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    Privacy Stories Published During the Holidays

    Here are a few stories of interest that were published recently but were not posted because Privacy Lives went dark for the holidays.

    “City Will Use Cameras to Monitor Trinidad Area,” Washington Post. The District of Columbia will add surveillance cameras provided by businesses to a neighborhood for the usual reason — to prevent crime. 

    The Trinidad neighborhood will be getting up to 30 video cameras on the streets to deter crime, officials announced today.

    The cameras, which will allow D.C. police to constantly monitor the area, are part of a Safe City program, which is funded by Target and Sprint Nextel. Installation will begin in May, officials said.

    “Mexican congress approves widening police powers,” Associated Press. The Mexican Senate seeks to create a registry of mobile phone owners, including their fingerprints.

    Mexico’s Congress on Tuesday voted to broaden police powers, allowing law enforcement agencies to use undercover agents and taped conversations as evidence in a bid to help them fight increasingly bloody drug cartels. […]

    Also Tuesday, the Senate voted to create a registry of cell phone owners to combat kidnappings and extortions in which gangs often use untraceable mobile phones to make ransom demands.

    Telecoms would be required to ask purchasers of cell phones or phone memory chips for their names, addresses and fingerprints, and to turn that information over to investigators if requested.

    Privacy Lives Joins 29 Groups in Letter to Obama, December 19, 2008.

    Privacy Lives and 29 members of the Privacy Coalition sent a letter (pdf) to President-Elect Obama explaining the “clear need to address the spiraling problems of identity theft, security breaches, and the commercialization of personal information that has left American consumers vulnerable to fraud and exploitation.” The groups urged Obama to take steps such as strengthening the privacy protection authority of the Federal Trade Commission and ensuring Homeland Security databases are used only for limited purposes.

    “Personal info of Katrina victims leaked,” UPI. The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that it had mistakenly published personal data, including Social Security numbers, of Louisiana victims of Hurricane Katrina.

    The U.S. government said private details of 16,857 Louisianans who sought refuge from Hurricane Katrina in Texas were mistakenly published on the Web.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency confirmed in a statement that names, Social Security numbers and phone numbers of the 16,857 people who applied for benefits were published on two privately run Web sites as a result of an “unauthorized breach of private information,” The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported Wednesday.

    FEMA said the information leak is being investigated and the agency currently believes a Texas state agency is responsible for leaking the information.

    “Obama’s opportunity,” Op-Ed by William Jackson, Government Computer News. Jackson details the opportunities President-Elect Obama has to strengthen privacy protections in government information technology programs.

    The past eight years have seen a steady erosion of the safeguards that protect U.S. citizens from the prying eyes of their government. The incoming Obama administration will have the opportunity to correct that, balancing privacy with security in a way the current administration has not. […]

    This could be a good time to bring U.S. policy more into line with those of the European community, which puts greater restrictions on access to and use of personal information. In addition to strengthening privacy safeguards, this could have the added benefit of strengthening international cooperation in combating cyber crime. Harmonizing policies on privacy and security could make it easier for investigators in different countries to work together in tracking down illegal online activities. 

    “Post Office Reopens Santa Program With Privacy Controls,” New York Times. The US Postal Service suspended a gift-giving program for several days in order to add privacy protections.

    The Postal Service abruptly shut down the national program last week because of a privacy breach and reopened it Saturday in New York with a few policy changes that made the process a bit more complicated and for some a little less warm and fuzzy. […]

    Operation Santa resumed with a few tweaks, including the redaction of last names and addresses with heavy black ink. And instead of sending gifts directly to children, secret Santas must take wrapped presents to the post office and provide the recipient control number that corresponds with their letter. The post office will then deliver the gifts.

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