Edward Snowden issues a strong warning about surveillance in the wake of COVID-19, people are figuring out that Zoom shares data with Facebook even if users don’t have an account with the social media platform, and Amazon solicits public donations to pay workers’ sick leave.
Former CIA contractor Edward Snowden isn’t happy about governments using high-tech surveillance measures to combat the coronavirus outbreak. “When we see emergency measures passed, particularly today, they tend to be sticky,” Snowden said in an interview with the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival. Proposals to monitor the outbreak by tracking mobile phone location data, for example, will become a tempting tool to track criminals and terrorists, says Snowden. Artificial intelligence tools are also in high demand right now to help facilitate some of the tracking that’s taking place, and Snowden says he’s worried about security services adding AI to all the other surveillance tech they have. In the end, Snowden says he doesn’t dispute the severity of the pandemic but hopes the solutions to curb the spread of the virus will come from vaccines and developments in the medical community, not mass surveillance.
You’ve probably used Zoom a few times in recent weeks. Video conferencing software Zoom has exploded in popularity ever since businesses worldwide transitioned to remote work, but Reddit is really chatty today about how the iOS version of the Zoom app is sending some analytics data to Facebook, even if Zoom users don’t have a Facebook account. The story broke in Motherboard this week and highlights how upon downloading and opening the app, Zoom connects to Facebook’s Graph API. The Graph API is the main way developers get data in or out of Facebook. Zoom’s policy says the company may collect user’s “Facebook profile information (when you use Facebook to log-in to our Products or to create an account for our Products),” but doesn’t explicitly mention anything about sending data to Facebook on Zoom users who don’t have a Facebook account at all.
And lastly, there’s still a ton of anger over Amazon’s latest request for donations to pay its workers’ sick leave. Amazon’s large contract workforce, specifically, does not get any sick leave at all from Amazon even if they test positive for COVID-19. Instead, these workers must apply to the “Amazon Relief Fund” and apply for a grant to cover their sick leave. Amazon donated $25 million to the fund and is soliciting individual donations to add to the pot. It initially included an option to donate by text. But Reddit has been quick to ask, why a company owned by the richest man in the world is asking for donations instead of just covering their workers’ itself?
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