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Chapter by Melissa Ngo

"The Myth of Security Under Camera Surveillance"


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    Archive for the ‘Medical data’ Category

    Vox: 23andMe reverses its decision to move to more lax privacy settings

    Thursday, September 18th, 2014

    Vox reports on a decision concerning the privacy of medical data by by genetics testing company 23andMe:

    The personal genetics testing company 23andMe is reversing plans to make a major change to its privacy settings, after a Vox story raised concerns about the move.

    On September 9, we published a feature about some of the pitfalls of personal DNA testing, with a focus on 23andMe, a leading company in the field. We talked to some people who used 23andMe and ended up unexpectedly finding close family members they didn’t know they had. In one case, a professor’s parents divorced after the site revealed that his father had a child before he was married. We reported that 23andMe was planning to alter its user settings in a way that could make these unexpected reunions happen more frequently. [...]

    But, because of concerns raised by the Vox story, the company reversed its decision to make those changes. It is also going to hire a Chief Privacy Officer.

    Read the Vox story for the full statement from the 23andMe chief executive.

    New York Times: With Apple Pay and Smartwatch, a Privacy Challenge

    Thursday, September 11th, 2014

    On Tuesday, computing company Apple announced several new products and services, including a smart watch (dubbed Apple Watch) and an electronic payment system (called Apple Pay). Because of the sensitive data involved (there’s financial data with Apple Pay and the smart watch has much of the personal data that a cellphone would have, and it can also use Apple’s HealthKit to gather medical information while a person exercises, such as heart rate), there are privacy questions to consider. The New York Times reports:

    For years, Apple has offered Internet services like email and online calendars. But Tuesday, with the introduction of health-monitoring technology and a new service that will allow people to buy things wirelessly with some Apple devices, the Cupertino, Calif., company positioned itself as a caretaker of valuable personal information, like credit card numbers and heart rates.

    Talk about unfortunate timing. Just last week, a number of celebrities, including the Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence, discovered that hackers broke into their Apple accounts, stole nude or provocative photos, and posted those photos on the Internet. [...]

    Against that background, Apple faces two threats to its new services: one from hackers always looking for clever ways to steal financial information, and another from regulators increasingly interested in ensuring that information gleaned from health monitoring devices stays private.  Read more »

    InformationWeek: When Big Data & Infants’ Privacy Collide

    Friday, 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.

    Washington Post: Health care data breaches have hit 30M patients and counting

    Thursday, August 21st, 2014

    The Washington Post reports on security breaches of medical information, which can create privacy problems for patients:

    The recent theft of 4.5 million medical records by Chinese hackers highlights one undeniable truth about health care data: it’s valuable, and bad people want it. In this latest incident, hackers reportedly stole personal data from Community Health Systems patients, including their Social Security numbers, which is an especially coveted piece of information if you want to steal someone’s identity. But it appears that patients’ medical data and credit card numbers were not stolen in this case.

    Thanks to some tougher federal reporting requirements for health-care data breaches in recent years, we have a better sense of when patient information goes missing or might have been inappropriately accessed by someone. [...]

    The numbers aren’t pretty. Since federal reporting requirements kicked in, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ database of major breach reports (those affecting 500 people or more) has tracked 944 incidents affecting personal information from about 30.1 million people. A majority of those records are tied to theft (17.4 million people), followed by data loss (7.2 million people), hacking (3.6 million) and unauthorized access accounts (1.9 million people), according to a Washington Post analysis of HHS data. These numbers don’t include the Community Health Systems data breach.

    Los Angeles Times: Health products like wristband monitors prompt privacy worries

    Thursday, August 14th, 2014

    The Los Angeles Times reports on privacy questions surrounding fitness technology such as health-monitoring wristbands:

    Digital devices and smartphone apps that track what we eat, how much we exercise, our weight, blood glucose and blood pressure, among other things, are widespread. [...]

    There’s no shortage of mobile health apps, either. According to Forrester Research, by the end of 2013, 40,000 health and wellness apps were available for download. And more are coming.

    As consumers increasingly use mobile apps and devices to capture and store health-related information, they can release personal data that may not be as confidential as they thought.

    “Most apps are created by independent app developers, and you, for the most part, don’t know what’s happening to the information” you input, says Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy with San Diego-based Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. Read more »

    Forbes: Did Facebook Break The Law? Senator Asks FTC For Answers

    Monday, July 14th, 2014

    Forbes reports that Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Facebook’s controversial decision to manipulate its users’ news feeds for research purposes:

    Senator Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) has asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to provide more information about recent reports that Facebook manipulated user news feeds during an emotional manipulation experiment.  In a letter today to the FTC, Warner asked the agency to determine if Facebook broke the law or violated their consent agreement with the FTC.

    Warner also asked the agency to explore the potential ramifications of the experiment, and to consider questions about what, if any, oversight would be appropriate for behavioral studies conducted by social media platforms.  Warner’s inquiry comes on the heels of a legal complaint against Facebook that was filed with the FTC last week.  That complaint alleged that Facebook engaged in deceptive trade practices and violated a 2012 Consent Order entered into with the FTC. [...]

    The full text of Warner’s letter is available here.