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Category Archives: Civil Liberties

Toying with Privacy: Regulating the Internet of Toys

Haber, Eldar, Toying with Privacy: Regulating the Internet of Toys (December 8, 2018). Ohio State Law Journal, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3298054: “Recently, toys have become more interactive than ever before. The emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) makes toys smarter and more communicative: they can now interact with children by “listening” to them and respond accordingly. While there is little doubt that these toys can be highly entertaining for children and even possess social and educational benefits, the Internet of Toys (IoToys) raises many concerns. Beyond the fact that IoToys that might be hacked or simply misused by unauthorized parties, datafication of children by toy conglomerates, various interested parties and perhaps even their parents could be highly troubling. It could profoundly threaten children’s right to privacy as it subjects and normalizes them to ubiquitous surveillance and datafication of their personal information, requests, and any other information they divulge. While American policymakers acknowledged the importance of protecting children’s privacy online back in 1998, when crafting COPPA, this regulatory framework might become obsolete in face of the new privacy risks that arise from IoToys. Do fundamental differences between websites and IoToys necessitate a different legal framework to protect children’s privacy? Should policymakers recalibrate the current legal framework to adequately protect the privacy of children who have IoToys? Finally, what are the consequences for children’s privacy of ubiquitous parental surveillance through IoToys — allegedly granted to safeguard children from online risks? And how might children’s privacy be better framed and protected in this context?

This Article focuses on the privacy concerns that IoToys raise. Part I briefly outlines the evolution of IoToys while examining their capacity to collect and retain data. Then, in reference to the legal framework chosen to protect children from online datafication twenty years ago, the next part discusses the American perception of children’s privacy, focusing on COPPA. Through this analysis, this part will show how key market players currently comply with COPPA regulation, and evaluate whether such compliance is relevant to IoToys’ dangers and challenges. Part III revisits COPPA, challenges it, and in calling for its recalibration offers some practical solutions to IoToys’ privacy threats. Thereafter Part IV normatively evaluates children’s conception of privacy and argues that IoToys’ monitoring practices could jeopardize the parent-child relationship and calls for recalibrating children’s privacy in the digital era. The final part summarizes the discussion and concludes that children’s privacy matters today perhaps more than ever before, and that the potential movement toward a ubiquitous surveillance era should not lead to its demise. [h/t Mary Whisher]

  • See also the Tech Policy Lab’s paper, Toys That Listen (2016): – “Hello Barbie, Amazon Echo, and the home robot Jibo are part of a new wave of connected toys and gadgets for the home that listen. Different than the smartphone, these devices are always on, blending into the background until needed by the adult or child user. We do not yet know all the information our new toys are collecting, storing, or disclosing. With an intended audience of designers and regulators, this project brings an interdisciplinary group of experts together to build a set of consumer protection best practices for design and user control of connected devices in the home.”  View PDF »

Judge Orders Trump Administration To Remove 2020 Census Citizenship Question

NPR: “A federal judge in New York has ruled against the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman ordered the administration to stop its plans to include the controversial question on forms for the upcoming national head count “without curing the legal defects” the judge… Continue Reading

Redefining Representation: The Women of the 116th Congress

The New York Times – photographs of all but one (Liz Cheney of Wyoming) of the women (80% of them are Democrats) of the 116th Congress of the United States of America. “Just over a century ago, Jeannette Rankin of Montana won a seat in the House of Representatives, becoming the first woman ever elected… Continue Reading

Location data is ground zero in privacy wars

Axios: “Our phones’ GPS and location capabilities are a key part of what make them magical — enabling them to speed our commutes, hail rides and find the devices when we lose them. These capabilities are also ground zero for the looming fight over defining the boundaries of privacy and acceptable uses of our personal… Continue Reading

The Federal Government Offers a Case Study in Bad Email Tracking

EFF: “The U.S. government sends a lot of emails. Like any large, modern organization, it wants to “optimize” for “user engagement” using “analytics” and “big data.” In practice, that means tracking the people it communicates with—secretly, thoroughly, and often, insecurely. Granicus is a third-party contractor that builds communication tools to help governments engage constituents online.… Continue Reading

Court Strikes Down Iowa’s ‘Ag-Gag’ Law That Blocked Undercover Investigations

NPR – “A federal judge in Iowa says it’s no longer a crime to go undercover at factory farms, slaughterhouses and any other ag-related operations. The 2012 law was a clear violation of the First Amendment, the judge said. The Animal Legal Defense Fund, one of the plaintiffs in the case, called the ruling “a… Continue Reading

Patricia Wald, First Woman to Preside Over D.C. Appeals Court, Dies at 90

The New York Times: “Patricia M. Wald, who was the first woman to serve as chief judge of the federal appeals court in Washington and who later wrote seminal rulings while serving in The Hague on the international court for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, died on Saturday at her home in Washington. She… Continue Reading

David Whelan, Law Librarian and Twin Brother of Paul Whelan – speaks out about his detention in Russia

WTOP – Target USA — Episode 151: David Whelan speaks out about his brother’s arrest on espionage charges in Russia – Law Librarian David Whelan discusses the arrest and detention of his twin brother, “Paul Whelan, 48, a former Marine from Michigan who was arrested in Moscow after authorities there say he was caught in… Continue Reading

Website Accessibility & the Law: Why Your Website Must Be Compliant

Search Engine Journal – “In the U.S., apart from federal, state, and local government websites which must meet Section 508 regulations, there are no enforceable ADA legal standards to follow for website accessibility. However, just because there is no straightforward set of legal requirements for website accessibility does not mean that your business will not… Continue Reading

Please Forget Where I Was Last Summer: The Privacy Risks of Public Location (Meta)Data

Via arXiv – Please Forget Where I Was Last Summer: The Privacy Risks of Public Location (Meta)Data. [This is an extended version of our paper that will appear at NDSS 2019] “The exposure of location data constitutes a significant privacy risk to users as it can lead to de-anonymization, the inference of sensitive information, and… Continue Reading

What the President Could Do If He Declares a State of Emergency

The Atlantic – From seizing control of the internet to declaring martial law, President Trump may legally do all kinds of extraordinary things: “…It would be nice to think that America is protected from the worst excesses of Trump’s impulses by its democratic laws and institutions. After all, Trump can do only so much without… Continue Reading

“Choice” Magazine Names “Digital National Security Archive” an Outstanding Academic Title for 2018

“Washington, D.C., January 7, 2019 – Choice Magazine, the publishing arm of the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), has named the Digital National Security Archive an “Outstanding Academic Title” for 2018.  The annual award goes to publications deemed especially worthy of attention from academic librarians seeking to build research collections. The Digital National Security Archive… Continue Reading