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HIPAA

PRIVACYnotes Discussion List
Security Protecting Privacy is Good for Business

Respecting Privacy on the Web

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Privacynotes Digest Protecting Privacy is Good for Business

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Published by: Mike Banks Valentine Privacynotes
privacy@privacynotes.com www.privacynotes.com
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September 12, 2002 Issue # 025

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.....IN THIS DIGEST.....

// -- MODERATOR COMMENT -- //

"Privacy a REACTIVE Issue Only?" ~ Mike Banks Valentine

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// -- MODERATOR COMMENT -- //

The lack of posts this week led me to contemplate what it is about privacy that attracts comment. I've concluded that those touched directly by privacy violations or abuses are most likely to be interested in the issue. Our members with personal involvement and experience are more likely to post.

This is no different than many major issues in that we rarely proactively pursue, monitor and advocate for any change or legislation until it directly affects our lives. This was the case for yours truly as a victim of identity theft and is what eventually led to the creation of this list.

The major issue that has surfaced this week in Cincinnati is a prime example of how we wait until an issue becomes personally relevant to even form an opinion about the issue, let alone lobby our state elected officials for change.

Cincinnati is wrestling with the issue of posting public documents on the web for open access to the public. This is so far unaddressed by federal law and states are forming their own policies in an almost random fashion, as illustrated by a Cincinnati's public official's decision to post the city public documents online. No policy exists saying that it is OK or not OK to do so.

Privacy advocates have long argued that the ease of access of online documents removes the relative anonymity enjoyed previously due to the inconvenience factor of researching, retrieval and copying of those public documents at limited physical locations. But now it's possible to spy on your next door neighbor by looking up divorce records, court decisions, traffic fines, health records, etc., from your computer at home or at work.

The convenience and ease of access of public documents has made it possible to be a sleuth or an active busybody without leaving your home. This means many more people will be looking at your public documents unless steps are taken to protect them, both online and offline. Now that those records can be easily posted on the web, what is to stop anyone from doing the physical gathering of private information offline and then posting it online for all to see?

It has become common practice for savvy web searchers to gather information available on the web about potential customers, employers, marriage partners, friends, enemies or family. Most folks have a skeleton or two in their closet that can be easily exposed through publicly available information.

A common spam email soliciting a detective like net sleuthing software uses the headline, "Destroy Anyone, Anywhere! Now you can RUIN your enemies!" Surprising as it may seem, many people find this notion attractive and buy that software in a bid to harm others via their public records.

Have you or any acquaintances been affected by privacy abuses? What was it that peaked your interest? Why are you on this list? Is it professional, personal or simple curiosity?

I'd like to address the concerns of all list members and keep the questions flowing to access the knowledge and expertise available from fellow list members who are privacy professionals.

 

// -- PRIVACY NEWS -- //

Moderator note: There are two ways to access previously listed privacy news stories. One is to visit Privacynotes archives, the other (simpler) way is to visit http://privacynotes.com/privacy_news.html where I also keep a privacy news archive.

SKELETONS have come out of the closets and are creeping along Cincinnati's streets. Four years ago, it was time to move the county's court records onto the Web. The documents were already public. They were already electronic. Where else to put public electronic documents but on the Internet? "It was the natural progression of technology," said Mr. Cissell, the clerk of courts for Hamilton County, whose seat is Cincinnati. State tax liens, arrest warrants, bond postings all became searchable and accessible on the Internet. "Everything we get is scanned and available," said Mr. Cissell, a former United States attorney. "It was very easy to open the door to the public."

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/09/05/technology/circuits/05CINC.html

hen Congress passed the USA Patriot Act in those first panicky weeks after 9/11, giving law enforcement more power to track down terrorists, much of the response was either bewilderment or alarm. Many lawmakers who voted for it admitted that they hadn't even had a chance to read the bill. Civil libertarians, newspaper editorial boards and others warned that the new legislation gave government worrisome new powers to pry into peoples' private lives. While the legislation touched on everything from secret courts to immigration, some Internet provisions created particular anxiety. Right after the act was passed, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington-based research organization, printed the Fourth Amendment on its Web Site with an epitaph: 1789-2001.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/09/07/arts/07SURV.html

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