PRG News Roundup, November 10, 2021

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers has introduced the filter bubble Transparency Act which requires companies like Meta (then known as ‘Facebook) and YouTube to offer a version of their platforms that runs on an “input-transparent” algorithm that doesn’t pull on user data to generate recommendations. In other words, under the proposed legislation these companies have to offer an alternative version of their apps that doesn’t manipulate a recommendation based on secret algorithms driven by user-specific data. This would give people more control over the algorithms to shape their online experience.

The Israeli military is using a facial recognition tool on Palestinians as a surveillance initiative in the occupied West Bank. This surveillance initiative rolled out over the past two years, involves in part a Smartphone technology called “Blue Wolf” that captures photos of Palestinians’ faces and matches them to a database of images so extensive. The phone app flashes in different colors to alert soldiers if a person is to be detained, arrested, or left alone. On one hand, it raises major privacy and basic human rights concerns of Palestinians however; on the other hand, it also raises a question that whether this facial recognition surveillance is accurate and reliable enough, with individuals being put in jeopardy by being misidentified? 

Google loses key appeal against €2.4 billion in European Union (‘EU’) shopping antitrust case. The General Court held that “self-preferencing” is not in itself a breach of EU antitrust law but its potential harmful effects like stifling better products made by rivals are. Google now has the option to appeal the decision before the EU’s highest court, the European Court of Justice (‘ECJ’). On the other hand, Amazon was reportedly in talks with the EU to settle the antitrust investigation relating to self-preferencing. With Google losing this key appeal in the EUshopping antitrust case it would be interesting to see how things in Amazon investigation proceed. 

Meta will delete ‘sensitive’ ads targeting groups linked to race/ethnicity, religious views, political beliefs, sexual orientation, health, etc. from its platform. However, targeting groups based on age, gender, and location is still available. 

The Dalles City Council approved a deal with Google that will enable the technology giant to build more water-guzzling data centers. However, some residents worry about the drought and secrecy of part of the arrangement. On Monday, November 08, 2021, the council unanimously approved the $28.5 million deal that will enable Google two build two more data centers

The online advertising industry and its trade body, “IAB Europe”, have been found to have deprived hundreds of millions of Europeans of their fundamental rights by violating General Data Protection Regulation (‘GDPR’). It is important to note that Google and the entire tracking industry rely on IAB Europe’s consent system, which has now been found to be illegal. IAB Europe created a fake consent system that spammed everyone, every day, and served no purpose other than to give a thin legal cover to the massive data breach at the heart of online advertising. The Belgian Data Protection Authority’s decision is a draft decision that will now be shared with some other European data protection authorities so that it can be finalized and enforced.

Google wins an appeal against £3 billion privacy case that could have allowed users to claim money from the search giant. The UK Supreme Court in the case of Lloyd v. Google LLC has blocked a planned 3.2 billion pound ($4.3 billion) British class action against Google over allegations the internet giant unlawfully tracked the personal information of millions of iPhone users. Copy of the judgment is attached here

(Compiled by Student Fellow Lokesh Bulchandani)