Privacy XFN

Welcome to this week’s Privacy XFN, curating the best reads at the intersection of data privacy and tech for better cross-functional outcomes. Coming in at more than 1,200 words, we’re covering a global rise in ad blocker adoption, an update on Florida's Data Privacy bill, opening arguments as a census privacy tool is challenged, and more.

—The Transcend team

By the end of 2020, 586 million people worldwide had implemented ad blocking on their mobile phones, a 10% increase year-over-year according to the 2021 PageFair Adblock Report published by Blockthrough. 257 million people have ad blockers on their desktop computers, an 8% increase YoY.


  • Blockthrough commissioned a separate survey of 5,423 Americans and found 40% of U.S. adults have an ad blocker.
  • Avoiding interruption and annoyance was cited as the top reason for using ad blockers by 81% of respondents. Protection against malware came in at second with 62%, followed by privacy which was third at 58%.
  • Still number one: Despite being banned in India and China, UC Browser remains the top ad-blocking browser, with 310 million global users.


An attempt to pass consumer privacy legislation failed in Florida on Friday, after the state Senate and House couldn't reconcile separate bills on the last day of the legislative session. A key issue of contention was the private right of action. House lawmakers and advocacy groups supported expanding the private right of action, while state senators and business lobbyists opposed it.


  • California passed the first U.S. state privacy law in 2018 with a private right of action. Virginia's data-protection law doesn't contain a private right of action and grants enforcement powers to the attorney general.
  • The bill proposed by the House would give individuals the ability to sue companies for a broader set of violations, compared to the California law.
  • Former FTC Chief Technologist Ashkan Soltani preferred the House bill, as the Senate bill contained a "set of vague definitions" that privacy professionals could exploit.
  • However, Al Saikali, chair of the privacy and data security practice at Hardy & Bacon LLP supported the Senate bill, arguing it would have "largely mimicked" the California and Virginia laws.


A three-judge panel heard arguments about if the U.S. Census Bureau can employ a statistical technique called “differential privacy” for the process of redrawing congressional and legislative districts. Differential privacy adds intentional errors to data to protect a person's identity but provides statistically valid information. The judiciary panel must determine if differential privacy protects an individual's private information in accordance with federal legal requirements while still providing accurate data.


  • The lawsuit was brought by the state of Alabama, who argued the Census Bureau delayed the release of data used for redistricting from March to August to implement differential privacy. 
  • However, Department of Justice attorney Elliott Davis said the method is needed to protect privacy while providing accurate data. He argued that previous methods are outdated.
  • Civil rights advocates, state lawmakers, and redistricting experts have expressed concerns the procedure will provide inaccurate data. 20 leading privacy experts expressed support for the Census Bureau's usage of differential privacy.
  • What's next: Any ruling by the judiciary panel could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority.


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The Apple v. Epic Games trial began on Monday, May 3, as the tech giant said it implements policies that ensure "privacy, security, and quality of the App store." Apple argued the privacy and security on its App Store are far superior to its competitors. 


  • Apple charges 30% on app and in-app purchases and argued Epic only sued the tech giant to avoid paying commissions. Apple said the 30% charge is industry standard.
  • Epic is suing the tech giant over the in-app payment system, but Apple lawyer Karen Dunn said this was a tool developers asked for.
  • Dunn said the App Store created new opportunities for developers and provides them with multiple ways to monetize, such as in-app advertising.

Apple Insider

Microsoft's general manager of the global advertising business Steve Sirich said his company's privacy proposal Parakeet is better than Google's FLoC. Sirich argues that Parakeet works better with existing ad tech infrastructure.


  • In Parakeet,  the browser anonymizes personal identifiable information before sending it.
  • Consumers retain the ability to opt out of cohorts of information they aren't comfortable with.
  • Microsoft has held discussions with publishers to ensure the current ecosystems remain in place while maintaining privacy and transparency.


The Dutch government suspended a COVID-19 app on Android phones for 48 hours due to data privacy concerns. The CoronaMelder app uses “exposure notification” technology built by Google and Apple, which issues codes letting users know they aren't social distancing.


  • The Dutch health ministry feared other apps on Android could have inappropriately accessed information about an individual's COVID-19 status.
  • Last week, Google said it fixed the leak and would roll it out to all Android phones.
  • The tech giant said there was no evidence that suggests any data was accessed illegally.

Associated Press

More than 60 stadiums and venues in the U.S. are using an app from Clear to verify that individuals are vaccinated against COVID-19 or have tested negative. But privacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation expressed concerns apps like Clear will store the data and begin tracking customer behavior. Clear said individuals would retain ownership of their health records.


  • Republican lawmakers and anti-surveillance activists have said businesses will store personal data. They also believe individuals that aren't vaccinated fill face discrimination.
  • Last month, Republican governors in Texas and Florida signed executive orders banning the issuance of vaccine passports.
  • European governments have introduced similar apps.

In other privacy news...
  • An investigation by the Cyberspace Administration of China found 33 mobile phone apps violated data privacy rules by aggregating data without consent.
  • German companies fear Chinese regulations about domestic data storage and cross-border data transfer.
  • Riot Games updated its privacy notice and will begin to record voice communications to evaluate allegations of disruptive behavior.

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