Big Brother Watch publishes The State of Free Speech Online Report

Government surveillance interest group Big Brother Watch has released an insightful Report entitled: The State of Free Speech Online.

The Report looks at crucial provisions of the English Government’s proposed Online Safety Bill, critiquing its impact on freedom of speech.

The Report in particular focuses on social media platforms and the impact of the Bills provisions on their ability to facilitate free speech.

TPP supports free speech unequivocally, recognising that in a democratic society both rights of free speech and the protection of ones private life must be carefully balanced and safeguarded.

The recent move of Facebook in removing the publication of third parties Australian news from its site in protest to the provisions of the proposed News Media Bargaining Code, in doing so lobbying the Australian government, serves to highlight the unequal bargaining position of online platforms and their extensive influence.  

Furthermore, Twitter permanently suspending then US President Donald Trump highlighted the ability of a platform to  operate at the highest levels as arbiters of free speech.

It serves to bring into sharp relief the need for proper safeguards and guidelines of, as the Report states, private companies who “wield power… comparable to that of governments”.

As arbiters of free speech companies such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter hold substantive sway over millions of conversations where the rights of free speech and those of privacy intersect. This Report is a welcome examination of the coming reforms in the Online Safety Bill through a lens of safeguarding free speech.

It argues that enforcement of free speech rights have been “questionable, inconsistent and problematic” across the platforms. It goes on to opine that such platforms need to mirror the rule of law and reflect human rights principles.

As English law moves to take the next step in regulating the activities of those online via the Online Safety Bill TPP with be reporting focusing on both sides of the free speech and privacy debate.

UK government releases NHS covid-19 data sharing agreements

Following significant pressure from groups such as OpenDemocracy and Foxglove the UK government has released its data sharing contracts with companies such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft for the creation of a cloud database for sharing covid-19 related data. Contracts with AI firms Planatir and Faculty were also released.

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Google and healthcare provider Ascension collaboration raises privacy concerns

blue and silver stetoscopeGoogle Cloud has been providing Ascension, the second biggest healthcare provider in the US, with cloud infrastructure services since July 2019. Providing software services to healthcare providers to facilitate the secure management of patient data is not uncommon for Google. The services Ascension are taking are similarly commonplace- the migration of data to Google Cloud, utilizing suite productivity tools and providing technological tools to Ascension’s doctors for use. What perhaps is the defining factor is the scale, with this being the largest project of its kind to date – managing data of over 50 million Americans. This was dubbed “Project Nightingale”.

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Citation: The Guardian: Google and Facebook to investigate the targeting of micro-political ads

The Guardian has an excellent piece on recent moves by Facebook and Google in seeking to ban micro-targeting political ads.

The practice, which underpins the Cambridge Analytica scandal, is being reviewed by the news providers. The harvesting of political oriented data is common and is usually undertaken as part of an effort to profile users.

Facebook has been known to group users for the purposes of ads-targeting, some of which considers political interests. This allows for nuanced and in many cases, an alarming degree of differentiation and influence of users.  The US legislatures have taken issue with this approach in the past.

The ICO has recently reached an agreement with Facebook over the fines put in place over the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The regulator continues work into data misuse in political advertising, to which the issue of micro-targeting of political ads is central.

£3billion class action against Google given the go-ahead – Lloyd v Google LLC [2019] EWCA Civ 1599

Mr Lloyd, a consumer protection advocate, brought a claim against Google for damages on behalf of 4m Apple iPhone users. It was alleged that Google secretly tracked some of their internet activity for commercial purposes between 9 August 2011 and 15 February 2012. Continue reading

The right to be forgotten does not apply to search engine results globally

On 24 September 2019 the European Court of Justice (“ECJ”) handed down judgment in the case of Google v CNIL C-507/17. The effect of the case was that right to be forgotten requests only need be applied to domain names of Member States and not extra-territorially globally. The case, therefore, has implications for the processing and effectiveness of the right to be forgotten requests, particularly for requestors who seek de-listing of search results from multiple non-EU jurisdictions. Notably, the administrative burden upon search engine operators has been limited by the ruling.

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Revisiting the right to be forgotten, the NT1 and NT2 case

The right to be forgotten or right to erasure under data protection legislation and enshrined from the Google Spain case allows significant protection of information regarding the individual. In this post, we consider the seminal case of NT1 and NT2 which is illustrative of this fact. Continue reading