The Proliferation of Online Information Brokers and Reports of Abuses of Consumer Privacy


The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) appreciates the opportunity to submit the following comments on the online information broker industry to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as part of the agency’s deliberations for the Privacy Roundtables series.

The online information broker industry has come to the forefront of consumer privacy issues in recent years. Information brokers are companies that compile information on individuals via public, semi-public and private records and offer this information via online “lookup” services, often with no questions asked. Some charge a fee while others provide their services at no charge. Consumers who are attempting to limit the availability of their personal information, due to concerns about privacy, safety or identity theft, have lodged numerous complaints against this industry with the PRC over the years.

Comments to the Los Angeles City Council: Public Policy Ramifications of Cloud Computing


I am writing to express concern about the proposal for the City of LA to implement Google Apps for its e-mail and office systems.

I am concerned about the propriety of a government entity using services that are “in the cloud,” so to speak, as repositories for sensitive personal and organizational information.

I question if enough is yet known about the privacy, security and confidentiality of personal information in a cloud environment.

The Privacy Implications of Cloud Computing


When users store their data with programs hosted on someone else's hardware, they lose a degree of control over their sensitive information. The responsibility for protecting that information from hackers and internal data breaches then falls into the hands of the hosting company rather than the individual user. Government investigators trying to subpoena information could approach that company without informing the data's owners. Some companies could even willingly share sensitive data with marketing firms. So there is a privacy risk in putting your data in someone else's hands. Obviously, the safest approach is to maintain your data under your own control.

Google Posts a Link to Its Privacy Policy from Its Home Page


On July 3, 2008, Google made an important change to its home page. It added a new link from the home page to its privacy center.  With just one seven-letter word, Google resolves the controversy over whether its previous practice ran afoul of California privacy law.

Consumer and Privacy Groups Urge Google to Post a Link to Its Privacy Policy from Its Home Page


A coalition of privacy and consumer organizations from California to Washington, D.C. have urged Google to post a prominent link on its homepage to its privacy policy. In a letter released June 3rd, 2008, the groups say this is required by California law and is the widespread practice of commercial web sites.

Interagency Proposal for Model Privacy Form under the Gramm-Leach Bliley Act


The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC)1 is pleased to comment on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC or Commission) notice of proposed rulemaking (NPR)2 to simplify the consumer disclosures required by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (“GLB”). With only a few minor suggestions, the PRC endorses and fully supports the model form adopted by the agencies. We direct our comments as follows:

Keep Your Internet Searches Private


Internet users were shocked to learn that the search queries of over 600,000 individuals were exposed online by AOL recently. Although the personal names of AOL users had been replaced with numbers, apparently for a research project, reporters and others were able to determine the identities of several people. Ixquick, a search engine based in the Netherlands, promises it will permanently delete all users’ personal search details from its log files.

Tell the IRS that Allowing Tax Preparers to Sell Taxpayer Data to Marketers Is a Bad Idea


At tax time, like most people, you are concerned about the bottom line: Will I get a refund or will I have to pay? Privacy may never enter your mind, but perhaps it should. Under a new IRS proposal, among the papers you are asked to sign, could be a consent form that gives your tax preparer your okay to sell your entire tax return.

Comments Submitted to the Internal Revenue Service: Disclosure and Use of Tax Preparation Data Notice 2005-93 and REG-137243-02


At no time is one's expectation of privacy greater than with tax preparation. The proposed rules address privacy concerns in some important ways by requiring consumer consent where none was previously required. At the same time, the rules open the door for far more insidious privacy invasions by allowing tax return information to be used for marketing and shared by preparers with "any person."

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