YouTube Video on Debit Cards: Know the Risks

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse is pleased to announce the release of the fourth short film in a six-part series. The film, Credit Cards vs. Debit Cards: Know Your Rights, demonstrates the risks in using a debit card.

The 4-minute film is about a single mom named Sabine who learns that her debit card has been compromised; a fraudulent $312 purchase was made in a different state.  With only a few hundred dollars left in her account, Sabine has barely enough money left to pay bills while the bank investigates the fraudulent activity.

What could Sabine have done differently? Is there a happy ending in store for Sabine? Watch the video to find out. If you like it, we hope you will share it with friends and family.

PRC Launches California Medical Privacy Microsite

What are your rights to medical privacy? As it turns out, that is not a simple question to answer. Chances are, you've heard of HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It is a federal law that sets a national baseline standard for the privacy of individually identifiable health information.

But HIPAA only applies to health care providers that conduct certain transactions electronically, health plans, and health care clearinghouses. A great deal of personal medical information exists that is not maintained by HIPAA “covered entities.” An example would be personal medical information provided voluntarily when one participates in an online chat forum for individuals with a specific ailment.

Fortunately for individuals who live in California, state law provides additional medical privacy protections. The PRC has launched a microsite dedicated solely to medical privacy in California.

Are You Considering Using a Personal Mobile Device for Work? Read Our Tips on BYOD!

"Bring your own device," or BYOD, is a popular practice with both employers and employees.  Employees like the convenience.  They don't want to worry about carrying multiple phones or tablets. They like using devices they are comfortable with. And, they can work from anywhere.  Employers like having connected employees, and some believe that BYOD policies save the company money.

The tradeoff for employers is that they lose some control over company data and can face greater legal, business and security risks.  Unfortunately, this may mean employees compromise privacy and control over their own phones and data when they agree to participate in a BYOD program.

Tips for Employees

1.  Read and/or understand the employer's policy before you participate.  BYOD policies will vary depending on who you work for, what kind of data you have access to, what industry you are in, and what your role is.  They may involve formal contracts or informal agreements.   As is often the case, the most important thing to do is understand what you are signing up for!   A BYOD policy can create a win-win situation or a messy dispute.  

If the policy is written, read it thoroughly. If you don't understand it, ask your manager or human resources department to explain what it means. 

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse Releases Study: Mobile Health and Fitness Apps: What Are the Privacy Risks?

Many individuals use mobile apps to monitor their health, learn about specific medical conditions, and help them achieve personal fitness goals.  Apps in the “wellness” space include those that support diet and exercise programs; pregnancy trackers; behavioral and mental health coaches; symptom checkers that can link users to local health services; sleep and relaxation aids; and personal disease or chronic condition managers.   

After studying 43 popular health and fitness apps (both free and paid) from both a consumer and technical perspective, it is clear that there are considerable privacy risks for users – and that the privacy policies for those apps that have policies do not describe those risks. However, these apps appeal to a wide range of consumers because they can be beneficial, convenient, and are often free to use. 

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.


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