Lab notes: March 2020

It’s almost spring! Time flies. Here’s what we’ve been working on:

  • Calling all public interest tech researchers: we are now accepting applications for paid, non-resident fellows to study the effects of connected products and services. Fellows will have the opportunity to collaborate with a diverse community, leverage CR’s physical labs and testing infrastructure, and communicate findings to manufacturers, policymakers, and the public. The deadline to apply is March 28th — send folks this way or apply now.
  • We looked at five popular period tracker apps — and, yep, all five transmit your data to ad networks. The dissemination of your personal health information could have serious repercussions, including your ability to obtain life insurance and how much you pay for that coverage, increase the interest rate you’re charged on loans, and even leave you vulnerable to workplace discrimination. And because you usually don’t know who has your data, you may never even know if you’ve experienced any of those harms.
  • Turns out many smart-home security devices like Ring have serious security issues. We sent letters to 25 companies urging them to up their game on security and privacy. Pressure from CR and other groups resulted in Ring announcing that they will now require all users to turn on two-factor authentication.
  • A big step forward for digital rights: California’s first-in-the-nation privacy law went into effect January 1st. It gives consumers the right to access, delete, and stop the sale of their information. So far, many companies don’t seem to be taking the law seriously, obstructing consumers trying to exercise their basic rights. Enforcement begins on July 1st, but we published an op-ed in the Hill, calling on California’s Attorney General to put non-compliant companies on notice right away.
  • Congrats to The Markup on their launch! We worked with two Markup journalists on an investigative report that uncovered a secret algorithm Allstate wanted to use in order to squeeze more money out of customers already paying the highest premiums.
  • ICYMI News and Updates
  • San Francisco Chronicle Op-Ed by Justin Brookman: Your smart TV is watching you back
  • Watch our experts speak on Data Privacy Day at State of the Net and the Stay Safe Online event

That’s all for this time. We’d love to hear from you — if you have ideas or questions for the Digital Lab, please get in touch!

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