August 29th, 2014
InformationWeek reports on issues concerning children’s medical and genetic privacy:
For decades, hospitals have conducted blood tests on newborns, checking babies for various conditions, treatable and not. Today’s less costly tests, genomic research, and technological advances, coupled with differing policies across states, worry some privacy and ethics advocates.
Whereas some states allow parents to opt-in for testing, others have an opt-out approach. Critics argue parents have little to no say in whether this data is collected, where and how long it’s stored, and what organizations do with this information. Lower genome testing costs sparked debate about researchers’ right to use this information; who should learn of infants’ chronic conditions and when; and the type of data government, researchers, payers, or healthcare providers can cull. Other concerns surround the storage and transmission of data that’s not de-identified and its potential theft. [...]
In May, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed a law allowing the state to indefinitely store blood spots for future research. Parents can opt out. In New York, parents can decline testing for religious reasons, said the Wadsworth Center, NY Department of Health, which screens the state’s newborns for more than 40 inherited metabolic conditions.
August 28th, 2014
The News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington, reports on the Tacoma police’s use of “Stingray” technology, which simulates a cellphone tower so that nearby mobile devices will connect to it and reveal its location and other information:
The Tacoma Police Department apparently has bought — and quietly used for six years — controversial surveillance equipment that can sweep up records of every cellphone call, text message and data transfer up to a half a mile away.
You don’t have to be a criminal to be caught in this law enforcement snare. You just have to be near one and use a cellphone. [...]
News that the city was using the surveillance equipment surprised City Council members, who approved an update for a device last year, and prosecutors, defense attorneys and even judges, who in court deal with evidence gathered using the surveillance equipment.
“If they use it wisely and within limits, that’s one thing,” said Ronald Culpepper, the presiding judge of Pierce County Superior Court, when informed of the device Tuesday. “I would certainly personally have some concerns about just sweeping up information from non-involved and innocent parties — and to do it with a whole neighborhood? That’s concerning.” [...] Read more »
August 27th, 2014
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on privacy complications that can arise for employees when they use employer-issued technology:
ATLANTA — In an era of company-issued GPS-enabled smartphones and tablets, employers now have the technology to track workers’ every move from sunrise to bedtime.
Companies say tracking employees can be good for business. For example, it can help improve safety — ensuring that truckers drive safely and get the rest required by law. Tracking can also make companies more productive and competitive by monitoring performance and productivity. [...]
But the capabilities also mean employers can also easily keep tabs on anyone from sales staff to office workers whether at work or at home. Read more »
August 26th, 2014
At Yahoo Tech, columnist Dan Tynan discusses children’s privacy and how their data is used by schools:
Every student in every school district generates hundreds of data points each year — from their race and gender to their economic status, behavioral issues, biometric data, health status, and more. This tsunami of data is then absorbed and stored by school districts, state databases, educational service providers, websites, and app makers.
Of course, schools have been collecting data on students since there have been schools. In the past, though, this information was squirreled away in filing cabinets or just on computers used in district offices. Now it lives in the cloud, and it’s being accessed by non-educators who want to apply the principles of big data analysis to it.
What could go wrong? Plenty. Potentially damaging information about your child’s medical conditions or behavioral issues could accidentally leak or be exposed by hackers. Private companies could decide to use the information for commercial purposes. Potential employers, insurance companies, or other government agencies may someday lobby to get their hands on this data. [...] Read more »
August 25th, 2014
At Forbes, Evan Selinger (an associate professor of philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology) has an opinion column about why privacy is important to philosophy and why he makes it part of his curriculum:
Not too long ago, a privacy course in the humanities would be of limited interest. Many students were predisposed to believe that privacy issues mostly concerned bad things that happened to indiscreet blabbermouths or anxiety experienced by folks with skeletons in the closet—you know, people with something to hide.
But since privacy became a headline-grabbing issue, things have changed. Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA activity, fast-moving developments in surveillance and online information and communication technology, potent advances in data storage and analysis, and the emergence of powerful data brokers have all played a part in making privacy a matter of great daily concern for everyone. Read more »
August 24th, 2014
The Washington Post reports on technology that allows the global surveillance and secret tracking of cellphone users:
Makers of surveillance systems are offering governments across the world the ability to track the movements of almost anybody who carries a cellphone, whether they are blocks away or on another continent.
The technology works by exploiting an essential fact of all cellular networks: They must keep detailed, up-to-the-minute records on the locations of their customers to deliver calls and other services to them. Surveillance systems are secretly collecting these records to map people’s travels over days, weeks or longer, according to company marketing documents and experts in surveillance technology.
The world’s most powerful intelligence services, such as the National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ, long have used cellphone data to track targets around the globe. But experts say these new systems allow less technically advanced governments to track people in any nation — including the United States — with relative ease and precision. [...] Read more »