Hillicon Valley — Roe draft opinion sparks data privacy concerns
Privacy advocates are sounding the alarms following the news that Roe v. Wade may be overturned this summer. The role that data could play in identifying and prosecuting individuals seeking or providing abortions is under the microscope.
In the cyber world, a key tool for North Korean cryptocurrency exploits was sanctioned.
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Data could be a dangerous tool, advocates say
Concerns that data gathered from peoples’ interactions with their digital devices could potentially be used to identify individuals seeking or performing abortions have come into the spotlight with the news that pregnancy termination services could soon be severely restricted or banned in much of the United States.
Following the leak of a draft majority opinion indicating that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that established the federal right to abortion, privacy advocates are raising alarms about the ways law enforcement officials or anti-abortion activists could make such identifications using data available on the open market, obtained from companies or extracted from devices.
“The dangers of unfettered access to Americans’ personal information have never been more obvious. Researching birth control online, updating a period-tracking app or bringing a phone to the doctor’s office could be used to track and prosecute women across the U.S.,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said in a statement to The Hill.
Data from web searches, smartphone location pings and online purchases can all be easily obtained with little to no safeguards.
“Almost everything that you do … data can be captured about it and can be fed into a larger model that can help somebody or some entity infer whether or not you may be pregnant and whether or not you may be someone who’s planning to have an abortion or has had one,” Nathalie Maréchal, senior policy manager at Ranking Digital Rights, explained.
North Korea crypto device targeted by Treasury
The U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions Friday on online cryptocurrency tool Blender, which is used by North Korea to steal and launder virtual currencies, the department said.
A North Korea cyber operations unit, known as the Lazarus Group, which had already been sanctioned by the U.S., carried out a $620 million heist in March and used the Blender tool to launder more than $20 million of the stolen funds, Treasury said.
Blender, or Blender.io, is a cryptocurrency tool known as a “mixer,” software designed to anonymize the source of virtual currency by exchanging it for an equal amount of randomized currencies.
“Today, for the first time ever, Treasury is sanctioning a virtual currency mixer,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. “Virtual currency mixers that assist illicit transactions pose a threat to U.S. national security interests. We are taking action against illicit financial activity by the DPRK and will not allow state-sponsored thievery and its money-laundering enablers to go unanswered.”
On its website, Blender says its service “breaks the connection” between transactions and renders regulating authorities “unaware” of who owns what cryptocurrency.
MUSK DENIES TALKING TWITTER WITH TRUMP
Elon Musk said Friday morning that he did not communicate with former President Trump about his plans to buy Twitter, despite the CEO of Trump’s social media platform saying that the two spoke before the purchase.
In response to a New York Post article that quoted Truth Social CEO Devin Nunes saying during a Fox Business Network appearance that Trump had “encouraged” Musk to buy Twitter, Musk denied that he was in communication with the former president.
“This is false,” Musk said of the claim in a post on Twitter. “I’ve had no communication, directly or indirectly, with Trump, who has publicly stated that he will be exclusively on Truth Social.”
AMAZON TAKES ACTION ON ‘FAKE REVIEW BROKERS’
Amazon took additional steps to rid its online marketplace of fake reviews by filing lawsuits Friday against a company Amazon alleges is running a scheme to push misleading reviews on the platform.
Amazon sued Hong Kong-based company Extreme Rebate, which it accused of being a “fake review broker” in lawsuits in the U.S. and Germany.
Amazon’s vice president of customer trust, Dharmesh Mehta, said in a blog post the fake review brokers approach customers on their own websites and solicit them to write misleading or inflated reviews in exchange for incentives, including money and free products.
CHINESE TECH FIRMS LEAVE RUSSIA
Tech companies such as Lenovo Group Ltd. and Xiaomi Corp. are restricting shipments to Russia as sanctions have made it difficult to operate financially in the country, sources told the outlet.
A number of Chinese companies have avoided publicly announcing why they are pulling business from Russia after the Chinese government said businesses had to fight against Western sanctions.
BITS & PIECES
An op-ed to chew on: A safe, open internet with transatlantic rules is easier than it sounds
Lighter click: Kafka modern day
Notable links from around the web:
DALL-E 2 Creates Incredible Images—and Biased Ones You Don’t See (Wired / Khari Johnson)
Netflix tried and failed to build fandom with Tudum (The Verge / Mia Sato)
TikTok’s Work Culture: Anxiety, Secrecy and Relentless Pressure (The Wall Street Journal / Georgia Wells, Yoree Koh and Salvador Rodriguez)
One more thing: Boeing’s move divides
Boeing’s Thursday announcement that it would be moving its headquarters from Chicago to Arlington, Va., upset Illinois Sens. Dick Durbin (D) and Tammy Duckworth (D), while it was welcomed by Virginia Sen. Mark Warner (D).
“Boeing’s decision to leave Illinois is incredibly disappointing—every level of government in our state has worked to make Chicago and Illinois the perfect home for Boeing’s headquarters for the past 20 years,” Duckworth and Durbin said in a joint statement.
“We are working together to ensure Boeing leadership both understands how harmful this move will be and does everything possible to protect Illinois’s workers and jobs.”
Warner, however, celebrated the move for his state, saying he had been involved in efforts to lobby the aerospace company to move to Virginia.
“For well over a year, I’ve been making my case to Boeing senior leadership that Virginia would be a great place for its headquarters, and late last year, I was happy to learn that my efforts were successful,” Warner said in a statement.
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