PRC's Privacy Update No. 2, Iss. 7

In this issue . . .
[1] PRC's Newest Fact Sheet -- Privacy in Education: A Guide for Parents and Adult-Age Students

[2] The PRC and Director Beth Givens Are Portrayed in Nov. 1 Lifetime TV Movie -- Identity Theft: The Michelle Brown Story

[3] The PRC Opposes California Propositions 64 and 69

[4] TAKE ACTION! Tell Your Congressional Reps and the Dept. of Health and Human Services to Stop Using Your SSN as an ID Number for Medicare

[1] PRC's Newest Fact Sheet -- Privacy in Education:    
A Guide for Parents and Adult-Age Students

The PRC has posted another Fact Sheet in our ever-growing list. The newest is Fact Sheet 29, Privacy in Education: A Guide for Parents and Adult-Age Students.

Fact Sheet 29 focuses on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), with additional information on related laws. The guide outlines the rights of parents and adult-age students regarding school records. It explains how to get access to student records, including "directory information," how to determine who has seen the records, and how to correct errors. The guide also covers the topics of photographs, video recordings, surveillance cameras, and web sites containing student information, as well as  the use of the Social Security number as student ID numbers.

This 18-page publication is available on our web site at

[2] The PRC and Director Beth Givens Are Portrayed in Nov. 1 Lifetime TV Movie -- Identity Theft: The Michelle Brown Story

A few years ago a Southern California woman named Michelle Brown contacted the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse seeking help regarding an especially difficult identity theft situation. An identity thief had not only obtained credit using Michelle's Social Security number (SSN) but also used her information when arrested for crimes. The thief obtained information provided by Michelle on a housing application and procured over $50,000 in goods and services including a lease for an apartment, a $32,000 truck, and liposuction. But Michelle's experience as a victim didn't end at credit fraud. The thief also obtained a state- issued ID using Michelle's name and later engaged in drug smuggling for which she was arrested as Michelle.

Michelle was eventually able to see her perpetrator brought to justice. Michelle was also able to use her situation to call for stronger laws to fight identity theft. She testified about her experience before a U.S. Senate Committee, chaired by Senators Dianne Feinstein and Jon Kyl. The testimony is posted on the PRC website and contains a timeline of her ordeal:

This harrowing story will be portrayed, though significantly fictionalized, on a Lifetime TV movie the evening of Monday, November 1 at 9 p.m. EST and PST. PRC Director Beth Givens is portrayed briefly in the second half of the movie for her role in assisting Michelle and advocating on her behalf. Although Michelle's story has been altered for the TV movie, the bare outline as portrayed by Lifetime is true. We are pleased that viewers will be able to see the kind of work that the PRC has done for victims of identity theft over the years. Check your local listings for exact times.

For more information about the movie, see:

[3] The PRC Opposes California Propositions 64 and 69
There are two important propositions that affect consumer privacy in the upcoming California election. Though some readers of this newsletter are located in other states, these issues may someday reach your state as well.

Proposition 64: You've probably heard mention of "unscrupulous trial lawyers" and "shakedown" lawsuits. California's Proposition 64, backed by dozens of major corporations, says it will stop these practices by severely curtailing Cali- fornia's Unfair Business Competition law. This California law allows organizations like ours to be plaintiffs on lawsuits that expose and stop corporate consumer wrongdoing, environ- mental damage, and public health violations.

Though supporters of Prop. 64 depict small mom and pop business owners as the "victims" of so-called "shakedown" lawsuits, Proposition 64 is financially backed by deep corporate pockets that want to eviscerate the Unfair Business Competition law. These interests seek to limit the ability of nonprofit organizations like ours to represent consumers' interests. Without these provisions, major privacy laws will be largely unenforceable, relying only on understaffed and budget-crunched state and local consumer protection agencies for prosecution and only if they have the resources.

That's why California Attorney General Bill Lockyer opposes Prop. 64. Other opponents include the American Lung Association, AARP, and the Sierra Club, along with the PRC.

Privacy intrusions do not usually result in the individual losing money. Nonetheless, privacy abuses can cause significant harm. And once you've lost your privacy, it's nearly impossible to regain. Under Proposition 64, if your privacy were violated, you would not be able to go to court unless you could show you personally lost money.

Financial companies, for instance, want to continue to be able to profit from the use and sale of your sensitive financial data. They do not want to be held accountable for compliance with California's privacy laws. As another example of how your privacy could be at risk if Prop. 64 passes, see our last newsletter [ ]. We reported that the PRC filed a suit against supermarket giant Albertsons and its pharmacy units, SavOn, Osco, and Jewel-Osco, alleging they violated the privacy rights of thousands of customers by illegally misusing confidential prescription information for drug company marketing campaigns. This deceptive marketing practice and others will continue unabated if Prop. 64 passes and our organization is unable to file suit.

For more information about the PRC's opposition to Prop. 64, see:

For more information about the "no on Prop. 64" campaign, see:

For a list of Prop. 64 opponents, see:

For information about Proposition 64's corporate supporters, see:

Proposition 69: Many states have experienced the benefits of using DNA samples to solve crimes. But when do efforts to collect DNA go to far? When samples are taken from arrestees who have not been convicted of a crime.

California Proposition 69 seeks to expand the collection of DNA from additional categories of convicted felons and from individuals who have been arrested but not convicted of a crime. It is the latter provision involving arrestees that has prompted the PRC to oppose this ballot initiative.
Every year at least 50,000 innocent Californians are arrested but not charged with a crime. Arrests might range from traffic stops to mistaken identity. Under Proposition 69, these people must provide a DNA sample to law enforcement. Everyone arrested for any felony whatsoever -- even trespassing, shoplifting, or writing a bad check ­ will be subject to DNA testing, sampling, and filing in criminal databases.

The PRC has been contacted by many victims of criminal identity theft (like Michelle Brown noted in section 2 above) whose personal information is used by someone else when arrested for crimes. Such victims can later be arrested on warrants for crimes perpetrated by the identity thief. If Prop. 69 passes, innocent victims arrested because of mistaken identity would have to provide a DNA sample, adding insult to injury.

Once criminal identity theft victims and other arrestees are exonerated, Prop. 69 makes it their responsibility to remove their DNA records from criminal records databases, using a laborious and expensive set of procedures. To make matters worse, if the court rejects an individual's request to remove the DNA record, there is no right of appeal.

For more information about the PRC's opposition to Prop. 69, see

For a flash animation feature opposing Prop. 69, see:

Also, visit "Vote No on Prop. 69" website at:

[4] TAKE ACTION! Tell Your Congressional Reps and the Dept. of Health and Human Services to Stop Using Your SSN as an ID Number for Medicare

Your Social Security number (SSN) is the key to perpetrating identity theft. Carrying an insurance card that uses the SSN as an ID number leaves consumers at risk for identity theft if their purse or wallet is stolen. And insurers who use the SSN as an ID number usually include it in correspondence, creating an easy target for mail thieves.

Though many states including Arizona, California, Georgia, Texas, and Utah, have laws that prevent private, commercial insurance companies from using your SSN on insurance cards and on correspondence, the federal Medicare program still uses the SSN as an ID number. And if you use Medicare, you know that your ID card advises you to carry the card with you.

Recently, Consumers Union ( ) launched a campaign to enable you to send a free email to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Members of Congress to urge them to remove the SSN from Medicare cards and mailings.

Along with Consumers Union, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse believes that Medicare should follow the lead of private health insurers so recipients can carry their card without being at risk for identity theft.

To urge the DHHS and your federal elected representatives to stop using the SSN as the ID number on Medicare cards and in correspondence, visit the Consumers Union's "take action" web site at


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