day, the creepiness factor for Clearview AI only increased after reports surfaced about who uses the technology. Many reports focus on police use of the technology, but little attention is paid to who else uses the software. As it turns out, the ultra wealthy and big investors have also been using the software. The use is reportedly for fun at parties. The software was also used when some are going on dates. Clearview AI defended the revelations by once again saying that these are just “trial accounts”. They say these accounts are given out in a responsible manner and that what happened is no big deal.

While some wealthy investors might think it’s a fun piece of technology to use in parties, privacy minded people aren’t laughing. A couple of artists have formed what is known as the “Dazzle Club“. The club has been formed on Instagram. In it, artists are taking inspiration from Cubism and painting people’s faces. They are painting simple geometric shapes and lines designed to mess with lights and darks. The idea is that the software would not be able to detect a face if done sufficiently. Unfortunately, there is no evidence to suggest that this thwarts Clearview AI. This is because the testing software is a simple cell phone app. Still, it shows the lengths some people are willing to go to fight the software.

For months, we’ve been bringing you stories at a terrifying regularity on various data leaks and breaches. In response, during the last Canadian election, strengthening Canadian privacy laws received broad party support amongst the leaders. So, at that moment, you’d think that all the parties would be focused on anything that impacts privacy and strengthening privacy laws wherever possible. You’d be wrong on that assumption. During a committee meeting, members of other parties asked the Canadian government about the privacy implications of NAFTA 2.0. In response, the Canadian government simply shrugged and said it hasn’t been looked in to. The exchange has to be heard to be believed:

Hon. Michelle Rempel Garner: Thank you, Madam chair. I will start my questions as it pertains to Chapter 19. Reading Chapter 19, I notice that it agrees to prohibitions against restrictions on the transfer of personal information, and prohibitions requiring where computing facilities are located, and this has less policy flexibility on data localization under the CPTPP. Can you table the analysis that shows that Chapter 19 of CUSMA will not prevent Canada from adopting laws that would create similar provisions such as those contained in Article 20 of the GDPR or California’s Consumer Privacy Act.

[…]

Hon. Michelle Rempel Garner: Just to be clear, I’m just asking if the analysis on that particular provision could be tabled with the committee.

Global Affairs Representative: Sorry, we don’t have any specific analysis.

Hon. Michelle Rempel Garner: No analysis was completed on that.

Global Affairs Representative: No.

In another part of that exchange:

Hon. Michelle Rempel Garner: Can you table the analysis that shows that British Columbia’s data localization would survive a challenge for the provisions in Chapter 19?

Mr. Robert Brookfield: That analysis doesn’t exist in a report form.

For a government whose leader had no problem during the election telling Canadians that we need to strengthen Canadian privacy laws, this is a stunning turn of events. This change, of course, happened in a matter of a few short months no less.

While privacy seems to no longer be a priority for the government, the implications of this attitude are certainly being felt. We previously mentioned how 15 million Canadians had their personal information compromised in the Lifelabs data breach. The breach, in turn, sparked two separate class action lawsuits at least. With the high profile nature of the breach, it naturally caught the attention of the BC Privacy commissioner. So, they began investigating the breach. In response, Lifelabs filed a lawsuit against the BC privacy commissioner, suggesting that the commissioner has no business even investigating the breach in the first place. This over top of the fact that commissioners are reduced down to enforcing privacy laws with the publication of strongly worded letters. Arguably, this puts the perceived power of the commissioners to a whole new low. With the Canadian government already simply no longer caring about privacy in the NAFTA 2.0 context, it is reasonable to ask if Canadian privacy laws are toothless at this stage.

This month has been a bit different for stories. There wasn’t really a whole lot in terms of overarching stories encompassing the month. Instead, this month really featured a bunch of shorter, but also pretty big stories. So, here are some of the other stories making news this month.

Other Stories Making News

In the same month the Canadian government might be questioning the importance of data privacy, the Irish Data Protection Commissioner is seeing a 71% spike in data related complaints. Ireland, of course, is under Europe’s GDPR laws. The law mandates companies to self-report to authorities when an incident is discovered. While this new statistic is a sign of the overwhelming success of GDPR, it is actually becoming a problem now. The problem is that authorities may be becoming a victim of the overwhelming success of the GDPR. The 71% spike in 2019 over 2018 represents an average of 16 complaints per day. With Irish authorities, so far, being unable to hand out any fines, many are concerned with a backlog of cases piling up in Ireland. This in spite of the fact that other countries in Europe are handing out multi-million Euro fines to companies.

A long standing multi-decade observation is that when copyright lobbyists get what they want, they simply demand more. That observation held true with Canada getting a copyright term extension. Without evidence of a need to, or proper consultation, Canada extended copyright terms to life plus 70 years purely because NAFTA 2.0 demanded it. This completely unwarranted change was something major multi-national corporate interests have been demanding for years. Now, they finally got what they want with musical works. Shortly after the story broke, Music Publishers Canada went straight back to lobbying the government demanding that copyright term extension apply to “all works”. The corporate lobbyists said that with this additional change, it would allow small businesses to thrive somehow even though the evidence points to the exact opposite. Either way, it’s just further proof that corporate lobbyists are never satisfied.

Speaking of Canada, the chair of the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel is arguing that websites need tighter regulation. The idea is that websites should somehow cough up more Canadian content or risk being blocked for being too foreign. Their argument stems from the idea that if broadcasters need to include Canadian content, then websites should be bound to the same rules. This is regardless of the fact that this is an entirely different medium we’re talking about here. Websites are not “news broadcasters” in the traditional sense. While they deny that this interferes with the editorial decisions of websites, it still raises concerns about network neutrality. No real case has been made that supports the need for further regulating websites in the country.

Europe’s notorious Article 17 also made news this month. Previously known as article 13, Article 17 is known as the censorship machines law. The law was passed after some lawmakers were threatened by corporations and others were effectively tricked into passing the law through procedural confusion. With the looming copyright disaster coming once these laws come into force, digital rights organizations are doing everything to mitigate the potential damage caused by the law. European Digital Rights is arguing that content should stay up if flagged by the copyright bots. The idea is that it gives all parties involved a chance for human review to ensure that the censorship order is justified. Corporate interests, meanwhile, are demanding that the content be instantly removed. At that stage, users can then have a chance to object to the censorship order. After that, corporations can simply veto the objection, leaving the final decision up to the platform for human review. So, for those who are wondering where things are in this debate, that’s about where we last picked up the story.

We are now at year two of the Cambridge Analytica Facebook controversy. The controversy swirrelled around the data mining practices of Cambridge Analytica which many argue helped Trump get elected and got Brexit passed. Believe it or not, there are still developments happening in the scandal. This month, the Australian Information Commissioner filed a lawsuit against Facebook over the scandal. Angelene Falk argues that Facebook committed serious and repeated interferences with privacy. Those actions, Falk argues, is in contravention of Australian privacy law in reference to the now infamous “This is Your Digital Life” app. An estimated 300,000 Australian’s were reportedly caught up in the scandal.

Martin O’Donnell is a pretty big name in the gaming industry. He’s been made famous for composing music for franchises like Halo, Destiny, Myth, and Oni. Now, O’Donnell could be the latest victim of copyright fraud. O’Donnell posted samples of his own compositions onto YouTube and offered some commentary about the creative process. In response, a seemingly known pair of companies slapped an infringement notice on those video’s. The demands are that ads be placed on those video’s and that all revenue be funnelled into their coffers. O’Donnell, for his part, took to Twitter to post a screenshot of the complaint and said, “WTF YouTube?”

Another musician is also having to deal with copyright fraud as well. Justin Whang is having to deal with a troll who is impersonating him. After that, the troll then sent DMCA takedown orders on all of Whang’s content online. The content is being taken down on Twitter and TikTok. The criticism is all too familiar: the platforms have no real mechanism for handling disputes and that the DMCA needs to be reformed badly.

Meanwhile, Twitter is announcing new rules in response to COVID-19. Twitter officially said that they are requiring users to remove “Content that increases the chance that someone contracts or transmits the virus, including:
– Denial of expert guidance
– Encouragement to use fake or ineffective treatments, preventions, and diagnostic techniques
– Misleading content purporting to be from experts or authorities”

Shortly after, Twitter caught flack for banning Cory Doctorow. Doctorow alleges that the ban was issued without notice or warning. After utilizing his contacts from Twitter, the company then gave a reason for the ban. That reason was that he called trolls “colossal assholes” in a list. This in spite of what Doctorow contends how the trolls have been calling him much worse and Twitter simply failed to respond to the complaints. As the story got out, Twitter eventually restored his account.

Finally, the Business Council of Canada has issued a report urging the Canadian government not to enact strict new privacy laws. Instead, the report urges the government to exercise “caution” in enacting new legislation that many argue are in dire need at this point. The organization argues that increasing fines and giving new enforcement powers to the privacy commissioners is an overly “perscriptive” approach. The group went further by calling for privacy rules to be further relaxed to allow for personal information to be moved around more easily. If you’ve been following Freezenet for almost any length of time, the move is seemingly completely out of touch to what is going on in the world today.

For those of you who are wondering what I’m talking about specifically, this leads us to the next section of our podcast: security incidences making news this month.

First up is the US White House and Department of Defense suffering from a data breach. In all, 200,000 personnel and staff have been compromised as well as various military communications.

After that, MGM Resorts suffered their own data breach. In all, 10.6 million guests have had their personal information compromised. The revelations in this story have sparked a lawsuit against the company.

Canadian mobile carrier Koodo has suffered from a data breach. The Telus owned company admits that they have been hacked. Reports suggest that over 21,000 accounts are now being sold on the dark web at this point.

The very next day, UK mobile carrier, Virgin Media, suffered from a data leak. In all, 900,000 people have had their information exposed. Some experts suggest that the details are very intimate in that people’s porn browsing habits were exposed in the process.

While the cruise ship industry might be suffering significantly from the COVID-19 outbreak, that may not be the only problem facing those companies right now. Multi-billion dollar corporation Carnival Corp. has suffered from a data breach. Both employees and guests have had their information compromised. The lines affected by this are Holland America and Princess Cruises.

The UK Information Commission Office has fined British airline company Cathay Pacific £500,000. The fine was levied against the company under the UK privacy laws enacted prior to the GDPR. As a result, it is the maximum fine authorities could hand down.

Guitar lesson service TrueFire suffered from a data breach. The company has admitted that customers have been exposed for a period of 6 months. While the company contends that they do not store credit card information, that information may have been seen by hackers in transit.

Finally, researchers have uncovered an unsecured database housing 800GB worth of data. In all, 200 million American’s may have been exposed. Researchers are unclear, but think that the data has originated from the US Census Bureau. The data was found on an unsecured Google Cloud server. It is unclear if the information was put there by employees or if it was stolen by hackers and put there carelessly.

With all that happening this month, it kind of puts the Business Council of Canada’s push to loosen privacy laws into perspective. Not the best environment to be advocating loosening privacy laws.

Now, let’s turn to something a bit more upbeat: entertainment.

Video Game Reviews

Before we jump into the video game reviews, we wanted to point that we have posted another first impression video. This month, we tried the first person shooter game Left 4 Dead 2. If you’re interested in seeing what I saw in the first 10 minutes of play, you can check out the link in our transcript or check out our website.

Now, here are the other video games we’ve reviewed this month:

First, we tried Montezuma’s Revenge for the Atari 5200. A good challenge with an impressive dungeon for an Atari 5200 game. So, this game gets an 84%.

After that, we played Mountain King for the Atari 5200. Annoying jumping system, steep learning curve, and buggy ladders. This game gets a 56%.

Next up is Pick ‘N Pile for the Atari 2600. A game that struggles to even get close to NES callibre gaming during a time when the SNES was about to be released. Steep learning curve and boring patches only contribute to how bad this game ended up being. So, this game failed with a 26%.

Finally, we played No Escape! for the Atari 2600. Different wave patterns do provide some variety, but a decidedly very average game. So, this one winds up with a 56%.

Music Reviews

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

Scatman John – Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop)

Toy Box – The Sailor Song

Captain Jack – Captain Jack

Yes – Lift Me Up

Van Halen – Poundcake

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Learning to Fly

Rush – Dreamliner

John Mellencamp – Get a Leg Up

… and finally Dire Straits – Heavy Fuel

Picks of the Month

So, that, leads us to our pick of the month. This month, our pick of the month belongs to Montezuma’s Revenge for the Atari 5200. Also, be sure to check out Toy Box – The Sailor Song, and Captain Jack – Captain Jack.

Oddities

… and in other news…

Three car thieves thought they were able evade police without too much hassle. Unfortunately for the thieves, one of them wasn’t exactly wise in the ways of credit card fraud. The hapless thief went into a Footlocker to buy a bunch of merchandise using a victims stolen credit card. When the Footlocker employee asked if he would like to use his rewards card, he happily obliged and gave her his real Footlocker card. D’oh! Police nabbed all three suspects after the one thief outed himself. On the bright side, just think of all those reward points he racked up in the process! Those can be redeemed while behind bars, right? Right?

With the recent developments of COVID-19, Italy, one of the worst hit area’s, has gone into lockdown mode. With this, concerns are raised about what to do while residents are in self isolation. Luckily, web services are more or less immune to some of the effects of a lockdown. As a result, some online services are offering their, er, services to people affected by the lockdown. One such service in question? Pornhub! That’s right, the service is offering free access to their premium content for those affected by the Italian lockdown in an effort to help residents pass the time. Yeah, only Pornhub could think of something like that.

It’s a pretty normal thing in the dating scene. Guy picks up girlfriend, guy takes girlfriend to restaurant for a date, guy pays for the meal. What wasn’t so normal this time is that while he was paying for the meal, he accidentally shot his girlfriend in the process. The shot was non-lethal and the girl is expected to make a recovery. A sure fire sign of a growing healthy relationship I’m sure.

Outro

Before we close out this episode, we got an announcement to make. We’ve been working hard on the Wiki and several improvements have been made. This is through the February Wiki content patch. We have added an additional 69 pages to the Wiki. In all, the radio show we are documenting now has a total of 90 episodes detailed. This amounts to about 180 hours worth of listening content already. Believe it or not, we are only just getting warmed up after all of this. Indeed, more content is on the way.

In addition to this, we have adjusted the formatting of how we display episodes. Instead of one long list, we have condensed everything down into 10 by 10 grids. This houses 100 episodes in a small square on the screen. This should make navigating the show index much easier. So, a sizable improvement to say the least!

Also, huge shout out to Nolan for providing mixing services!

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 March, 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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