Understanding Health and Medical Privacy

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has recently updated and expanded our consumer guides on health privacy.  We are excited to release our updated HIPAA Health Privacy Fact Sheets.   Visit our Medical Privacy page to find additional resources on health-related privacy issues.  As always, please feel free to contact us with your privacy questions and complaints

The Power of Complaints: An Opportunity to Strengthen the Consumer’s Voice

Virtually every American adult uses at least one, and usually several, financial products. These include credit cards, pre-paid cards, bank accounts, credit reporting, mortgages, loans, and money transfers.

When problems occur, the consequences can be severe: for example, the inability to obtain credit; difficulty getting a mortgage; and being hounded by debt collectors for someone else’s debt.

In 2011, a new federal agency was launched, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), with an important mission – regulating financial products and services. The CFPB invites complaints via its website, which has been carefully designed for ease of use. It also engages in consumer financial education.

In the past three years, it has received more than 400,000 complaints. Complaints about specific financial products and services are forwarded to the appropriate companies for their response and, when warranted, resolution.

The CFPB has brought its complaint process into the sunlight by posting on its website the nature of those complaints and their status in the resolution process.  Anyone with Internet access can visit www.consumerfinance.gov to both submit their own complaints and view the bare bones details of many thousands more. 

Facebook Does It Again

Shortly after its founding, Facebook had developed a rather simple privacy policy: “No personal information that you submit to Thefacebook will be available to any user of the Web Site who does not belong to at least one of the groups specified by you in your privacy settings.”

Over the years, Facebook has frequently changed its Privacy Policy and tinkered with default privacy settings, almost always to the detriment of its users.  Mashable has chronicled some of these changes in its infographic A Short History of Facebook Privacy Failure.

Recently, a team of researchers released a study detailing how emotions expressed in Facebook posts and status updates can actually spread to your friends.

Using Internet Cameras: Take These Steps to Protect Your Privacy and Security

Internet cameras let you monitor your home or business from afar, enabling you to check in on your kids, pets, property, and business. They’ve become increasingly popular among people who need to be in two or more places at once.

Being able to access a camera’s feed remotely means that the camera will be sending its video information via the Internet.  Without the proper security measures, these Internet (or IP) cameras may be giving strangers a front row seat to your personal life. There are a variety of cameras available on the market that offer specialized “administrator” controls as well as different levels of access. It’s important to find an IP camera that provides flexibility and convenience without sacrificing privacy or security.

5 Back to School Privacy Tips for Parents of K-12 Students

Lately there has been a nationwide push for stronger student privacy rights – and for good reason.  Schools, districts, educational technology providers, and various other vendors collect a lot of student data. 

Even if your state lawmakers haven’t taken a step to better protect student data, there are federal laws that give students and their parents some rights and control over their personal information.   Here are five tips to help you understand and make informed decisions regarding your child’s privacy.

1.  Read your annual notification of FERPA rights.  If your child attends a public elementary or secondary school, the school must notify you each year of your rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA).  For example, you have the right to access your child’s education records and request that any inaccurate or misleading information be amended.    

Five Things I Learned from Reading the Privacy Policy

This is the first in a series of alerts by PRC Outreach Coordinator, Morgan that will take a deeper look into privacy policies, revealing important information for consumers about the use and protection of their personal information.

While browsing the Apple App Store or Android Play Store, you can find tens of thousands of applications (known as “apps”) under the “Medical” category. These apps require users to register in order to create a personalized medical profile that can manage their prescriptions or help track vitals like blood pressure and glucose levels. With pharmacy coupons at your fingertips and pill reminders in your pocket, these apps are marketed to mobile users as convenient, helpful, and even reliable or secure. Sounds like a dream come true for the plugged-in, health-conscious consumer! This in mind, I decided to take a closer look at some of the highest-rated medical apps’ privacy policies to find out what wasn’t being talked about in the app stores…

How to Minimize Your Risk of Smartphone Hacking

Your smartphone may be vulnerable to would-be hackers, and you may not ever know it. Hackers will attempt to gain access to your email, your password, your contacts, even your photos. And if you use your smartphone for work, hackers could also try to gain company intelligence from your mobile phone.

According to a CNBC article there are at least three ways in which your smartphone is likely to be breached.  Our Consumer Guide provides more information regarding security and your smartphone.

Deep Insert ATM Skimmers May Pose a Risk to Your Money

Most of us have heard about ATM skimmers.  They are card readers attached to an ATM that can steal the data off your debit or ATM card's magnetic stripe.  The data can then be used to create a clone your card.  Typically, skimmers can be easy to detect if you know what to look for.  However, a new breed of ATM skimmers known as deep insert skimmers can be much more difficult to spot.  These are wafer-thin devices hidden inside the card acceptance slot of the ATM.  They are virtually impossible to detect when on an ATM.

Using an ATM (or for that matter, a credit card reader in a retail store) always poses some degree of risk.  However, there are steps you can take to better protect yourself.

Prepaid Cards and Your Privacy

Prepaid cards, also known as “general purpose reloadable cards”, have become increasingly popular in the past few years, among both consumers with and without a bank account. According to a recent report by The Pew Charitable Trusts, approximately 1 in 11 consumers use a prepaid card at least once per month, and 27% of these users do not have a checking account.

Since prepaid cards look and function much like bank cards, many Americans may see them as a simple alternative with less obligation. However, prepaid cards can also come with a hefty list of ‘terms and conditions’ governing fees, penalties, and responsibilities the consumer may not even be aware of at the time of purchase.

 

Passwords and Your Privacy

Passwords are the first line of defense against the compromise of your digital information.  Revealing the data on your phone, your banking information, your email, your medical records, or other personal information could be devastating.  Yet many people fail to follow proper practices when selecting the passwords to protect this important information.  Here are some password “dos” and “don’ts” that can help you to maintain the security of your personal data.

Do use longer passwords.  Passwords become harder to crack with each character that you add, so longer passwords are better than shorter ones. A brute-force attack can easily defeat a short password.

Do use special characters, such as $, #, and &.  Most passwords are case sensitive, so use a mixture of upper case and lower case letters, as well as numbers.  An online password checker can help you determine the strength of your password.

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