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Bad actors can use this data to track Americans [and] pry into their personal lives...

- White House Fact Sheet

Welcome to Snippets đź‘‹ The Biden Administration made a mid-week splash, releasing an executive order that compels the Justice Department to create rules that would restrict the sale of Americans' sensitive data to six adversarial nations.

Plus, the FTC settled with Avast for $16.5 million, Republican senators moved again to block the creation of a central bank digital currency, BNSF Railway settled a BIPA lawsuit for $75 million, and more. 


Biden issues executive order to protect Americans’ sensitive personal data


Al Drago for The New York Times

On Wednesday, President Biden issued an executive order to restrict the sale of Americans’ sensitive data to China, Russia, and others—a groundbreaking move towards protecting sensitive data from adversarial nations.
  • The order compels the Justice Department to establish rules preventing the sale of Americans' personal data, such as locations, health details, and financial information, to six total countries.
  • Meant to address concerns over blackmail, surveillance, and scams, the order highlights the increased digital risks faced by military personnel, dissidents, and journalists.
  • Some experts see the measure as escalating the digital cold war, particularly with China, reflecting broader efforts to safeguard U.S. technological sovereignty and digital privacy.

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Avast settles with the FTC for $16.5 million


Rafael Henrique / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has imposed a $16.5 million fine on antivirus software Avast for selling detailed and re-identifiable user browsing data without consumer consent.
  • From 2014 to 2020, Avast subsidiary Jumpshot sold user browsing data to over 100 third parties, falsely assuring users their privacy would be protected against third-party tracking.
  • Despite Avast's claims of employing a proprietary algorithm for data anonymization, the data being sold included timestamps, device types, and precise locations—making it potentially re-identifiable due to its granularity.
  • As part of the settlement, Avast must delete the collected data, notify affected consumers, and is banned from selling browsing data for advertising purposes.


Republican Senators move again to bar CBDCs



On Monday, five Republican Senators, led by Ted Cruz, introduced the CBDC Anti-Surveillance State Act to stop the Biden Administration’s attempts to issue a central bank digital currency (CBDC).
  • The bill would bar the Federal Reserve from issuing CBDC unless it's authorized to do so through Congressional legislation.
  • This is Cruz’s second attempt to block CBDCs. Last year, he introduced a similar bill stating digital currency could be used by the government to track US citizens.
  • While the US has yet to develop a concrete plan for a CBDC, Europe has moved closer to developing one of its own, which could push the US to introduce a dollar equivalent to maintain parity.

  • ICO opens second round of generative AI consultation.
  • The FTC announced an agenda for the 8th annual PrivacyCon.
  • 70% of Australians don’t feel in control of their data.
  • Zuckerberg says he can’t be held liable for child social media addiction.
  • College Board agrees to $750k settlement for violating NY student privacy law.


BNSF agrees to $75 million settlement after BIPA violation


Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

BNSF Railway, one of North America’s largest freight railroad network operators, agreed to a $75 million settlement after a jury found the company guilty of violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).
  • The first ever BIPA suit to go to trial, this case began after 45,000+ truck drivers alleged the fingerprint scan requirement at BNSF’s Illinois facility violated their biometric privacy rights.
  • During the initial trial, Judge Matthew Kennelly imposed a $228 million fine, but later ruled that a jury should determine the penalty.
  • Both sides reached a final agreement on Monday, eliminating the need for a second trial before the jury and significantly reducing BNSF’s final settlement amount.


FTC warns AI makers against privacy negligence



Following a string of settlements with companies that have misused consumer data, Lina Khan, chair of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), reiterated the agency’s intentions to strictly monitor AI tools to ensure they don’t violate consumer privacy.
  • Referring to AI model training as “another feature that could incentivize surveillance,” Khan stated that health, geolocation, and browsing data were “simply off limits.”
  • If companies do wish to use consumer data to train their models, they must explicitly notify consumers rather than discreetly changing their terms of service.
  • Khan also made it clear that no special exemptions will be made for AI under current legislation and that companies cannot use innovation as an excuse to escape sanctions.

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