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Letters to Medicare Enrollees Pose Potential HIPAA Violation

Last week we learned that Humana — and possibly some other Medicare plans — inappropriately used enrollees’ personal data to send them letters saying they could lose their benefits and services due to the impending health care reform legislation in Congress. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) called on all plans serving Medicare beneficiaries to stop…

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FTC Finalizes Terms of Sears’ Deceptive Practices Settlement

The FTC recently announced approval of the terms of a settlement with Sears Holding Corp. (which owns Sears and K-Mart stores) over charges that the company failed to "adequately disclose" that it was collecting personal information using a spyware program secretly installed on consumers' computers. Between 2007 and 2008, 15 of every 100 visitors to sears.com or…

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Digital Signage and Consumer Privacy

The digital signage industry is rapidly becoming aware of the privacy issues raised by interactivity and audience measurement techniques. There is, however, no industry-wide consensus about how to address those concerns. Some industry figures agree that privacy guidelines need to be adopted if audience measurement and other digital signage applications are to progress. Others, though, have referred…

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Facebook Taking Steps to Increase User Data Privacy

Facebook took major steps today in protecting user privacy by announcing significant changes to the way third-party applications can access user data. Whereas developers previously had access to all profile data on a user, the new system will require applications to specify categories of information they wish to access and obtain express consent before data is shared….

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Privacy in the Age of Big Data

For some years now, when speaking about privacy, I have often told my audience: “Everyone in this room, whether they know it or not, is carrying a tracking device.” I was referring to their cellphones. Every few seconds, whenever it is turned on, a cellphone sends out a signal registering its location — and its…

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Both Hands in the Cookie Jar

The federal government has recently announced its intention to revise the current policy governing how federal agency web sites use cookies and other tracking technologies on the web. This is a really significant development for those interested in technology, open government, and privacy, because it has the potential to change the way that federal agencies interact with citizens…

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RFID Skimming Is Easier Than You Think

Federal agents attending this year’s DefCon hacker convention were in for a surprise when top RFID researchers revealed that they scanned five convention attendees’ and potentially one Federal agent’s RFID-enabled cards. Researchers set up an RFID reader with a web camera that skimmed RFID-enabled cards and took a picture of their owners as they passed within two…

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A Report from IETF 75

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the 75th meeting of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), one of the leading international technical standards bodies for the Internet. For many years, CDT has sought to engage in technical standards work as a means to foster communication between the technology and public policy communities, while also ensuring that the…

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CDT Releases Update to Browser Privacy Report

Less than a year ago, CDT released the Browser Privacy Features report that compared the privacy tools in Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Safari. The browser vendors have been busy since then, with this year seeing the release of Firefox 3.5, Safari 4, and Internet Explorer 8 (now out of beta). With the release of these…

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Some PASS ID Amendments Are Cause for Concern

Last Wednesday, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee agreed on several amendments to the PASS ID bill and sent the legislation on to the Senate. Let’s take a look at some of the changes: – Exceptions to the anti-skimming provision: A key privacy protection we support in PASS ID restricts the collection and use of information…

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