Overreach

Alphabet strikes again.

Google informs children when their parents are monitoring their account activity, the tech giant confirmed this month, with the company claiming that doing so is a way of balancing the interests of both parents and children.

Such “balancing” is not Google’s call. It’s not the decision anyone or any enterprise can make in place of the parents, with the narrowly bounded exception of a child’s endangerment—which in the present context is what parental monitoring is for. More broadly, the degree of privacy a child has—is accorded—while growing up is a parental decision and no one or no thing else’s. Full stop.

Turning Children into Snitches

This time, it’s Vermont’s Republican governor.

Vermont Governor Phil Scott said during a press conference on Tuesday that schools in the state will include new questions during daily health checks about whether students and their parents attended gatherings outside of their households following the Thanksgiving holiday.

Never mind the carefully high-minded claimed motives for this—it’s trying to get children to denounce their parents to authorities.

This using the Wuhan Virus situation as an excuse to drastically increase government power has gotten ‘way out of hand.

Insufficient

Recall that Oracle and ByteDance have a proposal on the table for Oracle to take a minority partnership position in ByteDance’s TikTok.  In response to objections to that, some

Trump administration officials are looking to give American investors a majority share of the company that will take over the Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok[.]

Senators Marco Rubio (R, FL), Rick Scott (R, FL), Thom Tillis (R, NC), Roger Wicker (R, MI), Dan Sullivan (R, AK), and John Cornyn (R, TX), object to that, too.

Internet Security

There is a move afoot—and it’s making significant progress—to develop and deploy a quantum computing Internet.

A group led by the US Department of Energy and the University of Chicago plans to develop a nationwide quantum internet that could be functional in about a decade and with the potential to securely transmit sensitive information related to national security and financial services.
“What we’re moving forward on is building out quantum networks [to] someday…turn into a full second internet, a parallel internet to the digital internet,” said Paul Dabbar, the Energy Department’s Under Secretary for Science.

Some Thoughts on TikTok

TikTok is a video messaging app that was developed in the People’s Republic of China and is owned by ByteDance, another PRC company. The Wall Street Journal published a Q&A on the app last Tuesday.

I have some thoughts, too.

For background, here are some of the data that TikTok collects just because you’re using it.

…location data and your internet address, according to its privacy policy, and it tracks the type of device you are using to access its platform. It stores your browsing and search history as well as the content of messages you exchange with others on the app.

A Federal Surveillance Law Lapse

A fairly broad range of FISA surveillance authorities held by the Federal government has lapsed, and that

has begun to limit the FBI’s ability to pursue some terrorism and espionage suspects….

Disagreements among the House, Senate, and White House over how much to renew and the degree of additional controls to be applied to what’s renewed combined with the Wuhan Virus situation to let Congress adjourn for the season and the situation without action.

I’m undismayed by this turn of events. In the first place, when Congress returns, it’s quite likely to work out these differences and renew the FISA authorities in some form—which, if done correctly, won’t be all bad.

Wuhan Virus Tracking

Many nations are using cell phone data and/or apps installed on cell phones to track folks known to be infected in order to identify those persons’ contacts and to build up anticipatory data of pending and developing hotspots. This is intended to facilitate more efficient targeting of medical resources, to more efficiently target more limited populations, and so to more quickly free up economic resources and activity.

Privacy

Here is why more needs to be done to protect our privacy—primarily by us, but with Government’s assistance. Below is an example, quoted from a bulletin board I follow. The author is talking about an investment during a time of coronavirus disruption of supply chains, but the subtext should be obvious.

“Should Government Halt the Use of Facial-Recognition Technology?”

The Wall Street Journal ran one of its point-counterpoint debates over the weekend; this one treating the topic in this post’s title.

The debaters focused on the error rate of the technology and whether that was a big deal or a little one; although there was passing mention of civil liberty problems.

I say the question is over-broad.

Government should not only halt its own use of facial recognition software; it should be statutorily barred from it. We haven’t, yet, been overrun by the People’s Republic of China. The civil liberty—the individual liberty—matter is much too serious to be glossed over, and this is one venue where the line is better drawn at zero rather than trusting Government (which is to say, the men of Government) to go this far but no farther.

In Which Illinois Got It Right

Back in 2008, Illinois passed a law barring companies from collecting customers’ personal biometric information without their prior permission. Companies in Illinois also were required to develop a policy, and make it readily available, that laid out how those biometric data would be stored and when they would be destroyed.

Facebook was accused of violating that law when it decided to use its facial recognition technology to analyze users’ photos in order to create and store “face templates.” Users’ faces are plainly biometric data in this context, the data were taken by Facebook without the owners’/users’ permission, and in 2015, folks sued Facebook over its misbehavior.