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Appeals Court Rules Against Vaccine Mandate in 3 States

Associated Press reported:

An appeals court has affirmed a ban in three states on enforcing a federal vaccine mandate for workers who contract with the federal government.

A panel of the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on Thursday affirmed a lower court’s ruling that said the mandate was unconstitutional. President Joe Biden’s administration is not enforcing the rule while legal battles play out around the country.

A federal judge in Louisville, Kentucky, blocked the Biden rule in November 2021 for that state and two others: Tennessee and Ohio. The mandate requires workers contracting with the federal government to wear face masks and be vaccinated for COVID-19.

The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals issued a similar ruling in December for Indiana, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Pence: Discharged Military Members Should Be Reinstated, Get Back Pay Over Vaccine Mandates

The Hill reported:

Former Vice President Mike Pence in an exclusive interview called on the Biden administration to reinstate and provide back pay to members of the military who were discharged for refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine now that the mandate for the shot has been lifted.

Pence, in a Wednesday interview with The Hill, called it “unconscionable” that some troops were put in a position to decide between serving their country and complying with the vaccine mandate, which was instituted in August 2021. The mandate was rescinded through a bipartisan defense policy bill signed into law late last year.

In a memo announcing the mandate had been dropped, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said those who were discharged can petition for a change in the characterization of their discharge in personnel records.

Google Claims a Supreme Court Defeat Would Transform the Internet — for the Worse

CNN Business reported:

An unfavorable ruling against Google in a closely watched Supreme Court case this term about YouTube’s recommendation engine could have sweeping unintended consequences for much of the wider internet, the search giant argued in a legal filing Thursday.

Google, which owns YouTube, is fighting a high-stakes court battle over whether algorithmically generated YouTube recommendations are exempt from Big Tech’s signature liability shield, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Section 230 broadly protects tech platforms from lawsuits over the companies’ content moderation decisions. But a Supreme Court decision that says AI-based recommendations do not qualify for those protections could “threaten the internet’s core functions,” Google wrote in its brief.

In the face of such a ruling, websites could have to choose between intentionally over-moderating their websites, scrubbing them of virtually everything that could be perceived as objectionable, or doing no moderation at all to avoid the risk of liability, Google argued.

Meta Sues ‘Predictive Policing’ Firm for Using Fake Accounts to Scrape More Than 600,000 Facebook Profiles

Gizmodo reported:

Meta, the company previously known as Facebook, may not have the best track record when it comes to preserving its users’ privacy, but it nonetheless wants to make damn sure other companies aren’t spying on its community without its approval.

This week, the tech giant filed a lawsuit against United Kingdom-registered scrapping and surveillance firm Voyager Labs, alleging the company created fake, unauthorized accounts and used them to collect data from Facebook and Instagram, as well as ​​Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Telegram. The lawsuit comes just days after the U.S. The Supreme Court allowed Meta’s separate lawsuit against Israeli surveillance-for-hire giant NSO Group to proceed.

In its newest complaint, Meta claims Voyager created more than 38,000 fake accounts and used those to scrape 600,000 Facebook users’ “viewable profile information.” That profile data potentially implicates posts, likes, friends lists, photos and comments and certain data pulled from Facebook Groups and Pages.

Voyager allegedly marketed its scraping tools to companies interested in conducting surveillance on social media sites without being detected and then sold its bounty to the highest bidder.

Wisconsin, North Carolina Become Latest States to Ban TikTok From Government Devices

The Hill reported:

Wisconsin and North Carolina became the latest states to ban TikTok from government devices on Thursday, as concerns grow over potential cybersecurity risks posed by the Chinese-owned social media platform.

North Carolina also banned WeChat, a messaging platform owned by a Chinese technology company, and left the door open to banning other applications that pose an “unacceptable cybersecurity risk.”

More than 20 state governments have banned TikTok from official devices over cybersecurity concerns. Federal employees have also been barred from using the social media platform on government devices, following President Biden’s signing of the omnibus spending package.

France Fines TikTok $5.4 Million for Online Tracking Shortcomings

Reuters reported:

France on Thursday fined TikTok 5 million euros ($5.4 million) for shortcomings linked to the short video platform’s handling of online tracking known as “cookies,” which the ByteDance-owned company said it had now addressed.

French data protection watchdog CNIL said that its investigation only concerned the website tiktok.com and not the service’s much more heavily used smartphone applications.

The CNIL found that for tiktok.com’s users, it was not as easy to refuse online trackers as to accept them. The authority also found that internet users were not sufficiently informed about TikTok’s use of cookies.

Under European Union rules, websites must clearly ask for the prior consent of internet users for any use of cookies — small pieces of data stored while navigating on the Web. They should also make it easy to refuse them, according to the EU’s rules.

The Battle Over Women’s Data

Wired reported:

2023 will be the year that the battle over data ownership takes to the streets. The United States Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe v. Wade has politicalized women’s bodies — and not only in the U.S. When the ruling was debated in Westminster, several U.K. parliamentarians took the opportunity to question a woman’s bodily autonomy.

The reaction of every woman I know — and many men — was instinctive and visceral. We are being transported backward — to the 70s, or before. But there is a difference. In those eras, we didn’t have artificial intelligence and big data. We did not have digital.

We are all digital beings now. It’s been over a decade since the story broke of how supermarket Target knew a teenager was pregnant before her parents did, based on what she was purchasing. Think of the tremendous “advances” in algorithms, data collection and adtech since then. Legislation has not kept pace.

Deleting period apps is not enough. Your phone, the sites you visit, the other apps you run — all monitor you. Even in the U.K., it is perfectly legal to sell this data if it has been aggregated and supposedly anonymized. As computer scientist Latanya Sweeney famously showed, the term “anonymized data sets” should have “pseudo” in front of it. Even most data that has been deleted is recoverable.

Germany to Scrap COVID Mask Rule on Long-Distance Transport

Deutsche Welle reported:

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach announced on Friday that, from February 2, travelers will no longer need to wear face masks on long-distance public transport in Germany.

The minister said the government had taken the decision to scrap the mask mandate several months ahead of schedule because of a reduction in the risk posed by the coronavirus.

“The pandemic situation has stabilized,” said Lauterbach, who has been under mounting pressure to drop the mandate.

The number of known or suspected infections is evening out or even falling, and the number of people hospitalized continues to decline, he explained. “The population has built up high immunity, and the experts who advise us no longer believe there will be another big, serious winter wave.”