Govt suggests Brits should hand passports to social media companies

Block buttons would become mandatory under forthcoming Online Safety Bill, says DCMS

The British government has suggested its citizens should hand their passports over to Facebook as a condition for using the service.

The country's forthcoming Online Safety Bill will require citizens to hand over even more personal data to largely foreign-headquartered social media platforms, government minister Nadine Dorries has declared.

"The vast majority of social networks used in the UK do not require people to share any personal details about themselves – they are able to identify themselves by a nickname, alias or other term not linked to a legal identity," said Dorries, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Another legal duty to be imposed on social media platforms will be a requirement to give users a "block" button, something that has been part of most of today's platforms since their launch.

"When it comes to verifying identities," said DCMS in a statement, "some platforms may choose to provide users with an option to verify their profile picture to ensure it is a true likeness. Or they could use two-factor authentication where a platform sends a prompt to a user's mobile number for them to verify."

"Alternatively," continued the statement, "verification could include people using a government-issued ID such as a passport to create or update an account."

Two-factor authentication is a login technology to prevent account hijacking by malicious people, not a method of verifying a user's government-approved identity.

"People will now have more control over who can contact them and be able to stop the tidal wave of hate served up to them by rogue algorithms," said Dorries.

Social networks offering services to Britons don't currently require lots of personal data to register as a user. Most people see this as a benefit; the government seems to see it as a negative.

Today's statement had led to widespread concerns that DCMS will place UK residents at greater risk of online identity theft or of falling victim to a data breach.

The Online Safety Bill was renamed from the Online Harms Bill shortly before its formal introduction to Parliament. Widely accepted as a disaster in the making by the technically literate, critics have said the bill risks creating an "algorithm-driven censorship future" through new regulations that would make it legally risky for platforms not to proactively censor users' posts.

It is also closely linked to strong rhetoric discouraging end-to-end encryption rollouts for the sake of "minors", and its requirements would mean that tech platforms attempting to comply would have to weaken security measures.

Parliamentary efforts at properly scrutinising the draft bill then led to the "scrutineers" instead publishing a manifesto asking for even more stronger legal weapons be included.

Proponents of the bill say that the current state of social media is unacceptable, with all kinds of grisly and abusive posts, pictures and videos only ever a few clicks away.

Critics say ordinary users will find themselves at risk as they are forced to trade ever more of their valuable personal data just to keep on living their online lives as they have done for the past 15 years. ®

Other stories you might like

  • US lawsuit alleges tool used by hospitals shares patient data with Meta
    Booking appointments and other interactions with hospital portals can lead to some medical details being shared for advertising, class action claims

    Social media megacorp Meta is the target of a class action suit which claims potentially thousands of medical details of hospital patients were shared with its Facebook brand.

    The proposed class action [PDF], filed on Friday, centers on the use of Facebook Pixel, a tool for website marketing and analytics.

    An anonymous hospital patient, named John Doe in court papers, is bringing the case — filed in the Northern District of California — alleging Facebook has received patient data from at least 664 hospital systems or medical providers, per the suit.

    Continue reading
  • Meta: We need 5x more GPUs to combat TikTok, stat
    And 30% fewer new engineers this year

    Comment Facebook parent Meta has reportedly said it needs to increase its fleet of datacenter GPUs fivefold to help it compete against short-form video app and perennial security concern TikTok.

    The oft-controversial tech giant needs these hardware accelerators in its servers by the end of the year to power its so-called discovery engine that will become the center of future social media efforts, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters that was written by Meta Chief Product Officer Chris Cox.

    Separately, CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Meta staff on Thursday in a weekly Q&A the biz had planned to hire 10,000 engineers this year, and this has now been cut to between 6,000 and 7,000 in the shadow of an economic downturn. He also said some open positions would be removed, and pressure will be placed on the performance of those staying at the corporation.

    Continue reading
  • Meta agrees to tweak ad system after US govt brands it discriminatory
    And pay the tiniest of fines, too

    Facebook parent Meta has settled a complaint brought by the US government, which alleged the internet giant's machine-learning algorithms broke the law by blocking certain users from seeing online real-estate adverts based on their nationality, race, religion, sex, and marital status.

    Specifically, Meta violated America's Fair Housing Act, which protects people looking to buy or rent properties from discrimination, it was claimed; it is illegal for homeowners to refuse to sell or rent their houses or advertise homes to specific demographics, and to evict tenants based on their demographics.

    This week, prosecutors sued Meta in New York City, alleging the mega-corp's algorithms discriminated against users on Facebook by unfairly targeting people with housing ads based on their "race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, and national origin."

    Continue reading
  • LGBTQ+ folks warned of dating app extortion scams
    Uncle Sam tells of crooks exploiting Pride Month

    The FTC is warning members of the LGBTQ+ community about online extortion via dating apps such as Grindr and Feeld.

    According to the American watchdog, a common scam involves a fraudster posing as a potential romantic partner on one of the apps. The cybercriminal sends explicit of a stranger photos while posing as them, and asks for similar ones in return from the mark. If the victim sends photos, the extortionist demands a payment – usually in the form of gift cards – or threatens to share the photos on the chat to the victim's family members, friends, or employer.

    Such sextortion scams have been going on for years in one form or another, even attempting to hit Reg hacks, and has led to suicides.

    Continue reading
  • UK govt promises to sink billions into electronic health records for England
    NHS App role expanded following perceived COVID-era success

    The UK's National Health Service (NHS) has committed to implementing electronic health records for all hospitals and community practices by 2025, backed by £2 billion (c $2.4 billion) in funding.

    The investment from one of the world's largest healthcare providers follows Oracle founder Larry Ellison's promise to create "unified national health records" in the US after the company paid $28.3 billion for Cerner, an American health software company also at the heart of many NHS record systems.

    In the UK, health secretary Sajid Javid has promised £2 billion to digitize the NHS in England, including electronic health records in all NHS trusts (hospitals or other healthcare providers) by March 2025.

    Continue reading
  • Taiwan creates new challenge for tech industry: stern content regulation laws
    Big tech asked to be more transparent by logging what it took down and why

    Taiwan's concentration of tech manufacturing capability worries almost all stakeholders in the technology industry – if China reclaims the island, it would kick a colossal hole in global supply chains. Now the country has given Big Tech another reason to worry: transparency regulations of a kind social networks and surveillance capitalists detest.

    The regulations – named the Digital Intermediary Service Act and released as a draft yesterday by Taiwan's National Communications Commission – require platform operators to create a complaints mechanism anyone can use to request content takedowns, remove illegal content at speed, undergo audits to demonstrate they can do so, and respond promptly to orders to remove content.

    When platforms decide to take down content, they'll need to list each instance in a public database to promote accountability and transparency of their actions.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022