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Tech Companies Neglect Smart Home Transparency: The Week in Data News

TechCrunch has repeatedly contacted representatives from Amazon, Google, and Facebook in regards to the data transparency of their Smart Home devices. These requests have been met with silence and deflection for the most part. Read on for this week’s data privacy recap.

Smart Home Device Makers Refuse To Issue Transparency Reports

Amazon, Facebook, and Google are leading the charge when it comes to smart home technology. But these companies aren’t leading the way in terms of transparency, specifically whether or not they send their smart home data to the government. Apple claims that they don’t need to report on this matter, as all of the data they collect is anonymized. The other three major smart home makers have yet to offer anything close to full transparency. We do know that Amazon Echo data was used to solve a murder in one particular case, meaning that police can access this data in some cases. But Amazon has yet to release a report detailing how many requests they’ve received from the government, and whether or not those requests have been fulfilled.

Nest, a line of smart home speakers and security cameras, similarly gave up footage recently to help solve a criminal case against gang members. And Google, which owns Nest, has released a detailed report for their subsidiary company, but not for their own line of smart home products. Facebook does issue regular transparency reports on their website, but it has yet to detail which requests pertain to their smart home devices in a concise manner. So it’s reasonable to conclude that in some cases, this kind of data is available to the law. But the power players, Amazon, Facebook, and Google, have remained relatively silent specifically in terms of smart home data collection. And that silence is deafening.

Google Simplifies Moving Data to the Cloud

A new managed service from Google will help businesses move data from their in-house servers to the cloud. It’s been dubbed Transfer Service (TS), and it’s designed to handle massive transfers of billions of files in a streamlined manner. Remarkably enough, TS will be able to validate the integrity of an organization’s data as it moves to the cloud. And since these functions occur at the same time, the service essentially uses as much bandwidth as possible to reduce the transfer time. For enterprises looking to use Google Cloud’s Transfer Service, it’s as simple as installing an agent on your on-premise servers. Then you just select which directories you want to copy over, and the rest will essentially take care of itself. While the transfer happens, you can use the Google Cloud console to manage each transfer job. All in all, it simplifies a complicated process and offers an efficient, powerful alternative for companies that don’t have the bandwidth to use their own custom solution.

German Commissioner Issues Massive GDPR Fine

1&1 Telecommunications, a mobile service provider, has been hit with a massive fine by the German Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (BfDI). The fine is equal to about $10.65 Millions, and it’s one of the largest penalties related to the General Data Protection Regulation to emerge so far. The company reportedly failed to enforce Article 32 of the GDPR, which stipulates that business take technical and organizational precautions to protect the processing of all personal data. 1&1 is one of Germany’s biggest mobile service and DSL providers, boasting millions of customers. In the wake of the fine, the BfDI has added an extra step to authenticate callers before obtaining personal information on them. Although the company has publicly agreed that a fine was necessary in this case, they plan to put up somewhat of a fight. Essentially they will appeal the fine, arguing that it’s disproportionate.

New Indian Law Gives Government More Data Access

India’s proposed data legislation, the Personal Data Protection (PDP) bill, hinges on a key stipulation: companies must gain permission before using an individuals’ personal data. But some other aspects of the bill would place less restrictions on the government, allowing it to request anonymized and non-personal data from companies. In general, the bill place fewer restrictions on the government’s use of sensitive data, including biometric data. For that reason, many critics are calling the legislation a regressive policy, one that would move the country in the opposite direction of Europe. These fears are somewhat amplified when one looks into some of the law’s specifics, especially regarding the emphasis on data localization. The newest version includes requirements that certain “sensitive” and “critical” data, like financial, health and biometric info, remain in the country.


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