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GDPR privacy law exploited to reveal personal data

About one in four companies revealed personal information to a woman's partner, who had made a bogus demand for the data by citing an EU privacy law.

The security expert contacted dozens of UK and US-based firms to test how they would handle a "right of access" request made in someone else's name.

In each case, he asked for all the data that they held on his fiancee.

In one case, the response included the results of a criminal activity check.

Other replies included credit card information, travel details, account logins and passwords, and the target's full US social security number.

University of Oxford-based researcher James Pavur has presented his findings at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas.

It is one of the first tests of its kind to exploit the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force in May 2018. The law shortened the time organisations had to respond to data requests, added new types of information they have to provide, and increased the potential penalty for non-compliance.

"Generally if it was an extremely large company - especially tech ones - they tended to do really well," he told the BBC.

"Small companies tended to ignore me.

"But the kind of mid-sized businesses that knew about GDPR, but maybe didn't have much of a specialised process [to handle requests], failed."

He declined to identify the organisations that had mishandled the requests, but said they had included:

- a UK hotel chain that shared a complete record of his partner's overnight stays

- two UK rail companies that provided records of all the journeys she had taken with them over several years

- a US-based educational company that handed over her high school grades, mother's maiden name and the results of a criminal background check survey.

Mr Pavur has, however, named some of the companies that he said had performed well.

Programmer coded a software to track women in porn videos using face-recognition






A Chinese programmer based in Germany created a software using face-recognition technology to identify women who had appeared in porn videos. 

The information about the project was posted on the Chinese social network WeiboA. Then a Twitter handle @yiqinfu tweeted ’’A Germany-based Chinese programmer said he and some friends have identified 100k porn actresses from around the world, cross-referencing faces in porn videos with social media profile pictures. The goal is to help others check whether their girlfriends ever acted in those films.’’

The project took nearly half a year to complete. The videos were collected from websites 1024, 91, sex8, PornHub, and xvideos, and all together it consists of  100+ terabytes of data. 

The faces appearing on these videos are compared with profile pictures from various popular social media platform like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Weibo, and others.

The coder deleted the project and all his data after it found out that the project violates the European privacy law. 

However, there is no proof that there is no program on the global system that matches women’s social-media photos with images from porn sites. 

According to the programmer whatever he did ‘was legal because 1) he hasn't shared any data, 2) he hasn't opened up the database to outside queries, and 3) sex work is legal in Germany, where he's based.’

But, this incidence has made clear that program like this could be possible and would have awful consequences. “It’s going to kill people,” says Carrie A. Goldberg, an attorney who specializes in sexual privacy violations. 

“Some of my most viciously harassed clients have been people who did porn, oftentimes one time in their life and sometimes nonconsensually [because] they were duped into it. Their lives have been ruined because there’s this whole culture of incels that for a hobby expose women who’ve done porn and post about them online and dox them.” 

The European Union’s GDPR privacy law prevents this kind of situation, but people living in other places are not as lucky.