🗞️ Protecting Our Health Data, Biden's EO Bargain, & Updating Minors' Privacy
This week: Proposed legislation brings digital health data into focus, the Biden Administration weighs executive action post-Roe, and updating digital privacy laws for minors. Plus, Julian Assange faces extradition, SpaceX faces internal backlash, and where does IP law end and your bodily autonomy begin?
As of right now, if you willingly give your medical data to a non-medical company (let’s just say, oh, I don't know, Google), HIPAA does not govern what's done with that data. And what is done with that data is part of a $200 billion data reselling industry. However, a new bill introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, dubbed the Health and Location Data Protection Act, would ban companies from selling the medical and location data of Americans.
The bill would ban the reselling and/or transferring of data relating to both the health and location of American users, but leave room for HIPPA-compliant exceptions.
According to The Hustle, as far back as 2013, Senators heard testimony from privacy experts stating that data brokers sell “lists of people suffering from mental health diseases, cancer, HIV/AIDS, and hundreds of other illnesses … sell lists of people who are late on payments, often to those who make predatory offers to those in financial trouble ... sell lists of people who are impulse buyers.”
The bill would fund the FTC with $1 billion to enforce the new law, and allow people to sue if they're violated.
As Vice recently noted, you can track someone who went to Planned Parenthood or other reproductive health/abortion providers for just $160. “It's bonkers dangerous to have abortion clinics and then let someone buy the census tracks where people are coming from to visit that abortion clinic [sic],” cybersecurity expert Zach Edwards told Vice. “This is how you dox someone traveling across state lines for abortions — how you dox clinics providing this service.”
Edwards is right: it is bonkers how easy and terrifying it is to buy individual data and track someone. Hopefully, Senator Warren's bill makes its way through to law with bipartisan support and we can begin reining in data reselling.
If Roe v. Wade falls this month, can the Executive Branch do anything to help buttress 50 years of abortion rights in this nation? That's what the Biden Administration has been looking into since a SCOTUS draft ruling was leaked in May signaling an end to the landmark ruling. An executive order (or several) could keep mailed-home abortion pills legal, and prevent states from requiring in-person consultations (versus telehealth) to prescribe the pills. But will President Biden sign these or other orders?
According to the New York Times, “part of the dilemma, according to people familiar with the internal deliberations, is that Mr. Biden’s approach is likely to be seen as a litmus test by many centrist or liberal-leaning voters.”
The administration has assembled White House counsel, Dana Remus, the director of its gender policy council, Jennifer Klein, and the director of its domestic policy council, Susan Rice, to craft potential executive actions.
The Times adds that the White House is bracing for potential violence in the wake of Roe being overturned.
The SCOTUS's decision creates a mess on several fronts. As Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe said, Biden's actions could “pour cold water on people’s peaceful reactions to impending disaster” and divert attention away from the SCOTUS's ruling to debates over whether the president is overreaching his power. He added that “it would take attention from the things that are really relevant — that the Supreme Court is out of control and we ought to be very critical of it — and shift the criticism to the president for responding in kind and doing things that are every bit as ungrounded in the Constitution as the court’s overruling of Roe will be.”
It's ultimately Congress that will enshrine any federal laws to protect abortion rights in this country, but the reality of such a bill passing both chambers seems distant at best (if not outright impossible). In the face of this hurdle, any stop-gap executive orders from President Biden may save lives immediately.
About 66% of the most popular apps used by children on Apple's app store collect personal data and sell it to advertisers. Roughly 79% of the most popular apps used by children on Google's Play Store do the same. The 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, mandates that such practices by these companies are illegal when targeting children under 13 without parental consent, but in a world that is increasingly mobile-centric, it's very easy for these safeguards to be circumvented. A common refrain by Big Tech is that they simply did not know it was a child using its services, or that the personal data collected and sold was of a minor. However, as the Washington Post says, by the time a child is 13, advertising firms hold an average 72 million data points on them.
“It was pretty obvious when the [COPPA] bill was being originally drafted that there was going to be a real opportunity for unscrupulous corporations to take advantage of young people,” Democratic Senator Ed Markey told the Post. “Now the problems are on steroids.”
As the Post adds, California may adopt a law similar to one in the UK to “establish the age of consumers and maintain the highest level of privacy possible for children by default.”
What The FTC Is Doing
Lina Khan, head of the FTC has been targeting Meta, Alphabet, Apple, and more, to curb data collection on children, reports NBC. She is going after EdTech (or education technology companies) who she alleges illegally spy on children and recently sued Weight Watchers for illegally collecting data on children under 13.
As we've written many times here, Big Tech has been able to run free and unregulated for the last 20-plus years. If the result has been the harvesting of personal data on young children for profit, then we're approaching a dark future. An update of the COPPA to close various loopholes is long overdue.
🎧 What We’re Listening To
This week, we’re listening to Chaos in the CBD, brothers and electronic music duo, Ben and Louis Helliker-Hales. Growing up in a small town near Auckland, NZ their chill vibe represents a mellowed-out version of house. In just four tracks, Brainstorm dives even deeper into their vibe by incorporating dub elements and unique jazzy hooks.
📤 What Else We're Forwarding
Wiki Extradition: The US may finally have convinced the UK to extradite WikiLeak's infamous founder Julian Assange back to the States for trial, notes The Verge. US authorities promised their British counterparts that Assange would be treated humanely upon his arrival.
Space Ex: SpaceX has fired several employees behind a widely-circulated open letter critical of Elon Musk and his Twitter behavior, says TechCrunch.
Tattoo Suit: Celeb tattoo artist Kat Von D is being sued by a photographer for tattooing a photo he took of Miles Davis without permission, reports Bloomberg Law. The case now centers around whether removing the tattoo violates bodily autonomy.
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See ya next week!