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.

Data Breaches: Why You Should Care and What You Should Do

Have you been hearing the term “data breach” in the news a lot recently? That’s because there has been a string of sensational breaches from corporate giants like Sony, Epsilon, Citigroup, and Lockheed Martin. A data breach is when a company inadvertently leaks your personal information as a result of a hack attack, lost or stolen computers, fraud, insider theft, and more. Privacy Rights Clearinghouse explains how to follow the breaches, why consumers should be concerned and what to do if a data breach happens to you.

RFID Position Statement of Consumer Privacy and Civil Liberties Organizations

RFID tags are tiny computer chips connected to miniature antennae that can be affixed to physical objects. In the most commonly touted applications of RFID, the microchip contains an Electronic Product Code (EPC) with sufficient capacity to provide unique identifiers for all items produced worldwide. When an RFID reader emits a radio signal, tags in the vicinity respond by transmitting their stored data to the reader. While there are beneficial uses of RFID, some attributes of the technology could be deployed in ways that threaten privacy and civil liberties.

Junk Faxes: They Are Now OK with a "Business" Relationship

Until recently, the law on fax advertising was simple and straightforward: No one could send a fax advertisement without your prior consent. Of course, this did not stop the deluge of unwanted faxes touting hot stocks, mortgage offers, and vacation deals. Now, adding to the frustration, Congress has created an exception for fax advertisements sent when you have an “established business relationship,” or EBR, with the sender.

Documents Reveal Serious Job Seeker Resume Privacy Violations

Submitting a resume on the Internet could result in a privacy nightmare for would-be job seekers. Online resume databases could be using and selling personal information in ways never imagined by applicants, according to Pam Dixon and the San Diego-based Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC).

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.


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