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Your Health Data Might Be for Sale

Slate reported:

The leak of the draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade has prompted numerous stories about the privacy of health data. For instance, Vice reported that data broker SafeGraph was collecting and selling the GPS locations of people who visited abortion clinics — in many cases, likely without their knowledge. There have also been numerous concerns raised about period tracking apps and other technologies that could enable surveillance of and even violence against those seeking medical care.

Most Americans assume that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, and other health privacy laws prevent entities like their doctor from sharing sensitive personal information — and that’s true. Healthcare providers are covered under HIPAA’s privacy rules.

But companies outside the narrow scope of HIPAA, from data brokers to period tracking apps, can legally sell Americans’ health-related information, and they do, from a list of your surgical procedures to your mental health conditions.

Wearable Trackers Could Spot COVID Early

U.S. News & World Report reported:

Could your smartwatch know you have a COVID infection before you do? It might be possible one day. ​​New research suggests that wearable activity trackers that monitor the changes in your skin temperature, heart and breathing rates, combined with artificial intelligence, could be used to identify an infection days before the symptoms start.

The findings were based on a tracker called the Ava bracelet, which is a regulated and commercially available fertility tracker that monitors breathing rate, heart rate, heart rate variability, wrist skin temperature, blood flow and sleep quantity and quality.

Researchers wanted to see if monitoring physiological changes could help develop a machine-learning algorithm to detect COVID in people who could be spreading the infection days before they know they have the virus.

For this study, published June 22 in BMJ Open, the team drew 1,163 people from the study between March 2020 and April 2021.

NJ Colleges Would Be Required to Mandate COVID Vaccine Under New Bill

New Jersey Monitor reported:

Many New Jersey colleges and universities put a COVID-19 vaccine requirement in place for students and employees during the pandemic.

Now one lawmaker — who’s also a doctor — is joining a push to make the coronavirus vaccine a legal requirement for all university and college students and employees to attend in-person classes and events.

Under the measure introduced in the Assembly Monday (A4334), higher education institutions would be barred from enrolling students to attend in-person classes or employing people for non-remote work if they have not received the COVID-19 vaccine, beginning in the 2022-2023 academic year.

The legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-Burlington), would add the coronavirus vaccine to the list of inoculations students must receive to attend classes in person.

New Orleans Grill Becomes First Business Allowed by Court to Recover Damages for COVID Lockdown Losses

The Epoch Times reported:

Oceana Grill, a popular seafood restaurant in New Orleans, has achieved a first-of-its-kind victory in its long-running legal battle to receive payouts from insurer Lloyd’s of London for loss of revenues during its COVID-19 shutdown beginning on March 20, 2020.

On June 15, a Louisiana state court reversed an earlier decision and ruled in favor of the claim for damages brought by the company owning Oceana Grill, Cajun Conti LLC.

The June 15 decision is highly significant for businesses that seek compensation for often massive and crippling losses of revenues suffered when they were forced to curtail their operations or cease altogether as COVID-19 swept the country in the early months of 2020.

But the June 15 ruling does not mean that all such businesses will now be able to pursue claims that insurers and courts had previously refused to entertain. Rather, it is likely to benefit the minority of businesses whose insurance policies do not contain exclusions for the contamination of buildings and food, said John Houghtaling, a name partner of the Metairie, Louisiana-based law firm Gauthier Murphy & Houghtaling, which represented Cajun Conti in the litigation.

‘I See the Impact on Our Readiness’: Matt Gaetz Pushes to Reinstate Service Members Dismissed Over the COVID Vaccine

The Daily Wire reported:

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) plans to introduce an amendment Wednesday reinstating armed service members who were dismissed for refusing the COVID vaccine.

When the House Armed Services Committee marks up the National Defense Authorization Act, Gaetz will introduce an amendment protecting armed service members who refuse to get the COVID vaccine, reinstating members who were dismissed over their refusal at the same rank and grade, and providing back pay and benefits to the members who were dismissed.

“I see the impact on our readiness from these mandates,” he said during a Tuesday afternoon phone interview with The Daily Wire. “We are hundreds of pilots short in the Air Force and we’ve lost a number of pilots as a consequence of these mandates.”

As of late May, the Army had discharged at least 742 active-duty soldiers for refusing to get vaccinated, Military.com reported, noting that the number had more than doubled since the previous month. Many of the service members who submitted religious exemption requests got back blanket form-letter rejections, the congressman said.

Broadway Theaters Drop Their Mask Mandate Starting in July

Associated Press reported:

In another sign that the world of entertainment is returning to pre-pandemic normal, Broadway theaters will no longer demand audiences wear masks starting in July.

The Broadway League announced Tuesday that mask-wearing will be optional next month onward, a further loosening of restrictions. In May, most Broadway theaters lifted the requirement that audience members provide proof of vaccination to enter venues.

The latest policy will “be evaluated on a monthly basis as we continue to monitor the science,” according to a statement by the League, which represents Broadway producers. It also said that “audience members are still encouraged to wear masks in theaters.” Producers have long complained that ticket sales may be depressed due to the mask ban.

Defense Chief to Review Canadian Armed Forces COVID Vaccine Mandate

Global News reported:

Defense chief Gen. Wayne Eyre is reviewing the Canadian military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which remains in effect even though a similar requirement for most other federal employees has been suspended.

Eyre first ordered all troops vaccinated against COVID-19 in October, saying the requirement was intended to protect the Armed Forces and “demonstrate leadership” as the Liberal government adopted vaccine mandates across the federal public service.

Yet while the majority of federal mandates were lifted Monday, including for civilians working in the Department of National Defence and members of the RCMP, the requirement still applies to those serving in military uniform.

Those who refused to comply with the order were warned they could face disciplinary proceedings, including their forced removal from the military. That stood in contrast with non-military employees, who were allowed to go on leave without pay and have since been cleared to return to work now that the requirement has been lifted.

New Draft Rules Portend More Internet Censorship in China

Axios reported:

China’s Internet regulator has released a new set of draft rules that, if implemented, would impose stricter censorship of comments posted to social media platforms, MIT Technology Review reports.

Tighter restrictions could close off what few spaces remain for Chinese people to speak their minds online.

Comments and videos posted to social media platforms have become one of the only ways Chinese people living through COVID lockdowns can communicate their desperation for food and medical care with each other and the outside world.

The Chinese government has already created one of the toughest Internet censorship regimes in the world, enforced in large part by content reviewers employed by social media companies to police posts.

Facebook Oversight Board Says Company Should Be Much More Transparent

The Washington Post reported:

More than a year after its creation, the Facebook Oversight Board argued in the first of what are to be annual reports that the social media company should be far more transparent about how it decides which posts and accounts to leave up and which to take down.

The board, an international panel of human rights advocates, politicians and academics that oversees Facebook’s thorniest content moderation decisions, said the company had made some progress in implementing the board’s policy recommendations but needed to share more information about content removal systems.

The group took aim at the opaque nature of the company’s strikes system, which gives users who break the platform’s content guidelines a specific number of passes and a tiered system of punishments before their accounts are suspended.

After EU Child Safety Complaints, TikTok Tweaks Ad Disclosures but Profiling Concerns Remain

TechCrunch reported:

A long-running EU engagement with TikTok — initiated following a series of complaints about child safety and consumer protection complaints filed back in February 2021 — has ended, for now, with the video-sharing platform offering a series of commitments to improve user reporting and disclosure requirements around ads/sponsored content; and also to boost transparency around its digital coins and virtual gifts.

However European consumer organization, BEUC — which originated the complaint — has warned that “significant concerns” remain over how TikTok operates its platform which raises questions over the decision, at the EU level, to accept TikTok’s commitments and monitor implementation — rather than take tougher enforcement action.

“We are particularly worried that the profiling and targeting of children with personalized advertising will not be stopped by TikTok. This is in contradiction with the five principles on advertising towards children adopted by the data protection and consumer protection authorities last week,” said BEUC’s deputy director-general, Ursula Pachl, in a statement.

Microsoft Limits Access to Facial Recognition Tool in AI Ethics Overhaul

The Guardian reported:

Microsoft is overhauling its artificial intelligence ethics policies and will no longer let companies use its technology to do things such as to infer emotion, gender or age using facial recognition technology, the company has said.

As part of its new “responsible AI standard,” Microsoft says it intends to keep “people and their goals at the center of system-design decisions.” The high-level principles will lead to real changes in practice, the company says, with some features being tweaked and others withdrawn from sale.

Microsoft’s Azure Face service, for instance, is a facial recognition tool that is used by companies such as Uber as part of their identity verification processes. Now, any company that wants to use the service’s facial recognition features will need to actively apply for use, including those that have already built it into their products, to prove they are matching Microsoft’s AI ethics standards and that the features benefit the end-user and society.