A Californian law that prevented the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) from publishing the age of movie stars has been declared
unconstitutional, and so the law is struck down on First Amendment grounds. A federal judge declared it not only to be unconstitutional, but also a bad solution to the wrong problem.
The law went into effect in 2017 after being signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown. The goal was to mitigate age discrimination in a youth-obsessed Hollywood by requiring IMDb to remove age-related information upon the request of a subscriber.
The judge explained:
Even if California had shown that the law was passed after targeted efforts to eliminate discrimination in the entertainment industry had failed, the law is not narrowly tailored. For one, the law is underinclusive, in that it bans only one kind
of speaker from disseminating age-related information, leaving all other sources of that information untouched. Even looking just at IMDb.com, the law requires IMDb to take down some age-related information -- that of the members of its
subscription service who request its removal -- but not the age-related information of those who don't subscribe to IMDbPro, or who don't ask IMDb.com to take their information down.
The judge adds that the law is also overinclusive:
For instance, it requires IMDb not to publish the age-related information of all those who request that their information not be published, not just of those protected by existing age discrimination laws, states the opinion (read below). If the
state is concerned about discriminatory conduct affecting those not covered by current laws, namely those under 40, it certainly has a more direct means of addressing those concerns than imposing restrictions on IMDb's speech.
Californian officials said the state will be appealing this ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In a ruling of particular interest to those working in the adult entertainment biz, a German court has ruled that Facebook's real name policy is illegal and that users must be allowed to sign up for the service under pseudonyms.
The opinion comes from the Berlin Regional Court and disseminated by the Federation of German Consumer Organizations, which filed the suit against Facebook. The Berlin court found that Facebook's real name policy was a covert way of obtaining
users' consent to share their names, which are one of many pieces of information the court said Facebook did not properly obtain users' permission for.
The court also said that Facebook didn't provide a clear-cut choice to users for other default settings, such as to share their location in chats. It also ruled against clauses that allowed the social media giant to use information such as profile
pictures for commercial, sponsored or related content.
Facebook told Reuters it will appeal the ruling, but also that it will make changes to comply with European Union privacy laws coming into effect in June.
Facebook has been ordered to stop tracking people without consent, by a court in Belgium. The company has been told to delete all the data it had gathered on people who did not use Facebook. The court ruled the data was gathered illegally.
Belgium's privacy watchdog said the website had broken privacy laws by placing tracking code on third-party websites.
Facebook said it would appeal against the ruling.
The social network faces fines of 250,000 euros a day if it does not comply.
The ruling is the latest in a long-running dispute between the social network and the Belgian commission for the protection of privacy (CPP). In 2015, the CPP complained that Facebook tracked people when they visited pages on the site or clicked
like or share, even if they were not members.
Some users have reported seeing pop ups in Instagram (IG) informing them that, from now on, Instagram will be flagging when you
record or take a screenshot of other people's IG stories and informing the originator that you have rsnapped or ecorded the post.
According to a report by Tech Crunch , those who have been selected to participate in the IG trial can see exactly who has been creeping and snapping their stories. Those who have screenshotted an image or recorded a video will have a little
camera shutter logo next to their usernames, much like Snapchat.
Of course, users have already found a nifty workaround to avoid social media stalking exposure. So here's the deal: turning your phone on airplane mode after you've loaded the story and then taking your screenshot means that users won't be
notified of any impropriety (sounds easy for Instagram to fix this by saving the keypress until the next time it communicates with the Instagram server). You could also download the stories from Instagram's website or use an app like Story
Reposter. Maybe PC users just need another small window on the desktop, then move the mouse pointer to the small window before snapping the display.
Clearly, there's concerns on Instagram's part about users' content being shared without their permission, but if the post is shared with someone for viewing, it is pretty tough to stop then from grabbing a copy for themselves as they view it.
Smartphones rule our lives. Having information at our fingertips is the height of convenience. They tell us all
sorts of things, but the information we see and receive on our smartphones is just a fraction of the data they generate. By tracking and monitoring our behaviour and activities, smartphones build a digital profile of shockingly intimate
information about our personal lives.
These records aren’t just a log of our activities. The digital profiles they create are
traded between companies
and used to make inferences and decisions that affect the opportunities open to us and our lives. What’s more, this typically happens without our knowledge, consent or control.
New and sophisticated methods built into smartphones make it easy to track and monitor our behaviour. A vast amount of information can be collected from our smartphones, both when being actively used and while running in the background. This
information can include our location, internet search history, communications, social media activity, finances and biometric data such as fingerprints or facial features. It can also include metadata – information about the data – such as the time
and recipient of a text message.
Each type of data can reveal something about our interests and preferences, views, hobbies and social interactions. For example, a study conducted by MIT demonstrated how
email metadata can be used to map our lives
, showing the changing dynamics of our professional and personal networks. This data can be used to infer personal information including a person’s background, religion or beliefs, political views, sexual orientation and gender identity, social
connections, or health. For example, it is possible to deduce our specific health conditions
simply by connecting the dots between a series of phone calls.
Different types of data can be consolidated and linked to build a comprehensive profile of us. Companies that buy and sell data –
– already do this. They collect and combine billions of data elements about people to make inferences about them. These inferences may seem innocuous but can
reveal sensitive information
such as ethnicity, income levels, educational attainment, marital status, and family composition.
A recent study found that seven in ten smartphone apps share data
with third-party tracking companies like Google Analytics. Data from numerous apps can be linked within a smartphone to build this more detailed picture of us, even if permissions for individual apps are granted separately. Effectively,
smartphones can be converted into surveillance devices.
The result is the creation and amalgamation of digital footprints that provide in-depth knowledge about your life. The most obvious reason for companies collecting information about individuals is for profit, to deliver targeted advertising and
personalised services. Some targeted ads, while perhaps creepy, aren’t necessarily a problem, such as an ad for the new trainers you have been eyeing up.
But targeted advertising based on our smartphone data can have real impacts on livelihoods and well-being, beyond influencing purchasing habits. For example, people in financial difficulty might be
targeted for ads for payday loans
. They might use these loans to pay for unexpected expenses
, such as medical bills, car maintenance or court fees, but could also rely on them for
recurring living costs
such as rent and utility bills. People in financially vulnerable situations can then become trapped in
as they struggle to repay loans due to the high cost of credit.
Targeted advertising can also enable companies to discriminate against people and deny them an equal chance of accessing basic human rights, such as housing and employment. Race is not explicitly included in Facebook’s basic profile information,
but a user’s “ethnic affinity” can be worked out based on pages they have liked or engaged with. Investigative journalists from ProPublica found that it is possible to exclude those who match certain ethnic affinities
from housing ads
, and certain age groups from job ads
This is different to traditional advertising in print and broadcast media, which although targeted is not exclusive. Anyone can still buy a copy of a newspaper, even if they are not the typical reader. Targeted online advertising can completely
exclude some people from information without them ever knowing. This is a particular problem because the internet, and social media especially, is now such a common source of information.
Social media data can also be used to calculate creditworthiness
, despite its dubious relevance. Indicators such as the level of sophistication in a user’s language on social media, and their friends’ loan repayment histories can now be used for credit checks. This can have a direct impact on the fees and
interest rates charged on loans, the ability to buy a house, and even employment prospects
There’s a similar risk with payment and shopping apps. In China, the government has announced plans
to combine data about personal expenditure with official records, such as tax returns and driving offences. This initiative, which is being led by both the government and companies, is
currently in the pilot stage
. When fully operational, it will produce a social credit score
that rates an individual citizen’s trustworthiness. These ratings can then be used to issue rewards or penalties, such as privileges in loan applications or limits on career progression.
These possibilities are not distant or hypothetical – they exist now. Smartphones are
effectively surveillance devices
, and everyone who uses them is exposed to these risks. What’s more, it is impossible to anticipate and detect the full range of ways smartphone data is collected and used, and to demonstrate the full scale of its impact. What we know could be
just the beginning.