Today I desire to present the excellent work produced by freelance writer Gillian Holmes and the team of BackgroundCheck.org, as well know my readers I daily public only my posts, but I think that this work deserves a careful reading and I am sure will be of your benefit as it was for me … good read!
Technology is changing how we do everything, from connecting with friends to investigating our family history. While most of these changes are for the better, the reality is that many of these new technologies expose us to serious privacy risks, especially as legislation has struggled to keep up. Yet both here in the U.S. and around the world, that could soon change. There are numerous new and pending laws that are starting to seriously tackle the challenges posed by modern technology, helping close gaps in legislation and enforcement that open you up to online stalking, medical data breaches, and disclosure of your online data. Even if you don’t realize it, many of these laws can have a major impact on your life, from how you buy insurance to which bits of personal information are gathered while you shop online, go to the bank, or talk on the phone. What follows is a brief guide to many of the newer and upcoming laws regarding privacy in the United States. You’ll learn what the bills propose, how they’ll affect your life, and when they’ll go into effect, if they haven’t already.
These laws and proposals are designed to protect your privacy in the online and mobile spheres, ensuring that you and those you care about aren’t tracked, subject to data seizures, or the victims of online predators. The Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011Proposed by Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, this bill is designed to increase the enforcement of laws related to child pornography and child sexual exploitation, specifically by requiring Internet service providers (ISPs) to provide data about subscribers to law enforcement officials. While still on the table for debate, the law has attracted a lot of attention from those who believe it has serious implications with regard to consumer privacy.
Electronic Communications Privacy Act The Electronic Communications Privacy Act is almost 30 years old, so why does it appear on this list? Because it’s likely going to see somemajor revisions to reflect the increased variety and prevalence of electronic communications. The original act was designed to help expand federal wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping provisions, as well as protect communications that occur via wire, oral, and electronic means and to balance the right to privacy of citizens with the needs of law enforcement. In the years since, the law has been under increased scrutiny for being out of date and failing to protect all communications and consumer records. For example, under current law, government agencies can demand ISPs hand over personal consumer data stored on their servers that is more than 180 days old without a warrant. This wasn’t an issue in the past, when most emails were downloaded to individual computers, but with the advent of webmail programs like Gmail and Yahoo, now nearly all consumer email communications are fair game. Major tech companies, like Google, Facebook, Verizon, and Twitter, have advocated for greater privacy and reform of the law.
Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act COPPA isn’t new, either, but it has seen some significant amendments over the past year that are worth mentioning. COPPA, which went into effect in early 2000, protects children under 13 from the online collection of personal information. As a result, many sites today often disallow children under 13 from using their services or require parental permission for disclosure of any personal information. In September 2011, the FTC announced proposed revisions to COPPAthat expand the definition of what it means to collect data from children. These new rules would include regulations on data retention and deletion and would require any third parties to whom a child’s information is disclosed to have policies in place to protect the information.
The GPS ActThe GPS Act, proposed by Representative Jason Chaffetz and Senator Ron Wyden, seeks to give government agencies, commercial entities, and private citizens specific guidelines to when and how geolocation information can be accessed and used. At present, there are no U.S. laws that directly address GPS tracking data, and with the proliferation of trackable devices like cell phones and GPS systems, the act is aiming to update regulations and guidelines to reflect modern sources of privacy concerns.
Much like your social activities, your consumer habits and activities are also subject toprivacy violations, especially when they occur online or through a mobile device. The following are laws that seek to address a number of major issues related to consumer privacy rights. Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights On April 12, 2011, Senators Kerry and McCain introduced the Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights to establish a baseline code of conduct for how personal information can be used, stored, and distributed. The bill of rights has since been picked up by the Obama administration and adapted in a report titled “Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World: A Framework for Protecting Privacy and Promoting Innovation in the Global Digital Economy.” In both instances, the bill of rights lays out principles that would work to protect personal data and to improve consumer security. It is not a piece of legislation in itself, but a guidelinefor building and enacting future regulations and laws that will impact tech companies and online retailers.
Application Privacy, Protection, and Security Act of 2013 Congressman Hank Johnson proposed the APPS Act early this year. The act is designed to address concerns with the data collection being done through applications on mobile devicesand would require that app developers provide greater transparency about their data collection practices, ensure reasonable levels of data security, and allow users to opt out of data collection or have the option to delete data that has been collected on them.
Location Privacy Protection Act of 2011 Worried about the potential risks for stalking posed by cell phones loaded with GPS and apps that gather information about a user’s location, Senator Al Franken, along with several co-sponsors, proposed this bill to fill in loopholes in federal law that allow companies to obtain location-based information on consumers and to share that information with third parties. While some app developers have complained that this hinders location-based advertising, others agreethat privacy needs to be protected and that location-based tracking should only be allowed within apps that consumers have given consent to do so.
Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA)Proposed by Rep. Michael Rogers and co-sponsored by 111 other House members, CISPA is designed to help the government better investigate cyber threats and ensure that large networks are secure against the threat of cyberattack. To do that, the act would allow for the sharing of Internet traffic information between the U.S. government and certain technology and manufacturing companies. While noble in its intention, the act has been widely criticized for endangering privacy and civil liberties, though some large technology companies (Microsoft and Facebook) favor it as a simple and effective way of sharing important cyber threat information with authorities.
Here, you can learn more about privacy laws that affect life in the workplace, from how you’re hired to what information is fair game for employers. Social Media Privacy ActIncreasingly, employers have turned to social media as a way to learn more about potential employees. However, this has also meant that in some cases privacy boundaries were crossed, with potential employers requiring applicants to turn over passwords to social media accounts. To help job seekers protect their online privacy, California, Delaware,Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, and New Jersey have all passed social media privacy laws. What’s more, 11 other states (including New Mexico and Texas) have legislation of this nature pending.
Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) isn’t new legislation. Passed in 2008, it prohibits the use of genetic information in health insurance and employment. That means that employers can’t making hiring, firing, job placement, or promotions decisions based on genetic information, nor can insurers raise premiums or deny coverage to those with a genetic predisposition for a disease. While GINA itself is just five years old, it may soon see some updates. A recent report from the U.S. Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical issues recommended that the law be expanded to include security measures whole-genome sequence data rather than just focusing on issues of discrimination. New regulations would likely update the consent forms individuals sign when they agree to take part in research studies, helping protect their genetic information and preventing misuse of this data. Additionally, under recommendations by the committee, GINA would be expanded to include comprehensive national rules on how genetic privacy is protected.
These highly important laws address issues of personal information, including medical data, private phone conversations, and video watching history. FISA Amendments Act of 2008/ FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012 The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was passed in 1978 but has undergone some major restructuring in recent years. Originally, FISA, signed into law by Jimmy Carter, proscribed basis procedures for physical and electronic surveillance and the collection of foreign intelligence information. It also provides strict judicial and congressional oversight of any covert surveillance activities. The first changes to the act occured under the Patriot Act, and though they expired in 2008, many of those changes were extended by the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. Under this act, the government is authorized to get year-long orders to conduct surveillance of Americans’ international communications, including phone calls, emails, and Internet records. Currently, these orders do not need to specify who is being spied on or the reasons for doing so. Why is this important to you today? Originally, the amendment to FISA was only designed to last five years, expiring at the end of 2012. Overwhelmingly, however, the U.S. Senate voted in December 2012 to extend the FISA Amendments Actthrough the end of 2017.
Video Privacy Protection Act The Video Privacy Protection Act was signed into law in 1988 by President Reagan. It was designed to prevent the wrongful disclosure of video tape rental or sale records or similar audio visual materials. While over two decades old, the law has been in the news regularly over the past five years thanks to streaming technology and online video rental subscription programs, such as Netflix and Blockbuster, who have often integrated with social media sites. This has resulted in some major lawsuits, including one case in 2012 that required Netflix to change its privacy rules so that members who have left the site no longer have records with the company. Yet while the law has been at odds with online media providers in the past, recent changes to the legislation in the form of an amendment make it legal for streaming servicesto share details of the content viewed after consumers have given blanket permission, making it possible for greater integration into social media sites like Facebook.
Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) ActMost Americans are familiar with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), but many may not realize that the protections they enjoy under HIPAA got an update in the form of the HITECH Act. Part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, HITECH contains incentives to expand the adoption of health information technology, including the establishment of a nationwide network of health records. What does this have to do with privacy? HITECH also requires that major security breaches be reported to Health and Human Services as well as the media; it increases enforcement of HIPAA and the resulting penalties; and it ensures that any individual can request a copy of his or her public health record. Most importantly, it expands HIPAA regulations to include any business associates or providers to medical facilities, requiring vendors of any kind of keep private records private.
Protect Our Health Privacy Act of 2012Some don’t think that HITECH went far enough in protecting patient privacy. In June 2012, a bill was proposed that would amend the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The new act would require health providers to encrypt any mobile device containing health information, restrict business associates’ use of protected health information, improve congressional oversight of HIPAA, and provide additional measures that would protect patient privacy and safety when using health information technology.
As privacy becomes and ever larger concern in an increasingly connected world, new legislation is likely to continually pop up, and there may be many new laws that see proposal and passage in addition to those we’ve listed here in the next few years. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to stay informed.
(Security Affairs – Human Rights)