Alert: Parents--Five Questions to Ask Before Your Child Downloads a Mobile App

Summer is here and school is out. Kids and teens have a lot of free time which means they will be on their (or your) mobile devices even more than normal.  Smartphones, tablets and other devices provide kids with countless beneficial apps and tools they can use to stay connected, entertain themselves, and learn. At the same time, these can also present privacy risks.

You probably can't, and don't want to, monitor everything your child does on a mobile device.  However, there are a few basic questions you should consider to help safeguard both their experience and their (and your) data.


FTC Issues Warning Letter to Tenant Screening Companies: PRC's Assistance Acknowledged

In researching our latest Fact Sheet 38: A Renter’s Guide to Privacy, we compiled a list of data brokers that provide tenant screening services to landlords.  We shared this information with the Federal Trade Commission and indicated our concerns. In general, we receive more complaints about the data broker industry than any other privacy topic.

The FTC subsequently notified six such companies and warned them of their obligation to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  For more information, see the Federal Trade Commission's April 3, 2013 press release. Read the letter warning six tenant screening companies of their obligation to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, here.

If you have encountered problems with similar companies in your efforts to rent a property, we encourage you to file a complaint with the FTC.  You may also contact the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse with your questions and complaints.

A Renter's Guide to Privacy: Top 5 Privacy Tips for Renters

Most people will live in a rental property at some point in their lives. It doesn't matter if you rent a studio apartment or a mansion; you are likely to have privacy concerns both during the rental process and later as a tenant. Renters often contact the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) with questions about their privacy rights. Now, renters can consult the PRC's new Fact Sheet 38: A Renter's Guide to Privacy: What to Know Before You Sign the Lease, While You Rent, and When You Move Out.

The new consumer guide covers important privacy rights at every stage of the rental process. The PRC's top 5 tips for renters are:

1. Order your credit report before you apply for a rental. A prospective landlord will almost certainly order your credit report when considering your rental application. Before you apply, order your own report to confirm that the information is accurate and up-to-date.

2. Avoid rental scams by recognizing warning signs. Online resources such as are a popular way to search for available rentals. Unfortunately, scammers also use these sites to place fake listings in an attempt to steal your money or identity. Learn to recognize common warning signs including being asked to pay or provide personal information before you see the property.

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.

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


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).

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.

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. 

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.

Data Breaches: Our Latest YouTube Video and Tips for Consumers

Since Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) began tracking data breaches in 2005, our records show that more than 563 million records have been reported leaked. This number is significantly lower than the actual figure, however. In many cases, the number of exposed records is either not known or is not reported to the news media or to state and federal reporting authorities.

In most states, businesses are required by law to notify individuals when a data breach compromises personal information that is likely to lead to financial identity theft.  Even when it is not required by law, many companies will notify customers as a courtesy. This means there is a very good chance you will receive a breach notification at some point.

In our latest short film, Data Breaches: Know Your Rights, we explore how a typical consumer may respond to such a notification. The film is the fifth in a six-part YouTube series on important privacy topics.

Looking for Love Online? Be Aware of the Risks.

Online dating is a growing industry in the United States, increasing in popularity and profits every year. An estimated 40 million Americans have tried online dating and dating sites will collectively gross $2 billion in 2012. The proliferation of dating sites has become a cultural phenomenon as millions of users flock to find romantic partners online.

If you're looking for love online, see our six tips to help protect your privacy and read our new consumer guide, where we discuss the risks of online dating sites and how you can protect yourself.


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