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Rights Groups Demand DOE Take a Stand on ‘Invasive’ Student Surveillance Software

Gizmodo reported:

More than a dozen rights groups and education organizations wrote a letter urgently calling on the Department of Education (DOE) to take a stance on controversial student monitoring software, which they say violates students’ privacy and threatens to undermine hard-fought civil rights gains.

Digital rights and privacy experts shared similar concerns with Gizmodo and claimed these technologies, often implemented in the name of safety, actually make schools less safe for students. The letter comes on the heels of newly-released research from The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) which claims a staggering 89% of U.S. teachers report using software capable of tracking their students’ online activity.

The organizations, which includes the CDT, American Civil Liberties Union, and American Association of School Librarians, claim these monitoring tools, which exploded in use during the pandemic and have gained favor as a means of safety following the horrific Uvalde, Texas school shooting, are “often used in ways that discriminate against protected groups of students.”

The groups cite the new CDT research, claiming the continued prevalence of monitoring software (often used even after normal school hours) can exacerbate disproportionately racial school disciplining, lead to increased student interactions with law enforcement for people of color, result in the “outing” of LGBTQ+ students, stifle speech, and exacerbate students’ mental health struggles. All of these factors, the groups argue, are more likely to affect low-income students and students of color, who previous research has shown are more likely to use school-provided technology.

Tesla Is the Latest Company to Be Drawn Into the Elon Musk-Twitter Legal Mess

The Verge reported:

Twitter wants all of Tesla’s documents and communications related to Elon Musk’s bid to take over the social media company, according to a new subpoena filed August 2nd. The electric car maker is the latest company to be drawn into the increasingly sticky mess that Musk created when he first proposed — and later attempted to abandon — a plan to buy Twitter.

Twitter is suing Musk in Delaware court to force him to go through with his $44 billion plan to buy the San Francisco-based company. Musk is attempting to abandon the deal, claiming Twitter violated their agreement by failing to disclose accurate information around spam accounts. Twitter argues that Musk signed a contract to buy the company, and is using spam accounts as a false pretense to worm his way out of the deal.

Twitter’s subpoena outlines a list of 27 requests for Tesla, including internal communications at Tesla about Musk’s takeover plan, all communications between Musk and Twitter and between Musk and his co-investors (like Larry Ellison), and all documents related to the roughly $8.4 billion worth of Tesla stock that Musk sold to finance the takeover bid.

Citing a Mental Health Crisis Among Young People, California Lawmakers Target Social Media

KHN reported: 

Karla Garcia said her son’s social media addiction started in fourth grade, when he got his own computer for virtual learning and logged on to YouTube. Now, two years later, the video-sharing site has replaced both schoolwork and the activities he used to love — like composing music or serenading his friends on the piano, she said.

Some California lawmakers want to help Garcia and other parents protect their children’s mental health by targeting website elements they say were designed to hook kids — such as personalized posts that grab and hold viewers on a specific page, frequent push notifications that pull users back to their devices, and autoplay functions that provide a continuous stream of video content.

Two complementary bills in the state legislature would require websites, social media platforms, or online products that children use — or could use — to eliminate features that can addict them, harvest their personal information, and promote harmful content. Those that don’t comply could face lawsuits and hefty fines. One of the measures would impose penalties of up to $7,500 per affected child in California — which could amount to millions of dollars.

Federal lawmakers are making a similar push with bills that would tighten children’s privacy protections and target features that foster addiction. One would require online platforms to provide tools to help parents track and control their children’s internet use. The measures were approved by a U.S. Senate committee July 27.

Pathogenic Bacteria and Fungi Found on Masks: Study

The Epoch Times reported:

Several pathogenic microbes were identified and quantified on masks worn during the pandemic, according to a Japanese study that was published in Scientific Reports.

The study is one of the first to address the probable hygiene issues caused by bacterial and fungal growth on masks worn daily in the community.

“Since masks can be a direct source of infection to the respiratory tract, digestive tract, and skin, it is crucial to maintain their hygiene to prevent bacterial and fungal infections that can exacerbate COVID-19,” the authors wrote.

The study involved 109 participants aged 21 to 22 years who were asked about the type and duration of mask used and their lifestyle habits. Bacteria and fungi were collected from the three types of masks —  gauze, polyurethane, and non-woven — worn between September and October 2020.

The researchers found that the face side of the masks had more bacteria, whereas the outer side of the masks contained more fungi.

Sensitive Data Ruling by Europe’s Top Court Could Force Broad Privacy Reboot

TechCrunch reported:

A ruling put out yesterday by the European Union’s top court could have major implications for online platforms that use background tracking and profiling to target users with behavioral ads or to feed recommender engines that are designed to surface so-called ‘personalized’ content.

The impacts could be even broader — with privacy law experts suggesting the judgement could dial up legal risk for a variety of other forms of online processing, from dating apps to location tracking and more. Although they suggest fresh legal referrals are also likely as operators seek to unpack what could be complex practical difficulties arising from the judgement.

The referral to the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) relates to a Lithuanian case concerning national anti-corruption legislation. But the impact of the judgement is likely to be felt across the region as it crystalizes how the bloc’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which sets the legal framework for processing personal data, should be interpreted when it comes to data ops in which sensitive inferences can be made about individuals.

TikTok’s Ties to China Are Once Again Under Fire in Washington. Here’s Why

CNN reported:

A growing number of U.S. lawmakers are calling for the Biden administration to take action against TikTok, citing apparent national security and data privacy concerns. The criticism stems from a Buzzfeed News report in June that said some U.S. user data has been repeatedly accessed from China. The reporting cited leaked audio recordings of dozens of internal TikTok meetings, including one where a TikTok employee allegedly said, “Everything is seen in China.”

In a response to the report, TikTok previously said it “has consistently maintained that our engineers in locations outside of the U.S., including China, can be granted access to U.S. user data on an as-needed basis under those strict controls.” A TikTok executive testified before a Senate panel last year that it doesn’t share information with the Chinese government and that a US-based security team decides who can access U.S. user data from China.

The renewed pressure on TikTok comes as the platform’s influence continues to grow in the United States.