Main | February 2009 »

January 2009 Archives

January 6, 2009

Data Breaches on the Rise in the US

A new report from the Identity Theft Resource Center found a 47 percent increase in data breaches in the United States over 2007. Noting 656 reported breaches at the end of 2008, the report identified the company, the category of breach and the number of records exposed. The Center concluded that most breached data was unprotected by either encryption or even passwords. According to the FTC, data breaches are the leading cause of identity theft. For more information, see EPIC's page on Identity Theft.

FCC Backs Off Net Filtering Plan

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has said that he will not pursue a government-mandated content filter as part of a proposal for a nationwide free wireless broadband network. EPIC had opposed the provision and said that it would create a dangerous precedent that would encourage governments to limit access to unpopular or controversial speech. For more information on content filters, see the EPIC publication "Filters and Freedom" available at Powell's and Amazon

January 13, 2009

Consumer Groups Urge Trade Commission to Investigate Mobile Marketing

The Center for Digital Democracy and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the growing threat to consumer privacy in the mobile advertising world. Certain services track, analyze, and target the public and build secret profiles. Users are targeted based on their online behavior and their location. The complaint urges the Commission to define and clarify practices, review self-regulation, require notice and disclosure and also protect the public. Earlier, thirty Privacy Coalition members sent a letter to President-elect Barack Obama highlighting the importance of protecting consumer privacy in new network services. For more information, see EPIC's page on Privacy and Consumer Profiling.

January 14, 2009

EPIC, Patient Advocates Urge Congress to "ACT" on Privacy

EPIC and more than 25 members of the Coalition for Patient Privacy at a news conference today in Washington, DC urged Congress to include critical privacy safeguards for the medical record network that may be included in the economic stimulus plan. The Coalition partners are recommending that lawmakers "ACT" on privacy and provide Accountability for access to health records, Control of personal information, and Transparency to protect medical consumers from abuse. For more information, see Patient Privacy Rights and EPIC's page on Medical Privacy.

Supreme Court Permits Arrest Based on Police Database Error, EPIC Amicus Brief Cited in Dissent

In a 5-4 opinion, the Supreme Court has held that the police may use false information contained in a police database as the evidence for an arrest. Chief Justice Roberts held that, "when police mistakes are the result of negligence such as that described here, rather than systemic error or reckless disregard of constitutional requirements, any marginal deterrence does not 'pay its way.'" Justice Ginsburg, writing for four of the Justices in dissent, said that "negligent recordkeeping errors by law enforcement threaten individual liberty, are susceptible to deterrence by the exclusionary rule, and cannot be remedied effectively through other means." EPIC filed a friend of the court brief urging the Justices to ensure the accuracy of police databases, on behalf of 27 legal scholars and technical experts and 13 privacy and civil liberty groups. The EPIC brief was cited by the Justices in dissent. See EPIC Herring v. US ("Concerning a Faulty Arrest Based on Incorrect Information in a Government Database").

January 15, 2009

Federal Intelligence Court Rules Warrantless Wiretapping Legal

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review has ordered the release of a redacted opinion. The federal intelligence court ruled in August, 2008 that warrantless wiretapping of international phone calls and the interception of e-mail messages were permissible. Giving support to the Protect America Act, the Court found that "foreign intelligence surveillance possesses characteristics that qualify" for an exception in the interest of "national security". For more information, see EPIC's page on Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

January 21, 2009

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Internet Censorship Appeal

The Supreme Court denied the last appeal of the Government from an Appeals Court decision that turned down the enforcement of the Child Online Protection Act (COPA). COPA establishes criminal penalties for any online commercial distribution of material harmful to minors. The Appeals Court held COPA unconstitutional on the ground that COPA made every web communication provider abide by the most restrictive community's standards." EPIC had challenged the implementation of COPA over ten years ago and had been fighting the case along with the ACLU and the EFF. EPIC argued that COPA violated the First Amendment as well as privacy of the individual on the internet. For more information, see EPIC's page on ACLU v. Mukasey.

President Obama Issues New Orders on FOIA

In his first 24 hours in Office, President Obama issued a series of Executive Orders. One of the Orders dealt with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) activity of federal government agencies. He stated that prior FOIA rules were governed by a "defensible argument" for not disclosing information to the public. The President said that, "Starting today, every agency and department should know that his administration stands on the side, not of those who seek to withhold information, but with those who seek to make it known." In other initiatives President Obama issued a suspension of legal proceedings against detainees being held in Guantanamo Bay. For more information, see EPIC's page on Former Secrets.

January 23, 2009

Medical Privacy Legislation Moves Forward in Congress

On Thursday, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce approved Economic Recovery legislation that includes provisions for the adoption of health information technology and establishes standards for interoperability and privacy. Patient Privacy Rights is leading a coalition effort to establish strong privacy safeguards for American consumers. A hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

January 24, 2009

Privacy Problems Plague New White House Web Site

While the public responded very favorably to the announcements this week from President Barack Obama, problems with the privacy practices of the new White House web site where the President's statements are posted emerged. One columnist noted a tracking feature associated with YouTube that violated a long-standing rule to limit the use of persistent cookies in the federal government. A second columnist, who noted a similar problem with YouTube and Congressional offices, said that subsequent changes to the White House privacy policy failed to resolve the problem. In posts to the Interesting People list, several other experts identified privacy related problems with the White House site. For general information about cookies and tracking, see EPIC's Cookies page.

January 27, 2009

Civil Society Launches Campaign for Privacy Convention

A coalition organized by the Public Voice is urging support for the Council of Europe Privacy Convention. At present, forty-one countries have ratified the Convention. The coalition is pushing for ratification in the countries that have not adopted the convention. In the United States, the Privacy Coalition has proposed a resolution for the U.S. Senate. According to one source, the "Convention has withstood the test of time by being adaptive and fairly rigorous. Today the principles of this agreement are being examined for their applicability to the collection and processing of biometric data." For more information, sign-up for the International Privacy Day and see the EPIC report "Privacy and Human Rights".

January 28, 2009

EPIC Honors Stefano Rodotà

On the occasion of International Privacy Day, EPIC has given the "International Privacy Champion" Award to Stefano Rodotà, an eminent Italian jurist, who has profoundly influenced the public's understanding of human rights in the age of the Internet. The award from EPIC describes Professor Rodotà as "a powerful advocate for the rights of the citizen." Previous recipients of the EPIC Champion of Freedom Award include Senator Patrick Leahy and Professor Pamela Samuelson. Facebook users can Fan Stefano Rodotà.

January 29, 2009

House Economic Recovery Bill Includes Privacy Safeguards for Medical Information

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, adopted by the House this week, includes strong privacy provisions ("Subtitle D - Privacy") for the proposed medical health network. Among the key provisions: a ban on the sale of health information, audit trails, encryption, rights of access, improved enforcement mechanisms, and support for advocacy groups to participate in the regulatory process. Patient Privacy Rights has expressed support for the legislation. A similar bill, S. 336, is pending in the Senate. Senator Leahy has called for strong safeguards to protect America's health privacy. For more information, see EPIC's page on Medical Privacy.

EPIC, Freedom of Information Advocates Endorse President

EPIC joined Freedom of Information advocates from around the world in an Open Letter welcoming "President Obama's Initiative on Transparency." The organizations also supported the President's call for a "clear presumption in favor of disclosure of information." They called on "governments around the world to take similar action to promote transparency and respect for the right of access to information." For more information about open government, see EPIC's Open Government manual.

About January 2009

This page contains all entries posted to in January 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

February 2009 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.