Privacy roundup, week 1 November

November 1, 2021
Rebecca LaChance
a black and white image of a lamp post covered in various postings and stickers. One, in focus, reads "Big data is watching you"

November is here! And so is another round of privacy related reading just for you, lucky duck. Let’s talk biometrics, DNA privacy, and a holiday you might regret celebrating more than snaffling the leftover Halloween candy from the kids. 


Last week The Guardian reported on the rise of biometric technology like facial recognition or fingerprint scanning for everyday tasks like food shopping and using public transport. While it seems like a harmless way to speed up these activities and make the consumer experience more convenient, the precedents set by the mass collection of biometric data are worrying, especially considering their potential use for authoritarian purposes.  Biometric data should be owned and controlled by users, not companies.

Though the canteen facial recognition program in Ayrshire we mentioned last week has thankfully been scrapped, no doubt there will be similar programs popping up with more frequency in the coming years. For children especially, this biometric data collection can have real developmental implications. Author and ethics researcher Stephanie Hare warned, “You’re normalising children understanding their bodies as something they use to transact… that’s how you condition an entire society to use facial recognition.”


Have you ever swabbed your cheek and eagerly awaited the letter perfectly charting your genealogical makeup? The bad news is, that data you provided the company doesn’t necessarily stay private. But! Recently Wired reported on new legislation in the US that will prevent firms like 23AndMe and Ancestry from using customer data for scientific research or selling it to 3rd parties without their consent. This data sharing can be particularly dicey when the recipients are life insurers, mortgage lenders, or schools, who can lawfully deny services because of someone’s genetic makeup. These new laws offer consumers more protection, with clearer terms of consent, and the capacity to request a company destroy your genetic sample.

“All areas of privacy are inherently always evolving because technology evolves,” says Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney at digital rights nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation. “I don’t think you can ever look at privacy laws and say, ‘Oh, we’re done’ because they're always going to adapt to new technology.”


Saturday 30 October was Text Your Ex Day – were you busy fielding messages from bygone boyfriends like me? (Just kidding, I moved an ocean away from all my exes and got a new phone number, so the joke’s on them!) If you did decide to reach out to an old flame, we hope you used protection… and by that, we obviously mean choosing a messaging platform which is end-to-end encrypted!

When Self messaging launches in the coming weeks, you’ll only be able to connect to people you actually want to talk to, so unwanted missives will be a thing of the past!

Join our early access list today:

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