In a report released today, the House Committee on Oversight declared that the Equifax breach, which affected 148 million U.S. consumers, was "entirely preventable." The breach, one of the largest in U.S. history, compromised the authenticating details, including dates of birth and social security numbers, of more than half of American consumers. The House report concluded that Equifax "failed to fully appreciate and mitigate" the cybersecurity risks and placed corporate growth over data security. Despite several agencies, such as the CFPB and the FTC, pledging to take action against Equifax, none have done so. The House Committee recommended that Equifax "provide more transparency to consumers" about data use and security practices and reduce the use of social security numbers as identifiers, longstanding priorities of EPIC. Following the Equifax data breach in 2017, EPIC President Marc Rotenberg testified before the Senate Banking Committee and recommended free credit freezes and other consumer safeguards to mitigate the risk of identity theft.
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In a surprisingly brief opinion, the Ninth Circuit has upheld a decision to dismiss a privacy suit against Facebook concerning the collection of sensitive medical data. In Smith v. Facebook, users alleged that the company tracked their visits to healthcare websites, in violation of the websites' explicit privacy policies. In a little less than five pages, the Ninth Circuit decided that Facebook was not bound by the promises made not to disclose users' data to Facebook because Facebook has a provision, buried deep in its own policy, that allows Facebook to secretly collect such data. The court actually wrote that searches for medical information are not sensitive because the "data show only that Plaintiffs searched and viewed publicly available health information..." EPIC filed an amicus brief in the case, arguing that "consent is not an acid rinse that dissolves common sense." In 2011 Facebook settled charges with the FTC that it routinely changed the privacy settings of users to obtain sensitive personal data. The consent order resulted from detailed complaints brought by EPIC and several other consumer organizations.
In response to a public notice by the Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee, EPIC submitted comments urging the CBP to halt implementation of the biometric border program. EPIC stressed the need for federal regulation to safeguard privacy and prevent the misuse of facial recognition technology. EPIC called for a public rulemaking for the federal entry/exit program. EPIC also criticized the Committee's draft recommendations for facial recognition. EPIC said that the transfer of personal data from the State Department to the CBP was unlawful and that the opt-opt procedures were ignored in practice. Documents EPIC previously obtained in a FOIA lawsuit against CBP revealed that facial scanning did not perform operational matching at a "satisfactory" level.
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EPIC in the News
Artificial intelligence: a detailed explainer, with a human point of view
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
December 7, 2018
Marc Rotenberg, EPIC President
Free Legal Advice Centres
EPIC v. FTC: Seeking disclosure of Facebook assessments, reports, and related records required by the 2012 FTC Consent Order.
In re: OPM Data Security Breach Litigation: Whether the government's failure to safeguard sensitive personal data from a breach violated individuals' constitutional right to informational privacy and caused a cognizable injury under Article III.
EPIC provides expertise to shape strong privacy and open government laws at both the state and federal level.
EPIC has launched a new project promoting PrivacyNow!, including updates to U.S. privacy laws.