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.

Privacy Policies: What You Should Know

If you are like most people, you don’t really want to read privacy policies.  They aren’t typically easy to understand.   Nor are they often descriptive enough for you to actually grasp what a company is doing with your information. Even so, we believe they can be valuable tools to help you protect your personal information.  You might discover privacy settings and choices you were unaware of.   You will also find that some companies take your privacy more seriously than others, which may help you choose who to do business with.

If you want to learn more about how to read a full privacy policy and what information they should contain, see the California Attorney General’s helpful guide

Federal Data Breach Legislation – A Step Backward for Consumers

Data breaches make the news almost daily, and it is highly likely you have been the victim of one or more.  In 2015, both the White House and Congress have responded to the attention surrounding data breaches.  The most recent effort is a draft bill in the House of Representatives by Rep. Blackburn (R-TN) and Rep. Welch (D-VT) called the “Data Security and Breach Notification Act of 2015.”  While all this attention sounds promising, the bill as written would reduce the protections most consumers already receive.

Identity Theft Tops FTC’s Consumer Complaint Categories

For the 15th consecutive year, identity theft has topped the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) national ranking of consumer complaints.  Identity theft represented 13% of all complaints in 2014 according to the FTC's 2014 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book.  Identity theft has held the FTC’s No. 1 spot for 15 years.  The FTC’s Consumer Sentinel database provides law enforcement officials across the country with access to consumer complaints in their jurisdictions.

According to Javelin Strategy & Research’s March 2015 Identity Fraud Study, fraudsters stole $16 billion from 12.7 million U.S. consumers last year.  The study found that two-thirds of identity fraud victims in 2014 had previously received a data breach notification in the same year.

PRC Celebrates National Consumer Protection Week

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse is celebrating National Consumer Protection Week March 1-7, 2015. Visit ncpw.gov to find out more and get involved! Make sure to check out our daily tips March 1st through the 7th on our front page. We will provide you some simple tips to keep your “privacy health" in check! 

Saturday Tip:

Tax ID Fraud is on the rise, make sure to file early and do not re-use passwords, make them unique if you file online! https://www.privacyrights.org/frequently-asked-questions-about-identity-theft

 


Friday Tip:

Use multifactor authentication for your online accounts when you can. Learn more: https://www.privacyrights.org/content/passwords-arent-enough-why-you-should-consider-using-two-factor-authentication #security #NCPW2015

Thursday Tip:

When signing up for a social network, don’t share your complete date of birth, age, or place of birth. This information could be useful to identity thieves and to data mining companies.  https://www.privacyrights.org/social-networking-privacy-how-be-safe-secure-and-social#tips

Wednesday Tip:

Understand the value of identity theft monitoring services and free or at low cost alternatives.  Read our guide at https://www.privacyrights.org/identity-theft-monitoring-services

Tuesday Tip:

Are you making sure to protect your privacy before you dispose of or donate your old smartphone? Here are some tips on what to do before it is too late http://www.cnet.com/news/what-to-do-before-selling-or-donating-your-phone/.  Check out our checklist of responsible information-handling practices https://www.privacyrights.org/checklist-responsible-information-handling-practices

Monday Tip:

Why you should protect your smartphone/tablet just like you would your computer http://www.cnet.com/videos/keep-your-android-device-safe-from-malware/. Understand privacy in the age of the smartphone/tablet https://www.privacyrights.org/smartphone-cell%20phone-privacy

Sunday Tip

Don’t pay with a debit card. Learn why at https://www.privacyrights.org/merchant-retail-payment-methods-credit-card-vs-debit-card#2.

Get Your Digital House In Order!

Now is a good time to take a moment to make sure you are doing what you can to help minimize data privacy and security risks with regard to your digital accounts.  

1.  Take inventory of your online accounts.  Make a list all of the online accounts you have, and determine which ones you no longer use or need.  This may include old email accounts, social media accounts, financial and banking accounts, shopping accounts that retain your credit card information, accounts containing personal health information, and others.  

2.  Examine your password practices. Do you use the same passwords for multiple accounts containing sensitive information?  Do you use common words or phrases as passwords? If the answer to either of those is yes, create a new strategy and change your passwords.  This could involve using a password manager, enabling multi-factor authentication (which we highly recommend), or (at minimum) changing and strengthening your passwords.

Many Unhappy Returns

It’s inevitable.  As the holidays draw to a close, many of us will have received a well-intended gift that we may not like.  Whether it’s a matter of the wrong size or color, a defective product, a duplicate gift, or just something that we just “don’t want”, it may become necessary to return the gift to a retailer.  Retailers have different policies (and states have different laws) concerning the ability to return unwanted merchandise.  But, one thing that troubles many privacy conscious consumers is when retailers require a driver’s license (or other government-issued ID) for returning or exchanging merchandise.  

Why do some retailers swipe your driver’s license?

Retailers say they do this to keep better track of possible return fraud. Typically, they will swipe your license in a reader that will query a database to look at your return history for patterns of fraud or abuse.  By scanning your license, the retailer can collect any information that is encoded on the license's magnetic stripe or bar code. In most states, this information includes the data printed on the face of your license, such as name, address, date of birth, and license number. 

Cool New Tech Devices: What Privacy Risks Are Wrapped Up Under Your Tree?

Are you asking for a “smart” appliance or thermostat, fitness tracking device, connected security camera system for your home, or even smart clothing this holiday season?  As the holiday season approaches, all the new cool technology gadgets that are “must haves” may have privacy risks you didn’t consider. 

The technology world has coined the connection of devices “The Internet of Things” or “IoT”   Most likely, when you think of "the Internet", you visualize going online by using a computer, tablet, or smartphone.  However, with technological advances, numerous other everyday devices can also access the Internet and transmit various types of data.  In fact, almost any item (even an article of clothing with a special tag) can be connected to the Internet. 

Data Brokers: Buying and Selling Your Personal Information

Perhaps you just purchased a new home.  Maybe you’re getting married or expecting a baby.  You bought a new car.  You subscribed to a magazine.  Or maybe you just ordered a pizza.  What do all of these activities have in common?  There’s a good chance that your personal information may have fallen into the hands of a data broker. 

While data brokers often remain invisible to consumers, they have the potential to significantly impact our lives.  It can be challenging, if not impossible, for consumers to escape the collection of personal data by data brokers. 

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse’s new guide Data Brokers and Your Privacy discusses the data broker industry and the “digital dossiers” that they assemble about individuals.  These dossiers often include a surprisingly broad range of information.

Victim of a Data Breach? What Should You Do?

If you have been a victim of a data breach, you need to understand that there are differences between the types of breaches and the potential for both financial fraud and/or identity theft.

 

1. Understand what kind of breach occurred. You can read PRC’s Fact Sheet 17b: How to Deal with a Security Breach or take a look at our Chronology of Data Breaches for examples of the types of breaches. Depending on the breach specifics and the state in which you live, you may receive a breach notification letter that describes what happened. You might also find out about a breach through media reports.

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