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    Children Are Vulnerable to Identity Theft as Soon as They Get ID Numbers

    February 20th, 2018

    In 2013, a man stole the name and Social Security Number of a child who died soon after his birth in 1974. “His new, clean record helped [Shawn] Gover got a job in 2016 as head of finances for a golf club in Powhatan, Va. Then he stole $33,557. The fake identity also helped him buy a Sig Sauer semiautomatic pistol despite his felony conviction,” the Washington Post reports. Recently, Gover, 47, was caught and recently sentenced to four years in prison on firearms and identity theft charges. Unfortunately, the theft of a child’s identity, and its use to facilitate fraud or other crimes, is not uncommon. And it can be easy to find and buy the SSNs. Researchers at Terbium Labs recently discovered a cache of children’s SSNs for sale online.

    From the moment an infant receives her Social Security Number in the weeks after her birth, she is vulnerable to identity theft. Such thefts can be undetected for years, until a young adult attempts to apply for student or car loans or a credit card and learns someone has been using his name and SSN for years. (Identity theft is common for all ages, according to federal statistics. The latest figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics found, “An estimated 17.6 million persons, or about 7 percent of U.S. residents age 16 or older, were victims of at least one incident of identity theft in 2014.”)

    In a 2011 child identity theft report, Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab found: “4,311 or 10.2% of the children in the report had someone else using their Social Security number – 51 times higher than the 0.2% rate for adults in the same population.” And: “The youngest victim was five months old; 303 victims were under the age of five.” The report “is based on identity protection scans on 42,232 children (age 18 and under) in the U.S during 2009-2010. This pool of 42,232 child identities includes everyone under 18 in a database of over 800,000 identity records.” And credit-reporting agency Experian has said it “handles 25,000-30,000 fraud cases each year and approximately 17% were targeted at children. According to Michael Bruemmer, Vice President of Consumer Protection for Experian, child identity fraud or theft will affect 25% of kids before turning 18.” Read more »

    Happy International Privacy Day 2018

    January 22nd, 2018

    International Data Privacy Day is Sunday. There are a variety of events occurring this week to celebrate. Visit the official site to find events near your area. Take the time to think about how privacy is important in your life and how you can protect your rights from being infringed upon. Please also donate to any number of organizations out there trying to protect your privacy rights.

    In China, a Steady March Toward Complete Surveillance of Its Citizenry

    December 22nd, 2017

    Decades ago, China began a system of online surveillance and censorship that was nicknamed “the Great Firewall of China.” Now, that firewall is getting stronger, and there is also an increase in broader surveillance of the public, and the surveillance is becoming more focused, so a particular individual could be targeted.

    China has long had a vast camera surveillance, or CCTV, system throughout the country and it includes face-recognition technology. In June, the Wall Street Journal reported that Industry researcher IHS Markit estimated “China has 176 million surveillance cameras in public and private hands, and it forecasts the nation will install about 450 million new ones by 2020. The U.S., by comparison, has about 50 million.” And the Chinese government is using pairing the CCTV surveillance systems with biometric technology “on streets, in subway stations, at airports and at border crossings in a vast experiment in social engineering. Their goal: to influence behavior and identify lawbreakers.”

    The system is powerful. BBC News recently reported that, in a test, it took China’s surveillance system seven minutes to locate and apprehend one of its reporters. Notably, China’s CCTV system isn’t the only one to integrate face-recognition technology in order to better target individuals.  Read more »

    On Giving Tuesday, please remember consumer and privacy groups

    November 28th, 2017

    Today is Giving Tuesday, and here are a few consumer, privacy, and civil liberty groups that could use donations to continue to fight for your rights: ACLU national (or give to your local chapter), Center for Digital Democracy, Consumers Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Privacy International, and the World Privacy Forum.

    What If the Rules About Newborn Blood Screenings Changed?

    October 26th, 2017

    There has been an ongoing privacy and ethics debate over the unauthorized or undisclosed use of newborns’ blood samples for purposes other than the standard disease-screening, which includes about 30 conditions. Now, there’s a trial study, called BabySeq, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital that “uses genomic sequencing to screen for about 1,800 conditions, including some cancers,” CBS Miami reports.

    The privacy questions are clear: What happens to the DNA data — who keeps it, in what form, for how long — and who has access to it? The participants in the study have chosen to participate with, presumably, complete knowledge of the answers to these questions. But consider if the screening of 1,800 conditions, rather than the current 30, became the legal standard. This is a significant amount of highly personal information and there are substantial privacy issues.

    BabySeq co-director, Dr. Robert Green, has raised some of these issues. “We can’t predict what kind of discrimination is going to be occurring by the time your child grows up,” Green said. “We can’t predict whether there’s some sort of privacy breaches, this information gets out and is used against your child in some sort of future scenario. And we, most importantly, we can’t predict the information’s accurate.” Read more »

    Digital Advertisers Continue to Battle Private-Browsing Technology

    September 18th, 2017

    We have discussed the privacy issues connected with targeted behavioral advertising before. This type of advertising is where a user’s online activity is tracked so that ads can be served based on the user’s behavior. What began as online data gathering has expanded — now there’s the online and offline data collection and tracking of the habits of consumers. For example, Google announced earlier this year that it “has begun using billions of credit-card transaction records” to try to connect individuals’ “digital trails to real-world purchase records in a far more extensive way than was possible before,” the Washington Post reported.

    Some people are uncomfortable with the tracking and the targeting by companies and attempt to opt-out. (Opt-out puts the burden on consumers to learn about what the privacy policies are, whether they protect consumer data, whom the data is shared with and for what purpose, and how to opt-out of this data collection, use and sharing. Consumer advocates support opt-in policies, where companies have an incentive to create strong privacy protections and use limitations so consumers will choose to share their data.) In response, people have installed ad-blocker technology to avoid seeing ads. However, there is online-tracking technology that can be difficult to block, such as “canvas fingerprinting.”

    People also have joined the Do Not Track movement — this can take the form of opting out of being tracked by e-mail address or by having your Web browser send an opt-out signal to a company as you conduct your online activity. And federal lawmakers have tried to pass Do Not Track legislation to protect kids.

    There has been a battle. For example, Apple’s Safari browser and Mozilla’s Firefox browser have included anti-tracking technology for years. However, some companies choose not to respect Do Not Track signals sent by Web browsers.  Read more »