Internet Privacy: A Contradiction in Terms?

The  director of Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Beth Givens, went head to head in last Sunday's San Diego Union-Tribune with Michael Robertson, a San Diego-based high-tech entrepreneur who founded MP3.com and Gizmo5 among other ventures. The topic was online privacy. Givens and Robertson each contributed op-ed pieces to the Dialog section of the Union-Tribune.

Oct. 11 Privacy Event: The Digital Collection of Personal Information from Consumers and Citizens

In Washington D.C. on Tuesday, October 11, privacy and civil liberties experts will convene to discuss how the digital collection of personal information harms consumers and citizens. Every day, companies amass information about consumers via online tracking, digital devices, and public records. These practices are largely unregulated, but have serious consequences for consumers and society.

The panel will be from 8:45 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. Eastern. Watch LIVE online at http://www.visualwebcaster.com/ProtectingConsumerPrivacyOnline.

The event is sponsored by the ACLU, Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Consumer Watchdog, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, US PIRG and World Privacy Forum.

Take Control of Your Medical Information: Personal Health Records and Your Privacy

If you established care with a medical office tomorrow, would you be able to give your new doctor a complete copy of your medical records, lab tests and a list of your prescription drugs? If you're like most Americans, your health information is split among your various health care providers. For example, you may have records at a hospital, a physician's office, your dentist, a pharmacy, and an optician's dispensary. 

Since each health care provider maintains its own file on you, it can be challenging to get control of your medical records. However, HIPAA's right to access coupled with the emerging market for the Personal Health Record (PHR) is changing that.

Lessons from Sandy: Preparing for the Worst

Hurricane Sandy hit the northeastern United States in late October leaving thousands of Americans without homes and millions without power. How many of those affected had disaster plans in place? How effective were those plans once executed?

With every natural disaster, we are reminded how important it is to have a plan in place. Good plans require a number of worthy considerations, including having a disaster kit and an evacuation plan. As privacy advocates, we have a narrower focus when it comes to disaster preparedness: control of your personal information.

In August 2010, we published a list of disaster preparedness tips. As America recovers from the devastation caused by superstorm Sandy, we thought now would be a good time to review and update those tips. 

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.

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.  

Mobile Device Security: Basic Tips to Protect Your Data from Thieves and Cybercriminals

With the ever increasing presence of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices in our lives, it is important to be aware of some common privacy and security threats.  These are vast and varied, so the level of privacy and security you seek will likely depend on the information at stake.

Start by thinking about the information on your device.  How valuable is this information to you? Would you be upset if someone accessed it without asking you? What would happen if it were lost or stolen? Below we’ve noted a few things you may want to think about, and some tips to help you get started!

Aside from physical theft, threats such as malware and spyware have become increasingly sophisticated.  The good news is there are some EASY things you can do to reduce your chances of falling victim.

Don't Become a Target: Make Smart Choices to Protect Your Privacy

With all of the media surrounding the Target, Neiman Marcus, and, now, Michaels data breaches (and potentially other retail outlets), it can be overwhelming to determine what you should do to protect yourself.  Even though you can't prevent a breach, there are steps you can and should take to prevent future headache and harm.   

This is an important alert to read even if you weren't a victim of the recent breaches. As privacy and security professionals say on a regular basis, data breaches aren't a question of "if", they are a question of "when." It is best to be prepared and proactive.

Read more to find out our top 5 tips.

Make Protecting Your Privacy Your 2014 New Year's Resolution!

Privacy has been a hot topic in 2013, and the New Year presents a perfect opportunity to examine how we protect our personal information and resolve to do better.  Privacy Rights Clearinghouse poses ten questions to help you manage your privacy in the coming year.

  • Are your computers and mobile devices properly secured?
  • Do you know your apps?
  • Are you following good password practices?
  • Do you practice safe social networking?
  • Have you checked your credit reports recently?

 

 

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