A New Year for Privacy: The PRC Launches Online Complaint Center

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) is proud to announce the launch of an interactive online complaint center designed to serve as a clearinghouse for consumer privacy complaints.  This builds upon our 19-year history of troubleshooting consumers’ complaints and questions regarding a wide variety of information privacy issues, including background checks, debt collection, data breaches, financial information, and online data brokers. The PRC's staff will review and respond to every complaint, providing individuals with information and strategies to address their problem.

Data Breaches: A Year in Review

2011 was a significant year for data security, with some of the biggest data breaches in our history reported. So far in 2011, we’ve tracked 535 breaches involving 30.4 million sensitive records. This brings the total reported records breached in the U.S. since 2005 to the alarming number of 543 million.

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has been tracking breaches since 2005 and publishes aChronology of Data Breaches. The Chronology counts the number of records leaked that contain information useful to identity thieves, such as Social Security numbers, financial account numbers, driver's license numbers – and in some states, medical information.

Read our list of the top half dozen most significant data breaches in 2011.

Survive Cyber Monday with our Top 10 Online Shopping Tips

The phrase "Cyber Monday" was coined several years ago to describe the phenomenon of millions of workers returning to their offices on the Monday after Thanksgiving and spending a good part of the day doing their holiday shopping online.  By November 2010, Cyber Monday had become the biggest online shopping day in history and the first to surpass the billion-dollar threshold. 

By all indications, Cyber Monday 2011 will be a blockbuster day for online retailers.  Shopping online can be a convenient, time-saving, and economical alternative to shopping in a traditional "bricks and mortar" retail store.  However, it's important for consumers to take basic steps to protect their privacy.  If you plan to shop online on Cyber Monday (or on any other day of the year), following these 10 tips will help to protect you from fraud, identity theft and other privacy intrusions.

Smartphone Privacy: YouTube Video and Tips for Consumers

Smartphones store a tremendous amount of personal information. If your smartphone were lost or stolen, what information would someone be able to access?

  • Photos – Do you have photos on your smartphone that you wouldn't want your boss or certain friends or family to see? Do your photos reveal where you've been because you have the camera's GPS feature turned on? 

  • Emails – Do you sync your personal and/or work email accounts on your phone? Are archived and sent messages accessible? How far back do they go? 

  • Banking – Do you have apps installed that provide direct access to your banking account information? Is it possible to transfer money through the app? 

  • Social Networking – Do you have apps installed that provide direct access to your social networking accounts, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn? 

  • Notes – Do you have any apps where you store notes or documents? Do any of those notes contain your Social Security number, medical information or financial account numbers?

The last in our short-film series, Smartphones: Protect Your Data explores the privacy implications of smartphones and offers practical tips to protect your privacy. In the 5-minute video, a college student named Josh misplaces his phone. Josh and his friend, Ashley, search for the phone, but can't find it. He becomes increasingly alarmed when he realizes what's at stake. Watch the video to see what happens.

Biederman Institute's First Annual Online Privacy Conference

Join legal experts, scholars, privacy advocates, and government representatives in a lively day-long conference on online privacy. The conference is presented by Southwestern Law School's Biederman Entertainment and Media Law Institute. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and the law firm of Johnson & Johnson LLP are co-sponsors

Friday, February 22, 2013
Southwestern Law School's Biederman Entertainment and Media Law Institute
3050 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, California 90005

Featuring

Lunch & Interview with Julie Brill
Commissioner, Federal Trade Commission

Cocktails, Dinner & Interview with Erin Egan
Chief Privacy Officer, Policy, Facebook

and panel discussions on
The Why and How of Privacy
Privacy and Reputation
Privacy and the Digital Marketplace
Privacy and the Workplace

See complete details.
See the conference agenda.
See the brochure (PDF).

Top 10 Tips to Protect Your Privacy

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) recommends the following 10 tips to protect your privacy.

1. Monitor your credit report – look for errors and fraud. You have the right to one free credit report per year from each of the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Order one report every four months so that you can monitor your credit reports on an ongoing basis. Learn more by reading PRC's Fact Sheet 6.

2. Reduce unwanted telemarketing phone calls. Register with the National Do Not Call Registry. If you receive a call from a company with which you do business, ask to be placed on its internal "Do Not Call List." Learn more by reading PRC's Fact Sheet 5.

3. Protect the personal information on your smartphone. Smartphone users are 33% more likely to become a victim of identity theft than non-users. Password-protect your smartphone and use the security lockout feature so that the phone automatically locks after a certain amount of time not in use. Learn more by reading PRC's Fact Sheet 2b.

So you have a privacy question or complaint—now what?

Submit your privacy questions and complaints to us through our Online Complaint Center (OCC). Privacy Rights Clearinghouse’s dedicated Consumer Advisor responds to everyone, and we work very hard to stay up-to-date on a wide range of privacy issues

Here are some common questions we receive about the OCC.

Big Data: The White House Is Thinking about It -- You Should Too.

The White House recently released a report on big data. While it was highly anticipated by people who closely follow data privacy issues, chances are that it wasn't on the radar of most individuals.  Even so, we believe it is an issue that everybody should start thinking about.  

Why is big data a significant privacy challenge?

As technology advances so does the ability to collect, combine, and analyze data.  This is relevant to individuals because, as the report states, "the volume of information that people create themselves…pales in comparison to the amount of digital information created about them each day."

Individuals often aren’t aware when information about them is collected and used. They may not know who has data associated with them, who that data may be shared with, and whether there are any choices or protections in place (in many instances there are not).

In addition, it is difficult to predict how this information may be used in a way that impacts someone’s life – for better or worse.

Passwords aren't enough! Why you should consider using two-factor authentication

Passwords are dead.  Or so we keep hearing.  On their own, passwords clearly aren't the best way to protect our important information and accounts.  However, for better or worse passwords are still very much alive until the next solution comes along and is widely adopted. 

We have been preaching good password hygiene for many years, and we still think it is important.   But unfortunately data breaches occur quite often and cybercriminals can be quite savvy.  If you want to learn more, the 2014 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report contains information on attacker methods and patterns over the past decade.

You can never assure perfect security, but fortunately you can take some steps to avoid being the low-hanging fruit.  One way to do this is to look for and enable two-factor authentication in your online accounts.  

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