GDPR: Don’t Get Caught Out By Your Logfiles

With all the focus on the more visible elements of GDPR compliance ahead of the Regulation’s introduction of May 25th, one EU Working group is warning businesses not to forget what’s stored in the logfiles of their Internet-facing servers.

What Are Logfiles and Why Should We Care?

Logfiles record either events that occur in an operating system or other software, or messages between different users of communication software.

As well as being useful to an organisation e.g. for providing clues about hostile activity affecting the network from within and without, and providing information for identifying and troubleshooting equipment problems, logfiles on Internet-facing computers can also potentially provide information to hackers and cyber-criminals that could compromise your system and data security.

Report Suggestions

A draft report by the Internet Engineering Task Force’s Internet Area Working Group (IETF’s INTAREA) says that changing data regulations have meant that what were established best practices have now become poor practices. The draft, therefore, offers a checklist as a set of updates to RFC6302 designed to help plug this potential GDPR compliance black spot. The “Recommendations for Internet-Facing Servers” draft suggests that sysadmins adopt a data minimisation approach to configuring their server logs, and suggestions include:

  • Full IP addresses should only be stored for as long as they are needed to provide a service;
  • Logs should only include the first two octets of IPv4 addresses, or first three octets of IPv6 addresses.
  • Inbound IP address logs shouldn’t last longer than three days, because that lets logging cover a weekend before it’s flushed.
  • Unnecessary identifiers should not be logged e.g. source port number, timestamps, transport protocol numbers, and destination port numbers,
  • The logs should be protected against unauthorised access.
It should be said that any legally-mandated logging e.g. to comply with local telecommunications data retention laws, isn’t covered by the draft.
Cookie Consent Pop-Ups

We are all used to seeing cookie consent pop-ups when we arrive at websites, but the “implied consent” website owners have assumed existed once people clicked “I Agree” to cookies may no longer apply under GDPR. This is because GDPR is consent specific, and there is no way “implied consent” can get you water-tight compliance. What this means is that cookie consent pop-ups may soon be on legally shaky ground when it comes to GDPR compliance.
What makes this issue more complicated is the fact that the EU had intended to publish an updated ePrivacy Regulation, with the commencement of GDPR, to relax the cookie popup requirements, but didn’t do so. This means that data privacy rules on this matter will be governed by the old ePrivacy Directive and GDPR at the same time, with GDPR having the precedence.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This story shows that with GDPR just around the corner, some of the finer areas of compliance are starting to come under the spotlight. Yes, data protection, data security and privacy are the responsibility of all of us, not just the ‘technical people’, but when it comes to having to deal with server-logs, there clearly is a need for a technical focus to ensure all-round general compliance. Hackers, by nature, are generally technically proficient, and can employ multi-level and sophisticated attack techniques. It makes sense, therefore, that companies make attempts to plug known technical weak-spots such as those highlighted in this draft.
The cookie consent pop-up issue highlights the complicated area of consent that many companies have anticipated with the introduction of GDPR. The important point to remember is that GDPR is consent specific. Consent can’t simply be implied, and consent must also be unambiguous, informed, a statement or clear affirmative action, and freely given. Also, under GDPR, a data subject has the right to withdraw their consent at any time.
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Martin Lewis Fights Facebook In Court

MoneySavingExpert’s (MSE) founder and TV consumer champion Martin Lewis (OBE) has commenced UK High Court proceedings against Facebook to sue the tech giant for defamation over a series of fake adverts bearing his name.

What Happened?


Mr Lewis alleges that 50 fake ads bearing his name appeared on the Facebook social media platform over the space of a year, and that the fact that the ads were not from him
, and could / did (in some cases) direct consumers to scammer sites containing false information may have caused serious damage to his reputation, and did cause some people to lose money.

Mr Lewis prepared for the first day of the court action against Facebook (on Monday 23rd April) by giving an interview to BBC radio explaining why he was taking the action, and offering to stop the court action altogether if Facebook ‘took responsibility’ for what he believes were its damaging actions against his reputation.

It is alleged that the adverts featured Mr Lewis’s face alongside endorsements that Mr Lewis says that he did not make. Mr Lewis has publicly stated many times that he does not appear in any adverts, therefore, any advert bearing his name must be a fake.

Long Fight


Mr Lewis has stated in a press release about the case that he has been fighting to stop the adverts from appearing on Facebook over the last year and that, even when they were reported to Facebook, many of the ads were left up for days or weeks, and when they are taken down, scammers were able to new, nearly identical campaigns very soon afterwards.

Mr Lewis is personally suing Facebook (not on behalf of MSE), and has published details of the legal action on the MSE website, saying “I will issue high court proceedings against Facebook, to try and stop all the disgusting repeated fake adverts from scammers it refuses to stop publishing with my picture, name and reputation.”

Mostly ‘Get-Rich-Quick Schemes’

The fake adverts are reported to have been mostly for ‘get-rich-quick schemes’ e.g. titled ‘Bitcoin code’ or ‘Cloud Trader’, which are reported to be fronts for binary trading firms based outside the EU. Martin Lewis has stated online that binary trading is a financially dangerous, near-certain money-loser, which the regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) strongly warns against.

Not For His Own Financial Benefit

Although Mr Lewis has said that he is seeking exemplary and substantial damages, he has said that this is because he wants to show Facebook that they can’t just pay damages as a kind of cost of business and then simply “carry on regardless”.
Mr Lewis has said that any money he does receive in damages from the court case will go not to him, but to anti-scam charities.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This case is compelling for many reasons. Firstly, it appears clear from what Mr Lewis has said publicly about his side of things that the fake adverts are bound to be damaging to a person whose public role is to fight for consumer rights, and is reported to have been damaging to other innocent victims of the scam ads e.g. the lady who reportedly had over £100,000 taken from her by the ad scammers. It’s in everyone’s interest that the activities of scammers are stopped.

Secondly, it will be interesting to see how successful Martin Lewis personally will be in taking on a rich tech giant that some commentators may see as being almost behaving as though it were above the law of some of the countries that it operates in. Since Martin Lewis is a consumer ‘champion’ and influencer when it comes to many financial products, it is likely that he will have a great deal of public sympathy and media attention which could give him extra bargaining power.

Thirdly, one key aspect of this case is which businesses Facebook is actually in rather than what business it thinks it’s in. For example, Mr Lewis is arguing that Facebook claims to be a platform not a publisher – and yet the problem has arisen not just from posts on a web forum, but from Facebook being paid to publish, promulgate and promote what may be fraudulent enterprises i.e. acting like a publisher. If Mr Lewis wins the case, it may be that Facebook will need to re-examine whether or not it now has to see itself as a publisher, and may be forced to change its system.

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WhatsApp Raises Age To 16 For GDPR

Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging service is raising its minimum age in Europe to 16 to comply with GDPR which comes into force on May 25th.

Was 13

Up until now, the minimum age has been 13, and that minimum age will remain for the rest of the world, in line with its Facebook parent company. WhatsApp, founded in 2009, has an estimated 1.5 billion users.

Just Asking

Users will be asked to confirm their minimum age by the new WhatsApp Ireland Ltd in the next few weeks, when they will be prompted to agree to new terms of service and a privacy policy. Some critics have pointed out that even though users will be asked if they are 16 or over, it is unclear from the information that the service holds about users how their age can be accurately checked and verified and, therefore, how the new rule can be enforced.

Based on US Law Until Now

The age 13 limit up until now has been based upon the US law “Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule” (Coppa), which bans online services from collecting personal information about younger children. This is why the usage of many other popular social media apps e.g. Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Musical.ly and Reddit are restricted to persons aged 13 and over.

WhatsApp’s parent company Facebook faced criticism after announcing last December that it would be targeting younger children with its ‘Messenger Kids’ service. At the time, Facebook’s primary (stated) motive for the new junior version of its platform was to provide a safer, more age-appropriate version, but some tech and business commentators suggested that it may also be an ideal way for Facebook to recruit its next generation of users, and to capture the attention of 6 to 12-year-olds before Snapchat or a similar social network competitor.

Collecting and Sharing Information

The recent Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal has brought the matter of collecting and sharing of our personal data into sharp focus. WhatsApp, however, has said that the new changes do not mean that it will be asking for any new rights to collect personal information in the agreement it has created for the European Union. WhatsApp says that the goal of the change is simply to explain how they use and protect the limited information they have about users.

As well as the age restriction change, WhatsApp is also, therefore, rolling out a feature with the latest version of the app that allows users to download a report detailing the data that WhatsApp holds on them e.g. the make and model of the device they used, their contacts, their groups and any blocked numbers.

Facebook Nominate

Facebook is also updating its data policy to comely with GDPR which involves asking 13 and 15-year-old users to nominate a parent or guardian to give permission for them to share information on the platform. If they won’t / cannot do so, the young users will not be able to see a fully personalized version of the social media platform.

Also, Facebook’s Instagram is launching a data download tool to provide users with a file containing the photos, comments, archived stories, contacts and any other personal data that they’ve posted to the service in the past.

Twitter Too

Twitter Inc is also changing its privacy policy so that users can view information they share with the micro-blogging service and show how it’s being used, ahead of the introduction of GDPR. Twitter has said that the changes are to make the privacy policy visually clear and easy to use, and to clarify legalistic or technical language.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This story is another clear reminder that the introduction of GDPR is just around the corner as the tech giants, who have more to lose in fines, potential lost customer numbers, and serious reputational damage, make the necessary legal moves to ensure compliance. For Facebook especially, they have faced some very high profile bad publicity this year over their handling and sharing of personal data, so getting their GDPR compliance house in order may be a way to help avoid any further problems.

There is also a very serious ethical element to this story. It is estimated that Facebook has 20 million under-13-year-olds currently  using the network, and there may also be a very large number of children using WhatsApp. Parents may understandably have serious concerns about what content children can have access to and, equally importantly, who can have access to children via social networks. Unsuitable material, commercialisation, bullying (or predatory behaviour by some adults) are just some of the issues to consider.

As well as these concerns, governments (such as the UK) are looking to stop end-to-end encryption in WhatsApp, GDPR is just around the corner, Facebook is now facing more tough questions about its Cambridge Analytica links, Martin Lewis (OBE) is taking Facebook to court for defamation and calling for Facebook to take responsibility for its actions … the pressure is now seriously on big social media platforms to make some changes, particularly where EU users are concerned.

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Half of UK Manufacturers Hit By Cyber Attacks

A new report published by manufacturers’ organisation EEF in partnership with insurance firm AIG and the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) shows that 48% of UK manufacturers have been subject to a cyber-security incident at some time.

Loss and Disruption

Half of those manufacturing companies who admit to being hit by cyber-criminals have said that the incident(s) caused financial loss or disruption to business.

Challenges

The report highlighted several key challenges that the manufacturing industry faces in making itself less vulnerable to cyber-criminals. These challenges include:

  • The age of equipment and the networked nature of production facilities. Many industrial systems are up to 20 years old and were developed before cyber threats became a big issue. As a result, poorly protected office systems, often the first implemented historically within manufacturing businesses, are particularly vulnerable. Also, a networked building, such as many manufacturing sites, can be hacked and exploited.
  • Many manufacturing companies hold a large amount of classified information e.g. intellectual property (IP) and trade secrets, which makes them targets for (for example) financially motivated, state-sponsored hackers.
  • Having no idea of the nature and size of the risks. 41% of manufacturing companies don’t believe they have access to enough information to assess their true cyber risk, and 12% of manufacturers admit they have no technical or managerial processes in place to even start assessing the real risk.
  • A lack of basic detection that a cyber attack is taking place / has taken place, and a lack of investment in training i.e. 34% do not offer cyber-security training.
  • Feeling that they are not equipped to tackle the risk anyway. For example, 45% are not confident they are prepared with the right tools for the job.
  • A lack of confidence. Although 91% of the 170 UK manufacturing businesses polled are investing in digital technologies, 35% think that cyber vulnerability is inhibiting them from doing so fully.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For manufacturing businesses facing the very real threat of sophisticated, multi-level attacks, now is not the time to be left with a vulnerable outdated system. Advice from the report includes following the advice of the Government backed ‘Cyber Essentials’ scheme. This includes the 5 security essentials of using a firewall to secure your Internet connection, choosing the most secure settings for your devices and software, controlling who has access to your data and services, protecting yourself from viruses and other malware by using antivirus software, only downloading apps from manufacturer-approved stores, or running apps and programs in an isolated environment, and continually ensuring that operating systems and software are up-to-date and running the latest security patches.
Clearly, manufacturing companies with old systems may need to bite the bullet and invest in more modern, digitised, and well-protected systems. The report also indicates that greater investment in staff training is needed to help them spot and deal with risks, and to avoid the kind of human error that is needed in many modern cyber-attacks e.g. malware / viruses sent by email, phishing, and other social engineering attacks.
Another opportunity for manufacturing companies to boost cyber-security could also come from cyber-insurance. For example, many cyber insurers offer a comprehensive package of pre-loss services to businesses to carry out a cyber health check which could help to highlight gaps in cyber risk management and help identify what security measures should be prioritised.
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New Google ‘Chat’ SMS Message Replacement Rollout Begins

Google has begun the rollout of ‘Chat’, the messaging service that, it is hoped, will replace SMS text messages on Android phones, and bring it into the same ballpark as WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage.

What’s The Problem?

The SMS messaging system for Android phones has suffered over many years from being simply a succession of poorly supported, different apps all using the same basic the short message service (SMS) from the1990s to send text messages over a mobile network. The result has been that none have been particularly popular among android users, who have been envious of the simplicity and ease other messaging services e.g. iPhone that have better features and send messages over the internet instead of using SMS.

New System, New Features

The solution to the problem for Google has been to take many years to develop a whole new messaging system that is based on a standard called the “Universal Profile for Rich Communication Services” (instead of simply making another app), which allows Android users to send messages and image files over a data network.

The new ‘Chat’ service offers many more features such as group texts, videos, typing indicators and read receipts. Since RCS is a communications standard, it will be up to mobile operators to enable the service, but Android will still have SMS to fall back on anyway.

Carrier-Based Service


Chat is a carrier/network-based service (i.e. not a Google-based service), so one of the key ways that Google has gone about making sure that Chat will work is to try to convince as many carriers as possible to take the new standard, and make the Chat services interoperable between carriers.

If you text someone who doesn’t have Chat enabled, or who is not an Android user, your messages will revert back to SMS, in the same way that an iMessage does.

It is thought that Google has done enough work with 50+ carriers to ensure that most of them will enable the use of the Chat service this year, which is handy since the global rollout by Google is already underway.

Au Revoir ‘Allo’


Another indicator of Google’s commitment to getting Chat ‘out there’ is the pausing of its work on its ‘Allo’ messaging service.

Data Plan Instead of SMS

Since Chat messages will be sent over the data network i.e. sent with your data plan instead of your SMS plan, it is expected that charges for messages could be less, although this will be up to the networks.

Security Flaw

One flaw in the Chat service could be the fact that messages are not encrypted, and could, therefore, be a security risk if intercepted.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Business and individual users of Android will be pleased to hear that at last there may be a messaging service that is built-in, allows plenty of modern functionality, and is up there with competing services e.g. WhatsApp and iMessage.

Hopefully, the main networks will support the service as soon as possible, and with messages being sent over the data network the hope is also that costs for the service could be kept at a very reasonable level (depending on the network).

The one question mark for many users may, however, be the lack of encryption of the messages, especially at a time when data security is at the forefront of their mind with the introduction of GDPR next month.

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Russia Suspected of Hacking Campaign

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the FBI and the US Department of Homeland Security have warned that Russia may be behind a broad hacking offensive targeting millions of machines that direct data around the net.

Networking Equipment Targeted

US and UK security agencies have issued a joint internet security alert warning and have been reported as suggesting that a surge in global hacks targeting the networking equipment used to move traffic across the net is the result of a Russian state-sponsored campaign.

Why?

Some commentators have suggested that the deterioration between the relationship between Russia and the West resulting from issues like accusations of election meddling, the poisonings in Salisbury, and arguments over the Syrian conflict may have contributed to an online revenge offensive.

As well as the disruption caused, the aim appears to be espionage / the theft of information (which actually dates back at least to the late 1990s), and the threat (so far) of destructive acts of sabotage e.g. disabling parts of the electricity grid. These kinds of suspicions have arisen because many recent hacks appear to be pre-positioning in networks that are part of the critical national infrastructure.

Cyber War Ahead?

While we are being told that we have returned to another ‘Cold War’ situation, some commentators have suggested that we may be on the brink of a cyber-war with Russia, even though there has not been any real significant cyber-attack or change of behaviour from Russia.

Although Russia has been accused of launching destructive attacks against Ukraine, which had a negative effect on businesses there, and despite the apparent reported increase in cyber-attacks from Russia, it is still difficult for many to say whether Russia has the capability to carry out very destructive cyber attacks. Cyber attacks are often harder to trace and easier to deny than military attacks.

UK’s Own Offensive

It is worth remembering too, that as well as having defences in place, the UK has its own offensive cyber-capability, honed for over a decade, starting in the conflict in Afghanistan. Recently, for example, the UK and the US are reported to have targeted the Islamic State group with cyber attacks, with some degree of success. It would be naive to assume, therefore, that the UK is not planning / undertaking its own activities in Russia e.g. pre-positioning in Russian networks to be able to respond to any Russian cyber aggression.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

At the moment, it is simply a case that a warning has been issued. If a cyber-conflict does start in a noticeable way, as in real war, it is likely to be individuals, businesses, and other organisations and other services that suffer e.g. service providers, firms running critical infrastructure, government departments and large companies first, followed by other UK businesses. The Internet plays an essential role in modern business and disruption of vital network infrastructure could damage UK businesses and their competitiveness in the home and global market.

UK businesses also face the threat of foreign state-sponsored attacks designed to spy on / steal data, and undermine firewalls and intrusion detection systems used to spot malicious traffic before it reaches users. It has never been more important, therefore, for businesses to configure security systems correctly, apply patches and address any hardware vulnerabilities, and to make sure that their cyber resilience is at its best across all possible channels.

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UK Launched Major Cyber Attack Against ISIS

GCHQ’s new director has revealed that last year, the UK has conducted a large-scale cyber-attack against ISIS that was designed to suppress online terrorist propaganda and hinder ISIS’s ability to
coordinate attacks.

Growing For A Decade

Confirmation that the attack took place came as part of the first public speech by GCHQ’s new director and former MI5 agent, Jeremy Fleming. During his speech at the National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC) flagship event in Manchester, Mr Fleming said that the cyber attack is just the latest part in what have been GCHQ’s efforts to grow its online counterterrorism capabilities over more than a decade.

The outcomes of cyber attacks as weapons against any enemy can range from denying online services, disrupting a specific online activity, and deterring individuals or groups, to effectively destroying equipment and networks.

Degraded Infrastructure

The UK’s cyber-attack against ISIS is reported to have degraded the terror group’s online infrastructure, made a significant contribution to coalition efforts to suppress any Daesh propaganda, hindered the terror group’s ability to coordinate attacks, and provided more protection for coalition forces on the battlefield.

Over-Achievers

It seems that this latest big cyber-attack success is only the tip of the iceberg, as a report by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has said that GCHQ spies had “over-achieved” in 2017, and that GCHQ had delivered on the first of three stages in its mission to bolster its cyber capabilities thanks to staging almost twice as many potential hacks than its targets.

Russia In The Spotlight

The recent deterioration of the relationship between the West and Russia means that its cyber-behaviour, as well as that of ISIS, is now reported to be more of a focus for GCHQ. In the director’s speech in Manchester, Mr Fleming said that the Russian state should be held accountable for what it does, and that the UK will continue to respond to malicious cyber-activity in conjunction with international partners such as the United States.

Helpful Tool


Another helpful tool that could be used to combat terrorist propaganda online could include the auto-blocker for extremist content that was mentioned by Home Secretary Amber Rudd. The tool, which Home Secretary Rudd would like to see adopted by ISPs can be configured to detect 94% of extremist video uploads.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

It stands to reason that the UK is launching its own cyber-attacks against what it sees as legitimate targets elsewhere in the world. Cyber-attack and security capabilities are now being used worldwide to support military operations, damage enemy communications and infrastructure and thereby degrade the threat they pose, as well as protecting home infrastructure and vital networks.

Attacks by other states, criminal and terror groups e.g. hacks, DDoS attacks and viruses, can end up impacting many UK businesses, so its good to hear that GCQH, MI5 and other actors are ‘over-achieving’ in their efforts to protect the UK, and reduce the threats that we face in a time of shifting geopolitical and technological landscapes. We can assume, therefore, that the successful actions of our security agencies must be indirectly protecting many of the interests of UK businesses.

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Phishing Attack Simulator : Microsoft Goodies

Microsoft has announced a set of business security tools, including a phishing attack simulator, that make it easier and more affordable for businesses to identify and fix vulnerabilities before they become an issue.

Attack Simulator

One of the key tools announced to coincide with the annual RSA conference in San Francisco, is the Attack Simulator. This tool is included in Office 365 Threat Intelligence, and is currently still in preview.

Spear Phishing Simulator

The tool, which simulates display name spear-phishing attacks, password-spray attacks, and brute-force password attacks, enables businesses to determine how end users behave in the event of an attack, and update policies to ensure that appropriate security tools are in place to protect the organization from threats.

A spear-phishing attack, for example, is used to gain access to users’ credentials or financial information, and often involves sending emails, purporting to be from a person of influence in an organisation to other users. The Microsoft attack simulator tool applies machine learning models and impersonation detection algorithms to incoming email messages. The AI system is trained to detect phishing messages. It also uses algorithms to protect against various user and domain impersonation attacks.

Intelligent Security Graph

Microsoft credits its ‘Intelligent Security Graph’ as being the ‘central nervous system’ that is at the heart of its tools for tracking and mitigation of attacks across platforms and services. This combines AI with data gained from analysing web pages, emails and malware threats on Windows 10 and the cloud. This enables Microsoft to warn users of existing and new threats.

Only Access SaaS Service If Your Device Is Healthy

Another important development of Office 365’s Conditional Access service is an update (currently in preview) which combines Conditional Access Information with data from the Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) security scanner to ensure that a user can only access a given SaaS service if their device is healthy.

Security Score

A potentially important new tool that Microsoft has developed for IT admins is an expanded version of the Office 365 Secure Score tool, which gives a single measure for evaluating the risk profile across Office 365 service and their users’ devices.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?


For many businesses e.g. SMEs, up-to-date cyber attack simulators would be beyond their resources. These new tools from Microsoft have been ‘trained’ thanks to AI and real-world analysis via Windows 10, thereby making them an affordable, accessible, and hopefully effective and welcome addition to the security options that businesses have at their disposal.

There is no doubt that human / employee error is at the heart of many successful cyber-attacks. With a phishing attack simulator that allows the creation of a fake phishing email, companies can see, for example, which employees fall for them, and this could serve as a way of identifying who needs extra security extra security training.

The combination of these new tools from Microsoft could provide an effective way that companies of all sizes could take proactive measures to plug gaps in their cyber-security shield, and guard against the kind of breaches that could be expensive and damaging, especially with the introduction of GDPR.

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Facebook … Face Recognition Woes

Facebook is in the news yet again, this time for having to face a class action lawsuit for allegedly gathering biometric information without users’ explicit consent, via facial recognition technology.

What Facial Recognition Technology?

A facial recognition technology feature in Facebook’s platform suggests who might be present in uploaded photos, based on an existing database of faces, and uses “tag suggestions” technology.

The feature works by trying to detect any faces in an uploaded photo, standardises and aligns those faces for size and direction, then, for each face, Facebook computes a face signature which is a mathematical representation of the face in that photo. Finally, the face signatures are run through a stored database of user face templates to look for similar matches

What’s The Problem?


The problem in legal terms is that the software allegedly gathers (and presumably stores) biometric information about individuals i.e. makes and stores face templates of them, without them giving their explicit consent for it to do so. This sounds as though it may breach Illinois state law – this is the state from which the class of people in the lawsuit question is made up.

The court order is reported to apply to Facebook users in Illinois for whom Facebook created and stored a face template after 7 June 2011.

What Are The Chances?

Although Facebook reportedly intends to fight the case and believes that it has no merit, the fact that the judge, James Donato, has ruled to certify a class of Facebook users, and has said that Facebook could be expecting billions in statutory damages, does not appear to bode well for Facebook.

Not Available Here

Privacy regulations mean that the facial recognition and tagging feature is not available in Europe or Canada, and can be turned off in settings for US users.

Facebook also said back in December 2017 that users would be notified if a picture of them was uploaded by someone else, even if they hadn’t been tagged in it.

Hearing In A Crowd Technology Developed By Google

Just as Facebook appears to be in trouble over voice technology, Google has announced that its research team has just developed technology that can recognise individual voices in a crowd, just as a human can.

The tech giant has made a demonstration video for the technology. The video shows how, with lots of people talking at once in a room, a user can select a particular face and hear the soundtrack of just that person. Users of this technology can also select the context of a conversation, and only references to that conversation are played, even if more than one person in the room is discussing that subject matter.

The AI technology behind the feature was developed using data collated from 100,000 videos of lectures and training videos on YouTube.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?


With GDPR on the way, the case against Facebook’s voice recognition technology is another reminder of how businesses need to get to grips with the sometimes complicated area of consent. Video images and face templates of individual faces are also likely to qualify as personal data that consent for collection and storage will be needed for under GDPR. Privacy, as well as security, is a right that is getting even greater protection in law.

The technology from Google that can recognise individual voices, and can follow individual conversations in crowds could unlock valuable business opportunities in e.g. improving the function and scope of hearing aids, or improving video conferencing tools by enabling them to take place in the middle of an office space rather than only in a separate, soundproofed meeting room (provided other visual distractions are minimised). It seems that new technology is beginning to be developed to help tackle age-old human challenges.

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Google, The Law and Your ‘Right To Be Forgotten’

A businessman has won the “right to be forgotten” by Google after taking his case to the High Court, because he wanted a past crime he had committed to be removed from Google’s search engine results.

What Crime?

The (un-named) businessman was hoping to remove details from Google of a conviction from 10 years ago, and of the six months jail sentence he was given for ‘conspiring to intercept communications’. The businessman was forced to take Google to court after Google refused his requests to have the information removed from its search engine results. The man’s legal argument was that the details of his past conviction were disproportionately impacting his life, and were no longer relevant, and therefore, it was not it was not in the public or the man’s interest for Google to show the details in searches.

What Does The “Right To Be Forgotten” Mean?

The legal precedent for what has become known as ‘the right to be forgotten’ was set by the Court of Justice of the European Union back in 2014. It was the result of a case brought by Spaniard Mario Costeja Gonzalez who had asked Google to remove information about his financial history from its search engine results.

In this particular case, the ‘right to be forgotten’ means that Google has to remove all search results about the businessman’s conviction, including links to news articles.

Had Shown Remorse

The judge ruled in favour of the businessman, stating that he had shown remorse. Google has said that it will respect the judgement made in the case and pointed out that it has removed 800,000 pages from its results following ‘right to be forgotten’ requests.

Not So Lucky

Another businessman who also brought a ‘right to be forgotten’ case against Google, and who had committed a more serious crime of ‘conspiring to account falsely’ was not so lucky, and lost his case. It was decided, in the High Court, that the man, who had spent four years in jail for the crime, had “mislead the public”, and that it would still be in the public interest for Google to keep the information about the man and his crimes in the search engine results.

Less Than Half

Google’s own Transparency Report from May this year revealed that of the 2.4 million requests made since 2014 to remove certain URLs from its search results, Google has only complied with less than half. Google doesn’t actually have to comply with a request, and can refuse to take links down if can demonstrate that there is a public interest in the information remaining in the search results. Google can also re-instate links that it has already taken down in a previous request if it can show that it has grounds to do so.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

It is good news that powerful international tech companies whose services are widely used, and who have the power to influence opinion and affect lives can sometimes be held accountable to national courts. There is a strong argument that they should not be a law unto themselves, and that they may not always be the best party to judge what is in the public interest.

The ‘right to be forgotten’ is particularly significant because it is something that all EU citizens will have when GDPR comes into force next month. This will impact businesses, many of whom may expect to receive ‘right to be forgotten’ requests, and will need to get their data management in order to both comply with GDPR generally, and to be able to respond quickly to such requests and avoid possible fines.

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