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Euro watchdog will try to extract $900m from Amazon for breaking data privacy laws • The Register

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Amazon says a European Union privacy watchdog has mustered the temerity to demand a $885m fine for failing to comply with data privacy rules.

“On July 16, 2021, the Luxembourg National Commission for Data Protection (CNPD) issued a decision against Amazon Europe Core S.à r.l. claiming that Amazon’s processing of personal data did not comply with the EU General Data Protection Regulation,” the web goliath said in a financial filing accompanying its Q2 2021 earnings report [PDF] on Thursday.

“The decision imposes a fine of €746m [$885m] and corresponding practice revisions.”

Amazon said the CNPD decision has no merit and that it plans to challenge the ruling.

“Maintaining the security of our customers’ information and their trust are top priorities,” Amazon said in a statement emailed to The Register. “There has been no data breach, and no customer data has been exposed to any third party. These facts are undisputed. We strongly disagree with the CNPD’s ruling, and we intend to appeal.”

“The decision relating to how we show customers relevant advertising relies on subjective and untested interpretations of European privacy law, and the proposed fine is entirely out of proportion with even that interpretation.”

The €746m fine is the largest penalty under the 2018 GDPR to date, surpassing the previous top penalty of €50m assessed by the French National Commission on Informatics and Liberty (CNIL) against Google in 2019 by almost 15x. In fact, Amazon’s fine is more than twice the sum of all previous GDPR penalties combined (€303m).

The ruling follows from the CNPD’s investigation of a May 28, 2018 complaint [PDF] by La Quadrature du Net, a French privacy group. The complaint contends that Amazon subjects website visitors to behaviorally targeted ads but fails to disclose this practice in its terms of use and fails to seek consent to use personal information to deliver targeted ads.

The privacy group assailed Amazon’s public statement about the absence of a data breach as a non sequitur, stating that the CNPD decision is a consequence of invasive ads rather than a database intrusion.

This historic fine hits straight to the heart of Big Tech’s predatory system, and should be celebrated as such

“It is the system of targeted advertising itself, and not merely occasional security breaches, that our legal action attacked,” the group said in a statement on its website. “This historic fine hits straight to the heart of Big Tech’s predatory system, and should be celebrated as such.”

The privacy group also took the opportunity to contrast the massive CNPD fine with the failure of both the Irish Data Protection Authority and the CNIL to translate the group’s complaints against Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and Google into meaningful penalties. And it celebrated the CNPD decision for restoring its faith in regulatory intervention.

“Business models based on domination and exploitation of our privacy and our free consent are disturbingly illegitimate and go against the values that our democratic societies claim to defend,” the group said.

Elsewhere in its 10-Q filing, Amazon reported $113.1bn in sales and an operating profit of $7.7bn for the quarter. ®

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British home computer trailblazer dies aged 81 • The Register

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Sir Clive Sinclair died on Thursday at home in London after a long illness, his family said today. He was 81.

The British entrepreneur is perhaps best known for launching the ZX range of 8-bit microcomputers, which helped bring computing, games, and programming into UK homes in the 1980s, at least. This included the ZX80, said to be the UK’s first mass-market home computer for under £100, the ZX81, and the trusty ZX Spectrum. A whole generation grew up in Britain mastering coding on these kinds of systems in their bedrooms.

And before all that, Sir Clive founded Sinclair Radionics, which produced amplifiers, calculators, and watches, and was a forerunner to his Spectrum-making Sinclair Research. The tech pioneer, who eventually sold his computing biz to Amstrad, was knighted during his computing heyday, in 1983.

“He was a rather amazing person,” his daughter, Belinda Sinclair, 57, told The Guardian this evening. “Of course, he was so clever and he was always interested in everything. My daughter and her husband are engineers so he’d be chatting engineering with them.”

Sir Clive is survived by Belinda, his sons, Crispin and Bartholomew, aged 55 and 52 respectively, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. ®

A full obit will follow on The Register.

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UN human rights chief raises concerns over AI privacy violations in report

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‘AI tech can have negative, even catastrophic, effects if they are used without sufficient regard to how they affect people’s human rights.’

The UN’s human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called for a moratorium on the sale and use of artificial intelligence technology until safeguards are put in place to prevent potential human rights violations.

Bachelet made the appeal on Wednesday (15 September) to accompany a report released by the UN’s Human Rights Office, which analysed how AI systems affect people’s right to privacy. The violation of their privacy rights had knock-on impacts on other rights such as rights to health, education and freedom of movement, the report found.

“Artificial intelligence can be a force for good, helping societies overcome some of the great challenges of our times. But AI technologies can have negative, even catastrophic, effects if they are used without sufficient regard to how they affect people’s human rights,” Bachelet said.

“Artificial intelligence now reaches into almost every corner of our physical and mental lives and even emotional states,” Bachelet added.

Japanese multinational Fujitsu caused a stir when it announced plans to implement AI facial recognition technology to monitor employees’ concentration levels during meetings.

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The report was critical of justice systems which had made wrongful arrests because of flawed facial recognition tools. It appealed to countries to ban any AI tools which did not meet international human rights standards. A 2019 study from the UK found that 81pc of suspects flagged by the facial recognition technology used by London’s Metropolitan Police force were innocent.

Earlier this year, Canada banned Clearview’s AI facial recognition technology after the company violated Canadian privacy laws by collecting facial images of Canadians without their consent.

Bachelet also highlighted the report’s concerns on the future use of data once it has been collected and stored, calling it “one of the most urgent human rights questions we face.”

The UN’s report echoes previous appeals made by European data protection regulators.

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) and the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) called for a ban on facial recognition in public places in June. They urged EU lawmakers to consider banning the use of such technology in public spaces, after the European Commission released its proposed regulations on the matter.

The EU’s proposed regulations did not recommend an outright ban. The commission instead emphasised the importance of creating “trustworthy AI.”

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The problem with OnlyFans’ mainstream dream | News

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This episode includes discussion of sex and pornography.

OnlyFans bills itself as a wide-ranging ‘subscription social network’ where content creators of any kind can charge their followers to view their output – but in reality its hugely successful business is largely based around sex. That emphasis only grew during the pandemic, with more and more users spending their free time online – and more people wondering about a new source of income. With the company valued at about $1bn (£720m), and celebrities like Cardi B and Bella Thorne signing up, it was hard to see it doing anything other than more of the same.

Then OnlyFans dropped a bombshell: it announced it would be barring sexually explicit content. Some observers accepted its claim that the move was forced by banks that were refusing to work with the platform in its current form, while others wondered if it was driven by a longer-term gamble that there was more money and security to be found in the mainstream. Either way, the sex workers who have built a following on the site and rely on it for income were up in arms.

Then the second bombshell came. OnlyFans announced that after securing assurances from its banking partners that it would be able to continue to operate, it had suspended its decision and would “continue to provide a home for all creators”. But many of those who use the site are suspicious that it still intends to pivot away from sexual content in the future. Meanwhile, there are many who have a more fundamental objection – claiming the website has inadequate safeguards for its users or to stop the publication of illegal content, and is part of a system that commodifies women’s bodies and plays a part in misogyny in online and offline spaces alike.

To unpick all of this, Nosheen Iqbal speaks to the Guardian’s UK technology editor, Alex Hern, who sets out the possible reasons for OnlyFans’ initial decision and subsequent reversal, as well as reflecting on what its success tells us about the future of internet business. We also hear from Bea Dux, a content creator on OnlyFans who is leaving the platform as a result of the saga. “We are constantly exploited for what we are able to bring to companies,” she says. “Time and time again sex workers will build a platform, and as soon as it’s big enough to bring in other people and celebrities, sex workers get kicked off.”

OnlyFans did not respond to a request for comment.

Read more from Alex Hern on OnlyFans here and here.



The OnlyFans website on a mobile phone.

Photograph: True Images/Alamy

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