Mozilla Unveils (Possibly Futile) Tool That Lets You Request That Data Brokers Delete Your Data

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from the pay-for-privacy dept

Every few weeks for the last fifteen years there’s been a massive scandal involving some company, telecom, data broker, or app maker over-collecting your detailed personal location data, failing to secure it, then selling access to that information to any nitwit with a nickel. And despite the added risks this creates in the post-Roe era, we’ve still done little to pass a real privacy law or rein in reckless data brokers.
The reason we don’t do that is because Congress is grotesquely, comically corrupt, something that often doesn’t seem to warrant a mention in most news coverage of the problem.
Enter Mozilla, which is trying to monetize the data broker problem with a new $9 a month privacy monitoring service dubbed Mozilla Monitor Plus. According to Mozilla, the new service will scour the web for your personal information at over 190 sites where brokers sell information they’ve gathered from online sources like social media sites, apps, and browser trackers.
The product is basically an extension of the company’s existing (free) Mozilla Monitor service that scours the web for compromised accounts. Based on this Verge article, it sounds like the product basically rebrands services from Onerep, a company that basically does the same thing. From the Mozilla Blog:
Mozilla does great work on privacy issues (their recent report on the abysmal state of vehicle cybersecurity is essential reading). And I imagine that applying their trusted brand name onto such a service helps consumers find a useful tool in a sea of cybersecurity snake oil salesmen.
That said, it’s fairly pathetic that this is only necessary because Congress is too corrupt to regulate data brokers. And the data broker industry is so massive (and massively convoluted by design), I’m not entirely sure that tools like this even begin to get to all the dodgy repositories where consumer data (and detailed consumer profiles based on that data) now reside. Including most world governments.
Actually fixing our obvious consumer privacy and security problems requires new laws and competent regulators with actual teeth, something the United States clearly isn’t interested in. In the interim, I guess paying for something vaguely resembling personal privacy is the best you can hope for.

from the wrong-place,-wrong-argument,-wrong-everything dept

Last fall, we detailed the many, many, many, many problems of Elon Musk’s absolutely bullshit ridiculous lawsuit against Media Matters. Again, if you don’t recall, Media Matters found some examples of neo-Nazi content on ExTwitter appearing next to ads from big name brands. Elon got extra mad about this because it also happened a day after he endorsed an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory trope. Either way, it led to many advertisers pulling their ads.
Rather than being a “free speech absolutist” like he pretends he is, Musk decided to sue Media Matters for its free speech. In that lawsuit, ExTwitter admits that what Media Matters saw actually happened (which basically torpedoes the lawsuit). Their complaint was (1) that Media Matters had to take some steps to see those ads, (2) most users would not take those steps, and (3) that people read Media Matters’ article to imply that most users would also experience the same thing (even though Media Matters never actually said that).
That defense would have actually been a useful thing for ExTwitter to just publicly say. A perfectly reasonable and smart response to the Media Matters report would have been, “Hey, so, Media Matters followed a bunch of Nazis and kept reloading until they saw some ads, and that’s something we’re constantly working on and trying to improve for our advertising partners, but it’s an impossible task to make sure that never happens. It’s extremely rare and is unlikely to happen for most people, and we’re continuing to work on improving.”
Or something like that. Instead, Elon decided to sue. In Texas (despite none of the parties being there), while admitting that everything Media Matters wrote was accurate, but they just didn’t like the way that Media Matters went about getting that info and how people interpreted it. But the way that Media Matters got the info (following Nazis and then reloading) is very much allowed by the system. If ExTwitter doesn’t like that, it (1) shouldn’t platform Nazis or (2) shouldn’t allow you to follow Nazis or (3) shouldn’t allow you to reload. But it does all three, so it really can’t complain.
Anyway, Media Matters has now filed its motion to dismiss. I had been a little nervous when Media Matters hired the Elias law firm to handle this, as they’re mostly focused on election law, not these kinds of free speech cases. But they also brought on some excellent free speech lawyers, including Ted Boutrous from Gibson Dunn. It’s a very strong filing.
The biggest and most obvious thing: what the fuck is this doing in Texas:
In all reality, the court should dismiss it on this point alone. It’s obvious that the case has no business being in Texas and that the court has no jurisdiction over the defendants’ actions.
But, if the court decides to ignore all that, the underlying case is also bullshit. The claims of contract interference? That’s not how this works:
How about the “business disparagement” claim that some people pretended was a defamation claim. In the complaint, we noted that before the claims, the complaint made it out like this was a “defamation” case, but never actually made a defamation claim. Some people argued that because there’s a “business disparagement” claim that’s the same thing. The two are similar, but they are not the same. And, either way, nothing in the complaint supports a business disparagement claim (which has a very high bar):
Also, the whole actual malice thing:
There’s more, but you get the point. The case was garbage from the start, and the motion to dismiss explains why. I’m guessing the most likely move is to dismiss over the jurisdiction issue, followed by Musk appealing to the 5th Circuit, where Calvinball takes over and the court will probably make a mockery of every precedent applicable here, because that’s just how the 5th Circuit works.